Thursday, August 11, 2016

Can One Community Organization Change Regional Transportation Habits?

Can one organization make a large dent in the regional transportation habits?  I believe the answer is yes.  By serving as role models and inspiring other community groups to promote change.  Do you believe me?  Awesome, I would not expect you to do so.  I would expect you to consider the facts and then see what progress has been made, then judge for yourself.  Are we good to go now?  No? Oh, the organization's name might be of use since I am asking you to answer a question that involves understanding the organizations mission.  The organization in question (by the reader -- not the author) is that of Los Angeles Rooted Youth Organizers.  Read on below to find out more.

LA Rooted Bicycle Camping Trip!

A few weeks ago, I got a chance to help educate a youth group from the organization Los Angeles Rooted about riding the Metrolink train with a bicycle.  The mission of the trip was to have the youth bring their bicycles on the Metrolink train in route on their bicycle camping trip to Castaic Lake.  Here are two pictures below:

Picture on board the Metrolin train (rail car filled):

Group photo opportunity after riding the train before parting ways.

At this point, you might be wondering how the relationship between Bikecar101 and Los Angeles Rooted began and ended up here.  To begin with, a brief background into the mission of Los Angeles Rooted might set the stage for the story.  Lets take a look at their website.

Los Angeles Rooted?

I first met the educators of LA Rooted on the Metrolink train just over a year ago.  I was headed back to Glendale from LA Union Station on a Friday afternoon.  Previously, I had attended a "RUN" conference -- Rail User's Network -- which was extremely informative.  While attempting to board the train with my bicycle, I found that each car was filled with bicycles.  This was pre-half-bikecar era (last year) and I was amazed.  At the same time, I was happy to see that the rail cars were filled.

I managed to squeeze on (standing room only) to the last rail car.  A fellow bicycle commuter/adventurer came up and attempted to make room to the existing stacked bicycles.  I could see that there really was no room available.  All of the bicycles were outfitted with camping gear.  I was taken back and amazed -- at the same time inspired.  The bicycle adventurer was none other than Johanna Iraheta of Los Angeles Rooted.

Johanna explained that the group of bicycle campers that were traveling together planned a weekend away in Ventura.  How cool is that I thought?  I explained that this was motivation to have a dedicated bicycle car on each train and pointed out to the parked "bikecar" across the way at LA Union Station.

I thought to myself after getting home, I need to look this organization up.  We have common interests.  Here is what I found on the mission statement on the website -- which was super cool and inspirational:

LA Rooted’s is based on education rooted in ancestral wisdom and environmental stewardship, community advocacy, self care and food justice.

Our educational theory strives toward a positive coexistence between humans and nature. Based on developing and nurturing non-exploitative relationships, LA Rooted aims to challenge social and personal activities that conflict with harmonious relationships with nature, others and ourselves.

The message above immediately resonated with the beliefs and motivations of the members of Bikecar101.  As highlighted above, the motivation is to teach sustainable and healthy living: living a healthy life (cultivating wellness among each member of the community -- building up to the world), taking care of the environment (reclaiming grey water, promoting green chemistry, and reducing each person's carbon footprint - to name a few).  The result is a better world community living in a better (more sustainable) environment.

LA Rooted was founded by three educators -- Johanna, Rio, and Brenda.  These three educators are super motivational and inspirational.  The "focus" above is expanded upon while scrolling down the page on their site to include the exact strategy of educating the community in sustainable and healthy living all around.  I would strongly suggest to check out the website which is full of content -- great examples of educating the public to be better stewards of the environment and the community around them.

Part of the education extends into sustainable transportation.  During the summer Youth Organizer Training program, the educators encourage using bicycling to travel around on the adventurers planned to educate the summer volunteers.  Here is where Bikecar101 was fortunate to get involved.

As I mentioned above, one of the outdoor activities that LA Rooted planned on making a reality was to take a group of students on an adventure (a bicycle camping) that involved bicycle as an active mode of transportation.  We were fortunate enough to be able to take part in the transportation portion of the adventure.

How did we take part in a portion of their adventure?

How did our contribution line up with the focus of LA Rooted's Organization?

Bikecar101 has a "3T" program which is as follows: 1) we pay for the tickets for a group of bicycle riders (1-15 riders) on the Metrolink train, 2) each rider will receive a "Bikecar101" t-shirt for free, and 3) a photograph is taken while on the train and off the train with bicycles.  It is that simple.  Our mission is to advocate for and educate the public about bringing bicycles on board all trains (Metrolink and Metro) in Southern California.

The opportunity was great and was aligned with the focus of the organization (LA Rooted).  We are greatly appreciative of having the opportunity to have spread the word about our mission.  Additionally, last winter, Kayla and I took our first bicycle camping trip which was motivated by LA Rooted.  Remember when I mentioned that I met the educators on the train on their camping trip?  That served as a motivational example of the geographical possibilities with a bicycle and a train.  Here is a picture of our first camping trip last winter with a bicycle and train component on Metrolink shown below:

Thank you LA Rooted for the motivation to go on the trip!  This is a direct example of regional influence of their inspirational actions leading others to change too.

The educators of LA Rooted are extremely motivated to educate the community around them to live in a healthy and environmentally friendly manner.  This includes using active modes of transportation.  On the trip shown above in the pictures, there were 21 participants in total.  Imagine if each of those 21 participants spoke about their adventure to around 50 people each.  That would reach into a 1,000 people who got to hear about using public transportation with a bicycle.


I think you get the message.  With the coordinated efforts of wonderful organizations such as LA Rooted, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Streetsblog, and other community organizations training riders to use active modes of transportation, a definite change will emerge over time.  Each community has to do their own work to inspire those around them to change.  Furthermore, communities should come together and discuss challenges, strengths, and weaknesses that each have.  Through the exchange of ideas, the region as a whole becomes stronger in advocating and educating the all age groups to engage in active modes of transportation.

The story that I told of the camping trip above along with the educational experience that Bikecar101 had with LA Rooted shows how change can occur across a regional area.  Johanna, Rio, and Brenda motivated Kayla and I to go on a bicycle camping trip.  Additionally, seeing other bicycle adventurers and bicycle commuters pushed us into forming the nonprofit organization Bikecar101.

In closing, at the end of the summer, LA Rooted had an "Art Exhibit" with the theme: "Movement for the Earth" -- which displayed the many activities that the Youth Organizers accomplished over the summer in order to advocate for the Earth.  Here are a few pictures from that event shown below.  We look forward to continuing to work with LA Rooted to promote community change which will translate into regional change!

"Food Corner"

Bicycle "Wheel of Fortune":

Self-Care Station: Mindfulness and Meditation!

Wonderful Food & Awards Ceremony:

The End!

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