Maribel Mateo and her brother Tony Garcia are youth organizers tackling bike safety in Santa Ana. While watching clusters of kids navigating traffic and street crossings on Edinger, Mateo pointed out that many people in her hometown of Santa Ana can’t afford cars, her family included. To get around, they take the bus, bicycle or both. She talked about Bike to Work Month, which is May. It’s also the same month for the Ride of Silence, a global campaign for safer streets that memorializes cyclists killed by motor vehicles.
While gathering the information for the grant application, the KidWorks team documented that from January 2011 through this past May, on the 1.7 miles they studied, there were at least a dozen bicycle crashes, most involving cars.
Weeks after their study, Priscilla Vallejo was killed July 13 while riding her bike to school. The 13-year-old died after being hit by a truck in a crosswalk at South Center Street and West Edinger Avenue.
Lynnete Guzman, community engagement coordinator for KidWorks, joined Mateo and Gatica on the sidewalk off Edinger. Traffic noise nearly drowned out their conversation.
As she usually does on her 2.5-mile commute to work, Guzman rode there on her bike. “Why fight over a parking spot?” asked Guzman, who helped the teenagers with the application. Gatica explained he arrived by skateboard because his bicycle is busted after another cyclist hit him.
Mateo said the multimillion-dollar grant will help alleviate some of the dangers. The improvements will take several years to implement.
To celebrate getting the grant, the KidWorks crew went to Knott’s Berry Farm. Still, they continue their work by pushing what’s called “active transportation,” moving by human power. Their latest effort was leading a night bike ride with, yes, plenty of lights.
Both brother and sister already plan careers as civil engineers. Their goal? To help make a safer world.