Riding in the Winds of COVID-19: Community-led Bike Rides
Welcome to Montbello Central Park. This is the place where micro-grants meet the roads and where future bicycle infrastructure and skill-building merge. The twisted turns of navigating community rides are made more difficult in neighborhoods where the built environment doesn't support biking. Well, and let us not forget COVID-19!
Is this a problem? Not for Pam Jiner! She applied for a micro-grant through the Denver Community Active Living Coalition (CALC). But she did not stop there, she worked with a multitude of City and community partners to launch the Montbello Community Bike Rides in May 2020. Pam wanted to inform the community about all of the bike installments coming into Montbello that are made to build safe network for people on bikes, while also improving safety for people walking and driving too.
Part 1: It All Starts with a Community Leader
May I introduce you to Pam Jiner and her collection of thoughts about the genesis and purpose of these rides:
Hello everyone! I hope you are all well and safe.
My love for the Montbello community led me to form the MontbelloWalks community-based health initiative in 2016 to impact real change here from public transportation, infrastructure design, complete sidewalk installations, RTD wayfinding, safe routes to schools, parks safety, advocating for protected bicycle lanes and conducting walking audits in an effort to connect city agencies with Montbello’s living conditions; to leading several regular weekly group walks, herbal hunts, engaging our older adults in the community through our biweekly Healthy Seniors Cooking Classes, weekly trips to the Recreation Center for Yoga, Thai Chi, swimming, hosting the Senior Olympics and Community Field Day Event; and advocating for what’s in the best interest for Montbello. And with all this, COVID-19 has led MontbelloWalks to establish an emergency supplemental food pantry. We distribute food three days each week to our older adult living facilities; make food deliveries daily to elders that are shut-in and to families in need; we host a Mobile Food Pantry in different areas of our community weekly and have fed thousands of residents since March 2020.
I am a 45 year resident of Montbello and as the Co-Chair of Montbello 2020, RNO since 2017, I am most attentive to the voices of my community.
My voice echoes their voices.
I said all that to say this: Montbello Walks will need your help to continue building a bike-able community here in Montbello. Our 53-year-old community currently has only two blocks of bike lanes. Historically, we (POC or People of Color) ride bikes out of necessity; it’s a mode of transportation to get where we need to go. Bike riding in Montbello is rarely for exercise and even less for the fun of it.
MontbelloWalks hosted two Community Bike Rides in the last two weeks completing our mini-grant obligation. It was so much fun for all participants - most of whom were riding for the first time - and we want to continue to build interest off this momentum in riding bikes for enjoyment, freedom, as emotional support through stressful times and to see and connect with our community! I understand the many benefits of riding - yet many POC does not.
Pam partnered with DOTI, DPR, CALC, District 11-Denver City Council, and CPD to bring residents to the Bicycle Obstacle Course for instruction/education and led group rides on the proposed protected bicycle lanes coming this year. This, combined with our new sidewalks at I-70 & Peoria and the improved Multi-Model Trails along Peoria and at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal-Wildlife Refuge, are going to be huge outlets for the Montbello community: places and space to go outside where we live to just be free to ride with the sun and wind on our faces, free to connect to oneself spiritually, emotionally, and physically for healing. The added benefit is the opportunity to connect with others - reducing levels of isolation that have compounded problems and have restricted our community for decades.
"MontbelloWalks is in pursuit of civil justice and equity for Montbello residents."- Pam Jiner
This video shows our group riding on the temporary shared street on Boiling. The intention of this street is to give priority to people over vehicles. The shared streets are closed down with barriers on the main street as well as barriers on streets feeding into the shared streets.
Important note -
We had a young lady running with our biking group. She is the granddaughter of Pam Jiner and she was running to protest the death of Ahmaud Arbery. Highlighting this jogging journey helps to celebrate life and give a platform to express outrage and outcry racism. Ahmaud was murdered by white men while jogging in Georgia. RIP 1994-2020
Part 2: Leveraging City Partners is Powerful in Promoting Biking
Meet Dana Hoffman, Community Designer for the City & County of Denver's Department of Transportation & Infrastructure. Dana rode with us and gave us valuable insight about the proposed bike lanes coming to the Montbello streets. Dana has conducted community input about the projects and this ride gave her a means to meet the people who will be utilizing the proposed traffic installments.
Meet Deak Brown (on the left), Bike Park Operations Supervisor at City and County of Denver's Department of Parks and Recreation, and Brenden Paradies (on the right), Associate City Planner at City & County of Denver's Department of Transportation & Infrastructure. This two men were instrumental in the design, development, and construction of the new Montbello Bicycle Skills course. When made informed of this ride, they both wanted to participate and participate they did. Deak, in partnership with Denver Health, located 100 helmets to donate to riders. Brenden has been a part of the planning of this course in conjunction with Deak. Both men brought safety gear and bike giveaways for the residents of Montbello and future cyclists.
This was the last leg of our ride: 56th has a lot of transportation and infrastructure improvements and Pam felt it was important to highlight the ride-ability of the trail adjacent to 56th and inform the riders about new access to the Rocky Mountain National Arsenal Park. The park, alongside all the new safety infrastructure coming to the neighborhood, is a resource for the Montbello community to partake in the beautiful Colorado sunshine and recreate in safe and beautiful open spaces.