Letter from the Saddle
By René Rivera, Executive Director
After a two-month sabbatical this spring, I find myself returning to lead Bike East Bay in a time of great change. Nationally, our government is abandoning efforts to reduce carbon emissions and walking away from investing in sustainable transportation. Yet, in the East Bay, I see a growing resolve to protect and build a greener and more just world.
I spent my first Tuesday back on the job riding the Bay Bridge People Path for a ribbon-cutting on Yerba Buena Island. Elected officials from San Francisco, Oakland, and around the region joined us for this weekday grand opening ride. Also with us was Ryan Russo, the new director of Oakland’s recently-formed Department of Transportation (OakDOT). After overseeing an unprecedented transformation of New York City’s streets, Russo is poised to lead OakDOT into an era of seriously investing in bike- and people-friendly streets.
While I was away, Bike East Bay staff and members kept up the pressure to ensure that Berkeley’s new bicycle master plan includes a complete network of family-friendly bikeways. Your hard work paid off. On Bike to Work Day, I joined Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin in celebrating the city’s visionary newly-approved bike plan.
With these victories, Bike East Bay has made incredible progress in convincing our civic leaders to get behind biking. Now, we need to make sure future transportation investments heal — rather than hasten — the racial and economic divides in the East Bay.
We know displacement and income inequality are transportation problems. As the Bay Area housing crisis continues, low-income residents, immigrants, and people of color are being displaced into outlying suburbs and even the Central Valley. Residents in these car-centric communities endure punishing commutes to far-off job centers. For these people, it is often impossible to bike and walk anywhere, let alone for transportation. We need to advocate for equitable investments in biking, walking, and public transit in communities of color. We need to make sure income and ability are not barriers to accessing public amenities like bike share.
Personally, I am embracing this time of change and returning as a leader ready to put my full and authentic self into this work. Being queer, transgender, and from a mixed race family has always been an important part of who I am. After returning from my sabbatical, I am taking the step in my life of transitioning to live in the world as male. I am now asking everyone in my life to use masculine (he/him) pronouns and the masculine spelling of my name, René.
One of our strengths as an organization lies in our commitment to strength in diversity. By living my most authentic self as the head of our organization, I hope to lead us in truly embodying Bike East Bay’s values for equity and inclusion.
René Rivera, Executive Director
Back to the Summer 2017 issue of RideOn, Bike East Bay’s quarterly newsletter.