Similar to most nonprofits, the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition has been forced to shift its programming during the COVID-19 pandemic.
FILE PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
SHIFTING GEARS The Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition recently launched a new program designed to get families riding their bikes together during the existing stay-at-home order.
Prior to the shelter-in-place order, the organization would visit schools throughout the county
to teach kids how to ride bikes and about bike safety, but with schools closed, this effort stopped. To fill the gap, the coalition announced a new program on May 5 called Family Walk and Roll
For this program the coalition developed short, medium, and long routes through neighborhoods in Lompoc and cities along the south coast that people can follow on foot, bike, skateboard, or roller skates. Maps of these different routes are available on the nonprofit’s website
, and families can download an app to record their mileage.
Coalition Interim Executive Director David Landecker said a member of the nonprofit went into the community to identify each route in person. With the influx of people crowding onto bike paths during the pandemic, the coalition wanted to find routes that avoided the congested paths as well as car traffic.
“The problem was that it was hard to keep up social distancing, especially with kids as they are stopping and going,” Landecker said. “So we wanted to find areas that aren’t busy and without a lot of cars.”
The coalition isn’t promoting kids meeting up and riding these routes together—which was a concern the county Public Health Department had about this program, Landecker said. Instead, this program is designed to encourage families who live in the same household to get outside and get some exercise together during the existing stay-at-home order.
Aside from Lompoc, the program is mostly South County focused, but that’ll change in the coming weeks Landecker said.
Coalition Santa Maria Program Manager Ken Dahmen, who runs the nonprofit's shop in the city—Bici Centro
—said the coalition is identifying city routes that are different from the ones people may be used to.
“We want to have something that’s not the typical route somebody is going to know, but something more adventurous and safe at the same time,” Dahmen said.
The nonprofit has also changed how it operates its shops, Dahmen said. In the pre-COVID days, people could come in for bike repairs, but it was more of a hands-on process than at other bike shops. Rather than just dropping bikes off for people at the shop to fix, members of the coalition would help customers fix their bikes for $5 per hour.
During the virus, this do-it-yourself approach to bike repairs isn’t possible. However, customers can still drop off their bikes for repairs or purchase used and refurbished bikes—although the inside of the shop is closed to the public, Dahmen said.
Despite the inside of the shop being closed, it’s busier than ever. People continue to purchase bikes through the coalition’s website or on Craigslist. Dahmen said normally the Santa Maria shop has 40 bikes available for sale, but right now there are about eight. The shop’s actively looking for donations of old or used bikes that can be refurbished and sold or stripped for parts and used to build other bikes.
This isn’t just a local trend. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Landecker said bike paths across the country have become crowded and bike shops are low on stock.
“I think it’s partly because people have the time to take it easy—people can take things a little slower right now,” Landecker said. “They need exercise, their kids are antsy and they want to go outside. ∆