Q&A With: Allison Mannos, Urban Programs Coordinator, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition

Photo of Allison MannosWe met Allison Mannos at the National Bike Summit in Washington D.C. and heard about some of the great work the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition's City of Lights program is doing to reach a previously under served population of cyclists — Latino day laborers. We caught up with Allison after the summit to learn a little more and thought you might be able to apply some of her lessons-learned to your SRTS efforts.

Background

Photo of Allison MannosThe mission of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition's City of Lights program is to provide Latino cyclists with bike lights and safety information, with the aim of cultivating future advocates in this community. The objective of City of Lights is to increase working-class Latino immigrant bicyclists' safety and empower them to educate and spread bicycle safety information and advocacy to their communities.

Q&A Excerpts from an interview with Allison Mannos

Q: How did the LA County Bicycle Coalition identify Latino cyclists as target population for new outreach/programs?

Basically before there was an active bike movement here, the only real groups of cyclists were roadies and day laborers. [Latino cyclists] are a population that's been almost "invisible" in the bike community, but they're a part of it just visible in a different kind of way. They were already a large population. It was just a matter of time before we reached out to them.

Q: What advice could you give local coordinators that are trying to better integrate/involve underserved populations in SRTS activities?

If you're trying to reach children, you'll have easiest access through the schools. If you're trying to reach Latino parents, you need to be sure you have volunteers who are bilingual and culturally competent, even if they are from a different ethnic background. Whatever group you are trying to reach, you need to bring in people who are familiar with that demographic.

It's also really important to tailor your materials and messages for different ethnic groups, not only in accessible language but also regarding specific issues. If, for example, SRTS messages aren't working for the moms you are trying to reach, it would be important to know if those moms see the trip to school more as a family thing than a commute.

Q: Do you have any tips for municipalities or schools that would like to get local advocacy/community groups involved in SRTS efforts?

Events and outreach are the best way an advocacy group can partner with a school or a SRTS program. Don't be random; if you can tie an event into a local issue that integrates into the work the advocacy group is already doing (like trying to get bike lanes along a certain road) that's even better. Also, remember that a lot of times bicycle advocacy groups would love to help you, but we just don't have the capacity or manpower to do it.

SIDE CONVERSATION: Allison asked us to pose the same question to Colin Bogart, LACBC's PLACE Grant Coordinator who works for the City of Glendale on the Safe & Healthy Streets Plan. Colin said:

If a municipality or school wants an advocacy group to be involved in SRTS planning, be sure you ask the groups far enough in advance to try to work out staffing. Bike advocacy groups get all kinds of requests and there are only so many hours in the day.

Another tip is to build a supportive group in the community. I work with a mix of groups for the Safe & Healthy Streets Program including people who live here, cyclists, pedestrian advocates and parents who are interested in SRTS efforts. If you're in a community where there aren't existing like-minded groups, the challenge is trying to find people who might be supportive of SRTS. Look for groups that have a broad community focus like bike shop owners, bike riding clubs, local rotary groups, local merchant associations, historical societies and homeowner associations. It's time intensive but if you can grow the network and get those folks to send messages out to their groups too, then it's worth it.

Plug into their Web site or Google Group. Facebook and meetup.org are other ways to find new groups of potential supporters in your community. Our Facebook page is for "Glen Dale-Sahs."

Also, take advantage of every opportunity you can in your city: post events on your city's Web site; ask the city's public information officer to send out a press release; post things on your newspaper's community calendar.

Q: What do you see as your team's greatest achievement with the City of Lights project/initiative?

I never imagined that we would be doing such great things just a year from our kick off. And we've done it all with such a diverse group of volunteers.

Also, we're not just going to community centers and dropping things off, we're building relationships that are making a difference. Our organized bike rides have helped build support from parents who don't bike regularly. I'm excited that we have not only established respect and engaged Latino cyclists in our programs, but also gained their support on our advocacy efforts, like our new bike lane campaign.

Q: What advice could you provide to individuals working to create an environment and infrastructure that makes it safer for kids to walk and bicycle to school?

Help build support for the effort. If you are an involved parent, leverage the fact that you are in the PTA and get the school on board to help push the local government to make some infrastructure changes if they are needed. As an advocate, we don't have that opportunity. Being a parent or resident living by a school is a really powerful stakeholder community, and you should work it. If cities are hearing about needed changed from parents and nearby residents, they are probably more likely to listen to your concerns. Also, engage the populations you are trying to reach with your programs.

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Learn more about LACBC City of Lights Web site at https://sites.google.com/site/cityoflightsprogram/ or on the program's blog, http://ciudaddeluces.wordpress.com.

Thank you, Allison and Colin, for sharing some of your experiences with us. Keep up the good work!

If there is an inspirational person/program in your community that you would like us to consider profiling in a future Q&A with column, e-mail Caroline Dickson, dickson@hsrc.unc.edu.