This week: bicycles trump whales in Downey

Given the broad environmental spectrum of our topics in this column, whales will take a backseat to bicycles this week, due to a trio of significant cycling-related events in Downey. Put differently, our cetacean vacation must cede to a cycling encyclical. (Okay, maybe that's a stretch.) These three events in particular are the reason for suspending our ongoing discussion of the environmental significance of whales, though we'll return to that consideration in the very near future.First, the Public Works Committee gave its approval last Thursday to a City effort to seek Caltrans funding for the development of a Bicycle Master Plan for the City of Downey. For those of you who don't really follow City government, the Public Works Committee consists of ten city residents, two each appointed by the five City Council members. These 10 volunteers work in conjunction with City staff to serve the public interest on various city issues normally related to public utilities and/or infrastructure, including "traffic and transportation," specifically "to advise the Mayor and City Council," according to the committee's bylaws. A Bicycle Master Plan, by the way, is the common expression for a very specific type of instrument involving bicycle education, public awareness, and ultimately the creation or improvement of bicycle infrastructure within the general transportation plan of each city that has one. Furthermore, such plans are frequently the entrée to private, state, and federal funding for improvements to the local bicycle culture and infrastructure. Second on the list of bicycling events, the Downey Bicycle Coalition held its second official community bike ride this past Saturday. Mayor Mario Guerra was present to encourage the riders, and while already committed that day to other public events, he spoke of his own newfound love of cycling, as well as of the benefits of riding relative to the Healthy Downey campaign for which he has become such an eloquent spokesman. Former Chamber of Commerce President Michael Murray was also there, riding with his wife, Melissa, and friends. Last but not least, a significant group of mature adult cyclists included one enthusiastic rider who introduced himself as "Jack," and was wearing a T-shirt celebrating his 1960 Downey High School graduating class. Furthermore, as Saturday's ride for grownups commenced, the Downey Kiwin's, under the leadership of local Kiwanis member and DUSD teacher Alex Gaytan, began a bicycling lesson for children. About 15 kids learned safety and basic cycling skills on a riding course set up in the Apollo Park parking lot. The class was provided through the sponsorship of a Kiwanis Cal-Nev-Ha (California, Nevada, Hawaii) Foundation Pediatric Trauma Program designed to foster the prevention of childhood trauma injuries, including those that could be suffered while riding a bike. (Saturday's instruction included strong support for the use of helmets, an important tenet for almost all serious cyclists, as well as state law for minors.) This week's third important bicycling event complemented the first, as the Green Task Force - another City committee configured exactly like the Public Works Committee - featured a presentation at its meeting on Monday from the consulting firm engaged to submit the grant application for the Caltrans funding mentioned above. Happily, those in attendance learned that the grant process is already underway. All this cycling momentum is a huge positive indicator, not only for the good health of the city's residents, but also for the health of its environment.

********** Published: February 28, 2013 - Volume 11 - Issue 46

FeaturesEric Pierce