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Central California Life Magazine

Fresno County Bicycle Coalition & Their Mission to Address the Diverse Needs of the Community

Nov 02, 2016 04:12PM ● By Melanie Heisinger

Photo courtesy of the FCBC Facebook page.

Born, ironically, out of a pedestrian advocacy forum, a handful of people continued to meet afterwards to discuss creating change in Fresno's transportation environment. The group quickly realized that they were all bicycle enthusiasts at heart, hence the idea to create the area's first official bicycle coalition, the Fresno County Bicycle Coalition (FCBC).

Within the first year the group managed to become a corporation and eventually a nonprofit organization. The work to promote bicycle facilities in the Fresno area up until that time had been led by a well-seasoned bicycle advocate, Nick Paladino. As Advocacy Officer of the Fresno Cycling Club for many years, Nick taught the group the ropes. The major message that rang true for the entire coalition was patience and perseverance. 

Since it's creation, FCBC has worked tirelessly to implement safer biking techniques, as well as work with the county to create more bike-friendly streets. They have a dedicated team of mostly commuter cyclists sending emails, attending meetings, creating brochures, addressing elected officials, contacting media, surveying streets, establishing city and county staff relationships, and writing plans.

Over the years, the coalition has seen Bicycle Transportation Plans adopted in Fresno, Clovis and Selma, the establishment of a Bike Work Group within the City of Fresno Public Works Department, the modification of several street design standards to be more bicycle-friendly, the creation of the City of Fresno's first Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and the passage of a Fresno County Bicycle and Pedestrian Policy and Expenditure Plan.

We were able to get in touch with the FCBC and Edward Smith, a member of the group, to learn more about the exciting things they have been doing for the community, as well as upcoming projects that are in the works. 

Tell us a little about the Fresno Bicycle Coalition. When and how did it get started?

The Fresno County Bicycle Coalition has been around since the early 2000s. It was founded by passionate commuter cyclists who wanted to work together to effect change in the local government. We attend government meetings and organize fun events to get people involved and to bring attention to issues that are important to us. 

More recently, we have added education as an organizational focus. Several of the board members are League Cycling Instructors. We teach the League of American Bicyclists Smart Cycling curriculum, mostly to adult cyclists who want to learn how to ride safely in traffic. 

We have also been sponsoring and organizing events and initiative such as the Mall to Mall Ride, the CenCalVia Open Streets event, and the Bike Kitchen. The Bike Kitchen began when we participated in community rides and realized that many of the children’s bicycles were badly in need of repair. We have been partnering with other organizations to secure donations of bike tubes, tires, patch kits, etc., and to schedule free community bike repair events.

What are your goals for the group and where do you see it heading? What sort of activities will you focus on?

The Fresno County Bicycle Coalition is a volunteer-run organization based on the support of its members. Our mission is to promote safe bicycling for everyday transportation and recreation in Fresno County through advocacy and education. We focus on maintaining, improving, and expanding bicycle facilities, supporting bicycle safety and education, and promoting and publicizing the role of bicycles in improving air quality, public health, and traffic congestion. 

On October 2nd, 2016, we organized the first Open Streets event in Fresno, CenCalVia.  FCBC plans to make this an annual event, and this will require a great deal of organizing and fundraising. We need to get the word out so folks know what CenCalVia is and why it’s important, and we have to win the political support of our elected leaders and City staff.

What's something people usually assume about the group? What do people usually assume that's incorrect?

FCBC Board Members Austin, Tony, Ed, Nick, Vanessa and John with both the FCBC and BPAC proclamations presented to them by Council Members Brandau and Soria. Courtesy of the FCBC Facebook page.

That FCBC only promotes bicycling, which isn't true!

Our mission is to promote bicycling and educate the community about bicycling but our events, like CenCalVia, are also about promoting pedestrian activity, improving our environment, and improving economic development. Basically improving the quality of life in our community overall. 

Another aspect of FCBC that others might not be aware of is its commitment to address the diverse needs of our community. Fresno has one the highest obesity rates in the nation. It also has one of the lowest ratio of park space per person in the nation. Fresno also has a high incidence of bicycle-related traffic accidents. We want families to feel safe walking and bicycling in our community.

What is your personal favorite aspect of the group and your mission?

My personal favorite is teaching students and adults about proper bicycle safety. It empowers each student to feel safe and secure.  

Another personal favorite aspect of the group and our mission is partnering with other community organizations and working together to change the narrative of Fresno. We have the potential to be a bicycle-safe community, and working in partnership with other community organizations can bring this dream to fruition.

What's one of your most memorable moments while being a part of the Fresno Bicycle Coalition?

One of my personal most memorable moments is participating in community rides and seeing low income families learn how to reclaim ownerships of the streets and feel safe.   

Are there any upcoming events that people should know about?

Bike Through History - start Nov 05 2016 0900AM

Bike Through History: Nov 5, 2016 9:00AM

Come explore the historic neighborhoods of Fresno High and Old Fig, with a brief loop along Blackstone Avenue. The 7-mile route will include stops at several historic buildings, with brie... Read More » 

PedalJunkies, another similar organization made up of bike enthusiasts, is organizing Jack The Dish event at Cary Park, starting November.

The FCBC is also collaborating with Earth Day Fresno and Fresno Bike Polo on April 22.

The Active Transportation Plan is in draft for review and it is something that the FCBC has been working hard on. Click on the link to learn more about it, and ways you can help. 

How can somebody join? How often does the group meet?

The board meets on the third Thursday of each month. We help organize various community events. The FCBC will be organizing a group ride to watch Bike Polo on Saturday or Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, so keep an eye out for that! 

Content courtesy of the FCBC and the FCBC website