How crazy would it be if life suddenly came to a stop? While this could’ve seemed like a rhetorical question a year ago, it’s what is happening now. A worldwide pandemic came crashing down, causing many planned events, to be canceled. Thankfully, Ciclovia 2020 was not one of them.
Ciclovía is a community event whose name is a Spanish term meaning “bike path”. In previous years this event temporarily opened 1.6 miles of a major road in Salinas for a community bike ride.
However, there is more to this event than just riding bikes. Its purpose is to provide a safe and inclusive environment where families can come together to enjoy accessible recreation, establish a platform that encourages residents to adopt healthier habits and counteract major health issues – like diabetes and obesity, positively impact economic development in Salinas through a sustainable event that promotes local businesses and exposes them to participants, and foster community-building which will unite Salinas.
This event is fully run by youth. The first Ciclovía Salinas was run by 13 youth and now has grown to over 100 youth volunteers. According to Gabriela Manzo, youth equity organizer, “Our biggest and most important goal is the youth leadership piece. Our youth need more spaces that allows them to find their voices and be more connected to their community. For them to know that their voices hold so much power and that they are the leaders we turn to to create a better Salinas. Being in a group such as this one also gives them a space to grow, be challenged, even build a community within each other… But mostly why it’s important for youth to lead this is for them to see the leaders they have inside of them… We hope they never lose sight of the voice they find in this space.”
With Covid-19 striking, there was some serious doubt of this event continuing this year. Manzo states, “We had to reimagine what Ciclovía looked like this year. This meant recruiting young people strictly through social media. This meant moving all weekly meetings to just be virtual through Zoom… but the biggest adjustment was the type of event we brought to the community. It could no longer be closing down 1.6 miles of a major street and bringing 7,000 people together. We had to think of a safe way to bring a small group together to enjoy the outdoors, provided a family-friendly environment and activity, while still following the CDC guidelines.”
There was also a push back from the City and nothing was guaranteed. Due to this, the youth brainstormed other possibilities; focusing on social media activities. “The back up plan was an online costume costume contest, we also thought of having people ride 100 miles on their bikes. For each mile they would record a video of them sharing tips/facts on how to stay safe, healthy, and active during the pandemic,” said Erick Rocha, Ciclovía captain and senior at Alvarez High School.
As the event grew closer, the city made its final decision to green light the event, although there were mandatory Covid precautions to be met. Masks had to be worn, people had to stay 6 feet apart, temperatures had to be taken, there had to be accessible hand sanitizing stations, and all events had to be outside. The youth decided on the events based on outdoor fitness classes. The first session was HIT (High Intensity Training) workouts with a personal trainer, the second was a Zumba class, the third was a relay race, and the nights ended with raffles. People signed up for days through a form that was shared through the youths social media accounts. Rocha states, “We did this to ensure there weren’t too many people and to avoid people who wouldn’t agree to the covid protocols.”
The long-awaited day had arrived, Ciclovía 2020. The volunteers showed up early to set up sign-in booths, get their temperatures checked, measure and set up tape squares to ensure people were following the guidelines, and guide the instructors to their designated locations. “I was looking forward to Ciclovía because the people there were all trying to make a positive impact in their community,” says Angel Solano, Ciclovía publicity member and Senior at Alisal High School. Ciclovía being a positive impact on the community wasn’t the only reason it was thrilling, this was the first time the youth got to meet each other in person. Maraly Escalante, Ciclovía publicity member and senior at North Salinas High School, asserted “I was super excited all week leading up to the event. Interacting with everyone in person just confirmed the amazing bond and environment that the group created. I can honestly say that everyone I met in Ciclovía are some of the most amazing and funnest people to hang out with.”
The thrill continued with prizes given out at the end of the event. These prizes consisted of free shirts, gift cards, food, scooters, and bikes. All of these raffle prizes were donated by local businesses. “The event was extremely successful in my opinion,” Rocha said, “… the people there were participating in all the events, making the energy super lively, and those who won in the raffles were so happy.”
Although no one could have predicted a widespread virus, it’s impressive what people can accomplish during these difficult times. The Ciclovía volunteers persevered through a pandemic and ran a successful event. In addition to gaining leadership experience, they provided beneficial activities and united members of the community.