Bicycling on the move in Downey

DOWNEY - Bicycling officially came into its own in Downey this past Tuesday night as City Council voted to join the HEAL Cities Campaign. "HEAL" is an acronym for "Healthy Eating Active Living." The program was initiated in 2004 by Kaiser Permanente as a way to combat the effects of obesity. It now includes 131 California cities, with the nearby towns of Bell Gardens, Paramount, and South Gate already participating.

According to the HEAL Cities resolution, "Cities and their residents face increased health care costs and diminished quality of life due to the epidemic of obesity and overweight." Downey will be joining a burgeoning statewide and nationwide effort to improve these conditions in American life.

City Council's action, however, was not the sole reason that bicycling found a community voice on Tuesday. Other factors came together in a big way to bring bicycling to the city's attention.

Foremost among them was the Kiwanis Green Team, consisting largely of Downey High School students, who were presented certificates by City Council in appreciation for their many environmental efforts over the past year, including especially the re-landscaping of the entryway to Furman Park with drought-tolerant plants. Some forty students came forward to the dais and were thanked with a handshake and a word from all five City Council members for their work on behalf of the city. The Furman Park renovation itself was a product of collaborative planning efforts between Keep Downey Beautiful and the City of Downey Green Task Force.

Not content to rest on its laurels, the Green Team has determined that bicycle advocacy is a priority worth bringing to the forefront in Downey. So, under the leadership of its mentor, DUSD teacher Alex Gaytan, the Green Team put together a group bike ride prior to Tuesday's City Council meeting. With the number of participants approaching one hundred, the atmosphere was festive as the group made its way from Furman Park down Third Street to City Hall.

The Green Team ride was also joined by other community residents--most significantly a group of veteran bicyclists from Cruz Cycling, the bicycling club that sponsored and hosted 10-mile and 2-mile rides on Downey Kids Day this past spring. These experienced riders assisted by helping the novice cyclists move through intersections as the ride progressed towards City Hall.

Cruz Cycling's founder, Tony Cruz, also joined the ride and spoke to City Council during open discussion on the HEAL Cities resolution. Cruz was an appropriate and eloquent spokesman for bicycling in Downey, an Olympic cyclist with a ten-year professional bicycling career, including six years riding alongside Olympian Lance Armstrong. Moreover, Cruz is now bicycle ambassador for the City of Long Beach. He brought his perspective on the development of cycling in that city, which over the past few years has become one of the most progressive bicycling cities not only in southern California, but also in the nation.

Another timely addition to all this bicycling momentum was a report at the meeting from Green Task Force vice chair, Steve Perez, another bicycle advocate, that the Task Force this past Monday had unanimously passed a motion requesting that City Council make bicycling a high priority.

So what's next on the agenda for bicycling in Downey? Well, there's a lot to be done over the course of the next few months and even years, as bicycle awareness and infrastructure begin to develop within the city. But immediately ahead is another bike ride, continuing to put into effect organizer Perez' goal of establishing a monthly ride in Downey. It will commence from Wilderness Park this coming Saturday morning, beginning at 8:00 o'clock and continuing till around 10:00. This ride is planned to be about ten miles long, and will head down the Rio San Gabriel bike path (maps to be provided).

The Kiwanis Green Team will be there, advancing the cause of bicycling in Downey, but more importantly having a good time through "Active Living."

And you're invited too.

********** Published: September 27, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 24