The Night My View of Richmond Changed

11694970_10154040178220968_4314712473039352643_n

By Ronvel Sharper, age 16 ­|Photos by Ann Bassette

On July 17, 2015, I joined about a hundred other people taking to Richmond’s streets for a Ceasefire night walk through neighborhoods impacted by gun violence. The weekly walks are the community’s attempt to lessen shootings in the city. Each week a couple of dozen regulars come out to walk in support of the cause, but the walk this week was different—it was the first of two larger citywide walks and, on a personal note, it was the first time I took part in something like this.

One of the first things that struck me was the diverse group of people participating, including Blacks, Whites, Latinos and Asians, all holding signs promoting peace. I felt as if we were all a part of one huge family, as if we are all indirectly related. It was empowering and made me feel as if I could contribute more to my community.

The atmosphere was positive; everyone was chatting with one another, singing, playing instruments and having a good time. As we walked, we chanted, “Ceasefire, Richmond” and, “Alive and Free.” Throughout our walk countless drivers responded to our “Honk for Peace” signs, signifying their support for our cause.

I was astonished to see people in cars waving and cheering for us. Going into this, I thought no one would have cared and would have just driven past. But they did care and hearing them blare their horns was breathtaking. The support they showed opened my eyes to the kind of people that live here in Richmond. There were people talking and hanging out, no one was alone or being a loner. Everyone was happy. They exhibited a different future for Richmond as a happier place to be.

Equally significant to what we chanted was where we were when we chanted, as Tamisha Walker, a frequent Ceasefire participant and founder of the Safe Return Project, a nonprofit that helps people in the area coming out of jail or prison, pointed out.

“We start in North Richmond and it’s really important to walk through Las Deltas projects to show folks that we’re around and we’re here for folks,” she said.

“Then to cross under the train tracks into the Iron Triangle, right in heart of Richmond, and be able to run into folks who’ve lived in Richmond honking and saying, ‘Thank you, we really need this’…and be able connect Richmond to say, ‘We can cross these barriers and feel safe,’ it was just amazing.”

Leaving the experience, I feel as if Ceasefire walks make a difference in the community, or at least can in the future. The sheer number of participants signifies that people are willing to make a change.

Luckily, I wouldn’t say the violence in Richmond has affected me directly, but before this I always thought that no one would help. That if something did happen, you and a small group of friends would have to tackle it alone. Participating in this event has shown me otherwise. Being a part of the walk has opened my eyes to what Richmond can be, if we continue these nonviolent events. Richmond can be a peaceful, safe and friendly community—a town with a bad past, and overall horrible environment, can become a safe and beautiful place.

At this rate, I think, it’s only a matter of time before Richmond becomes a city no longer plagued by a bad reputation and negative stereotypes. Perhaps in Richmond we will see a prime example of the powerful impact people can make when they come together and push for change.

11755205_10154040176300968_1605095473148974299_n

Catahoula Coffee Hosts Customer Appreciation Event

DSC_0187

Photo Essay, David Meza

Catahoula Coffee, a local go-to caffeine spot in Richmond since 2008, opened its doors last Sunday to say, “thanks,” to its many loyal patrons with a customer appreciation day.

The 6th annual, “Party in the Parking Lot,” featured free coffee, live music, classic cars and furry friends. In appreciation of its patrons, the locally owned coffee shop also dished out free hot dogs and other yummy snacks, including a fan favorite: Japanese Mochi Bread, made at its sister location in Berkeley.

To many in Richmond, Catahoula is close to the heart simply because it’s close to home. The shop’s owner, Tim Manhart said he started the event to celebrate the community and its support of local businesses.

DSC_0164“If you’re going to have a business, you might as well have fun with it,” Manhart said, at the event.

Among the local businesses present was Urban Tilth, a non-profit gardening organization that is expanding its retail portion, offering deep cleansing soap bars with used Catahoula coffee grounds in the ingredient list. Also embracing community, by selling local honey, was the owner of Richmond Gold and Vice President of the Alameda County Beekeeper Association, Catherine Edwards.

“This is great stop on a bike ride,” said local photographer Mindy Pines as she stopped by the event for a bag of coffee beans.

A family favorite of the day was the Little Explorers Petting Zoo featuring Kanga the rabbit, Duchess the pig and Bella the goat.

Adam and Jinny Pagle, of Pagle Homestead, who grow food and sell custom planter boxes and homemade jam, have been bringing their children to Catahoula for years. The couple said they admire the friendly atmosphere and like many others, enjoy the company of neighbors while supporting a thriving local business.

 

Khalid’s Corner: Escaping

khalid_tweeked

by Khalid Elahi

Escaping

Why does letting go of the hood seem like the hardest thing for some people to do?

The attraction to SELF DESTRUCTION, the interest in the SHINE and the fascination with the ILLITERATE, is unbelievable to me.

To watch the best of the best go down a path and get murdered brings me to a question, “What makes you think you can walk that path and survive it?”

Some say there is love, loyalty and dedication in the hood. I say that’s a lie.

I saw the most disloyal, undedicated, hateful cats in the hood. It is a dream eraser and a life taker. A producer of lies, deceit, fraud, weakness, pain and sorrow.

Young people, if you get a chance to leave the hood — not by ambulance or coroner’s car but by education or occupation — then leave.

Leave to gain experience and success. If later you want to, then come back and help strengthen your hood.

This world is bigger than the block.

Banh Mi: The Rise of the Vietnamese Sandwich

Since the Vietnam War ended 40 years ago, Vietnamese have shared much of their culture with the larger world. But many of us who fled as refugees could not have imagined that the Vietnamese sandwich, bánh mì, would one day become an international sandwich sensation, a culinary wonder of our globalized age.

Today it has spread from Saigon to California and from there to the rest of the planet. Every city in North America now has its own bánh mì shop or chain: Bánh Mì Saigon in New York, Bun Mee in San Francisco, BONMi in Washington, DC, Bánh Mì Bá Get in Chicago, Bánh Mì Boys in Toronto. Bánh mì is standard food truck fare from San Diego to Boston. Yum! Brands, owner of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut, has opened Bánh Shop fast-food outlets in Dallas.

South of the border in Mexico City is a bright red and yellow bánh mì food truck called Ñham Ñham. Shops and chains have sprung up everywhere else; in London there is Kêu!, Bánhmì11, and, next to St. Paul’s Cathedral, Banh Mi Bay. Among the options in Shanghai is Mr. V, whose menu includes the Obscene Double Triple—bánh mì with headcheese, Vietnamese sausage, and peppercorn terrine; in Singapore, you can try Bánh Mì 888; one of the busiest in Tokyo is a place simply called Bánh Mì Sandwich.

But what is a Bánh mì’?

It is an airy French baguette with a thin crunchy crust that could contain a cornucopia of roast chicken or pork, homemade pâté, cured ham, headcheese, a mélange of pickled daikon radish and carrot, slices of cucumber and chili pepper, a generous sprinkling of cilantro leaves, a few dashes of Maggi sauce, and a spread of mayonnaise. At once spicy, salty, sour, savory, sweet, and aromatic: a bite into a well stacked bánh mì is always a moment of rapture.

Bánh mì’s origins, as its architectural foundation indicates, of course, are in France. The French arrived in Vietnam initially as missionaries in the seventeenth century and established colonial control of Vietnam in 1887 with the formation of La Fédération Indochinoise. The French brought their language and their food, including eventually the baguette, the long thin loaf of bread that became popular in France in the early twentieth century. Growing up in Hanoi my grandmother called it bánh tây, literally Western-style bread. By the 1950s the Vietnamese started to tinker with it and, signaling Vietnamese appropriation of the baguette, started calling it bánh mì—simply, wheat bread. Some recipes called for a mix of rice flour with the wheat flour. The aim was to make it fluffier than the French baguette, allowing it to be easily stuffed with Vietnamese delights.

Bánh mì has long been a food staple of the working poor. Bánh mì stalls and carts are everywhere in the streets of Vietnam, providing simple and delicious sustenance, typically for breakfast or the midday meal, to the masses. It was street food long before street food became an obsession with foodies—in those days, some well-to-do Vietnamese shunned street vendors out of concern about typhoid fever and other illnesses. Ingredients like the sweet, crunchy fresh vegetables and pungent herbs and spices are what make the bánh mì Vietnamese. An essential component of the Vietnamese way is Maggi sauce, a Swiss-made savory seasoning introduced by the French.

The Vietnamese sandwich could be found in the communities of Vietnamese students and émigrés in France from the 1950s onwards. The traiteur Hoa Nam in the thirteenth arrondissement of Paris has been selling bánh mì wrapped in wax paper for years, although the foodie trend in bánh mì is now evident in bobo (bourgeois and bohemian) spots on the Right Bank like Saigon Sandwich and Bulma.

But it was the mass exodus of Vietnamese with the Fall of Saigon in 1975 that propelled the Vietnamese sandwich on its way to global stardom. In no time, refugees in the United States were opening Vietnamese restaurants, bakeries, and delicatessens, offering up all the dishes from the homeland—including bánh mì—for fellow refugees and curious American diners alike.

Some trace bánh mì’s cultural migration to the sandwich’s burst of popularity in California’s Silicon Valley.

Vietnamese refugees eager to build new lives in America had flocked to the area to work in the booming high-tech industry’s assembly lines. In 1980, a man called Lê Văn Bá and his sons parked a food truck outside a computer manufacturing plant, targeting Vietnamese who couldn’t go far or spend much for lunch. Lê, a wealthy sugar merchant who had lost everything in the Communist takeover of South Vietnam, sold the cheapest fare around, including Vietnamese baguette sandwiches. It didn’t take long before bánh mì caught on with non-Vietnamese workers as well as local college students.

By 1983, Lê’s sons, Chieu and Henry, turned the success of the sandwich into Lee Bros. Foodservices, Inc.—the family Americanized their name to Lee—which today serves more than five hundred independently owned food trucks throughout northern California. The business also evolved into Lee’s Sandwiches, a fast food chain of dozens of shops selling bánh mì from San Francisco to Houston. Cathy Chaplin, author of the Food Lover’s Guide to Los Angeles, once blogged, “If there was a Lee’s Sandwiches for every McDonald’s, the world would be a better place.” Indeed, when Lê died, his obituary in the San Jose Mercury News called him the Ray Kroc of Vietnamese sandwiches.

Bánh mì’s meteoric rise in the past few years is probably best explained by a convergence of pop-culture food trends in the United States—the popularity of food trucks dishing up tasty and inventive street food, the explosion in food blogging, the phenomenal success of television cooking shows, and the advent of the celebrity chef. The bánh mì craze has produced an authority on the subject, Andrea Nguyen, a northern California writer whose blog, Viet World Kitchen, explores the culinary traditions of Vietnam as well as of Asia more broadly. She published The Bánh Mì Handbook: Recipes for Crazy-Delicious Vietnamese Sandwiches, which made National Public Radio’s list of best cookbooks of 2014.

“Vietnamese bánh mì offers a wealth of textures,” Nguyen told me. “Crispy bread! Fatty mayo and meats! Crunchy pickles! Hot chilies! Refreshing cucumber and herbs!” Nguyen attributes bánh mì’s crossover appeal to its familiarity and adaptability. “It’s pretty, not overly mysterious for people interested in exploring new cuisines,” she says. “It’s varied in fresh vegetables, light flavors, and people can more or less identify what they’re eating. Vietnamese cuisine blends East Asia with Southeast Asia, South Asia and the West. Bánh mì is the perfect hybrid.” One of her recent blog posts: “Laughing Cow Cheese Omelet Bánh Mì Recipe.”

Pauline Nguyen, owner of the Red Lantern, Sidney’s top Vietnamese restaurant, sees the bánh mì’s attraction in its exquisite taste. “Let’s face it, the traditional French baguette with jambon, a bit of fromage, and possibly some cornichon, doesn’t quite compare,” she says. “You have a beautiful balance of the sweet and piquant of pickled vegetable, the heat of chilies, and richness of the pâté and mayonnaise, along with the unctuousness of the pork terrine, the aromas of the coriander and spring onion, and of course the texture of crisp baguette.”

Just as the cheap price drew Vietnamese to bánh mì, says Minh Tsai, CEO of the Hodo Soy tofu business in Oakland, it is one of the reasons for its spreading interest among non-Vietnamese. He explains that bánh mì was quickly recognized as a bargain because Americans always perceived Vietnamese food as tasty yet inexpensive. For the same reason, he adds, phở, the Vietnamese noodle soup, likewise has become a ubiquitous dish across America.

“It was all about volume and cheap labor,” says Steve Do, among the boat people who fled Vietnam for the United States in the 1980s, who found financial success in real estate and Internet technology stocks. “I lived with bánh mì while going to high school and college, and I knew several families who worked in the business,” he told me. “Families working together making sandwiches eliminate labor cost—even underage kids make sandwiches after school to help the family out. Often the stores don’t hire anyone but Vietnamese newcomers who work under the table while still on government subsidies. It’s the refugee way, but it works.”

If bánh mì survives as common street food in Vietnam today, I imagine that some vendors would get a kick out of knowing that the Việt Kiều—Vietnamese overseas—took the sandwich on to international fame and glory.

Andrew Lam is an editor with New America Media and author of the “Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora,” and “East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres.” His latest book is “Birds of Paradise Lost,” a short story collection, was published in 2013 and won a Pen/Josephine Miles Literary Award in 2014. The above essay is an excerpt from a longer version in The Cairo Review

Local Happenings July 2015

Independence Day Celebration

The City of Richmond will sponsor its annual 3rd of July Celebration from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday, July 3 at Marina Bay Park.

The (mostly) free event will include fireworks, food, live blues music and a pay-to-play youth area. The 20-minute fireworks display will start at 9:15 pm.

For more information, call 510-620- 6793.

 

New Park Opening

The grand opening of Santa Fe Union Park, formerly known as the South 2nd Street Play Lot, is scheduled for noon on Saturday, July 18.

The celebration will include food, refreshments and remarks from local community leaders and members. The park, located on South Second Street between Florida Avenue and Main Avenue, has undergone a total renovation with new children’s play areas and basketball and soccer courts.

To RSVP for the grand opening event, visit 4richmond.org of call the at 510-260-0290.

 

Reggae in Richmond

Reggae music will be center stage during a three-day festival coming to Richmond this month.

The Bay Area Reggae Festival is scheduled for July 17-19 at the Craneway Pavilion (1414 Harbour Way). Artists scheduled to appear include Bugle, Gyptian, Lady Saw, Romain Virgo, and Marcia Griffiths, among others. Ticket prices range from $75-$195, and will increase if purchased after July 9.

For a full list of performers or to purchase tickets, visit bayareareggaefest.net

 

New City of Richmond Mobile App

A City of Richmond app is now available for IOS devices and Android mobile phones. The app was designed to provide Richmond’s community members with one-stop access to city services and information. An informational video providing an overview of the app is accessible online from the city’s website.

The app can be downloaded for free from the Apple App Store and at Google Play.

Richmond officials would like feedback from the community on the new app, send in comments to webservices@ci.richmond.ca.us

Native American Culture Celebrated and Displayed in Richmond

Story and Photos by Luis Cubas

Among the vibrant array of colors, the jingling of bells rang out as dancers closed into a circle at this year’s sixth annual Richmond Pow-Wow, “Dancing for Our Next Generation.” The event took place on June 20 and brought hundreds of people, of all ages, together at Wendell Park in Richmond.

“We were dancing for not only our ancestors but also for the next generation, the ones that haven’t been born yet,” said Courtney Cummings, the organizer of the event. “We dance to let them know that we are thinking about them and praying for them.”

The City of Richmond, Mayor Tom Butt’s office and anonymous donors and volunteers from the community hosted the Pow-Wow.

The event served as a celebration (and education) of Native American culture. This year’s Pow-Wow brought out dancers from Sacramento, Humboldt County, and Fresno, as well as a traditional medicine man from Montana.

“The purpose of the Pow-Wow is a social gathering for Native American communities in an urban setting,” said Cummings, who is from the northern Cheyenne Arikara Creek Tribe and an enrolled member of three affiliated tribes.

In addition to the dancing and performances, foods such as fry bread and Indian tacos were for sale at the event. There was also handmade jewelry for purchase.

Before the day was over, Mackenzie Phillips, 12, was crowned this year’s Pow-Wow Princess. She will represent Richmond for the next year at all the surrounding pow-wows and special events.

Cummings said she was pleased with the number of youth who turned out for the event. “We had more young boys in traditional regalia this year then I’ve witnessed in the last five years prior to this,” she said. “That’s a good sign that our young people have decided to follow and participate in their culture and traditional ways.

Rachel Dolezal Poses Ugly Challenges to America

Rachel Dolezal Poses Ugly Challenges to America

Commentary, Earl Ofari Hutchinson | New America Media Posted: Jun 16, 2015

 

Yet the fact that she found herself unceremoniously plopped square in the middle of these controversies says less about her, than it does about the tenuous and problematic ground that issues of race, ethnicity and gender rest on. Let’s go down the list. Dolezal proudly declared herself a black woman. That’s far different than many whites who, through a mix of infatuation and identity search, latch onto what’s perceived as the hip, cool, slightly rebellious black culture. This compulsive need for some whites to identify with blacks even prompted the coining of the term “white Negro” by Norman Mailer in 1957, to describe whites who are wannabe blacks.

Dolezal took it a step further and proclaimed herself African American. That might have been the end of the story if she had just lived quietly in Spokane. But she headed a chapter of the nation’s best-known civil rights organization. This raises another question: Can a white person lead a civil rights organization that has been strongly identified throughout much of its history as a black rights advocacy organization?

The question has been fiercely debated from time immemorial. The NAACP makes it clear that it judges leadership not on the basis of color but on commitment. Fair enough, but thousands of other blacks don’t. They are adamant that black organizations should be led by blacks who supposedly bring more sensitivity, understanding, and role-model visibility and credibility to the leadership positions in these organizations. No matter how often it is pointed out that whites have played a role as supporters, initiators, and even leaders in countless fights for civil rights, this will not convince many blacks who still believe their white colleagues must be relegated to a subservient role in civil rights organizations.

Dolezal challenged that belief, not just by being something other than “African American,” but, from all accounts, being a supremely dedicated and effective leader on the hot-button issues of education, health care, criminal justice reform, hate crimes and police abuse.

Then the issue got muddied again when it was discovered that as a fine arts student at Howard University, a historically black university, she sued the school charging reverse discrimination. At the time, she was purportedly a white student. Though the suit was dismissed, it stirred the pot again on whether whites really have any case that they can be victims of racial discrimination.

Dolezal’s suit seemed to say that white people can claim discrimination when it suits them, and then deftly pivot and assume a black identity when that suits them.

The other thorny question is whether the Dolezal saga will ignite the next great debate over just who is what, when it comes to defining a person’s race, ethnicity, and, as we saw recently with formerly Bruce, now Caitlyn, Jenner, their gender. The new buzz words that almost certainly will confuse, divide, and provoke many in the coming years will be over transracialism and transgenderism. This has already sparked debate about just how someone should classify themselves for Census purposes. Many blacks have fiercely opposed the biracial designations, charging that this serves to dilute their political numbers, strength and clout.

But the speed with which the Dolezal story took flight can be directly attributed to the thirst by the mainstream media for even the slightest hint of salacious gossip, especially when it comes to race and sex. That thirst is helped along by a social media that takes giddy delight in endlessly looping any juicy tidbit of race or sex gossip faster than the speed of light. The Dolezal story was made in heaven for both types of media. This is both an exciting and dangerous trend that will become a fixture in American media from now on.

Whatever their motives, Dolezal’s family knew that they could drop a story about their daughter’s alleged racial duplicity and the media and the public would run with it. This smacks of more rank manipulation that can be rerun again and again in other situations where families want to air their dirty laundry before the public. We may have seen the last of Dolezal, with her resignation from the presidency of the Spokane NAACP, but we haven’t seen the last of the ugly challenges that her story posed to America.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. His forthcoming book is: From King to Obama: Witness to a Turbulent History (Middle Passage Press).

Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: twitter.com/earlhutchinson

Richmond Celebrates First Pride Family Day

IMG_4013-4.JPG

By Malcolm Marshall | Photos by Darryl Pelletier

Richmond celebrated its first-ever Pride in the Park Family Day June 6 at Marina Bay Park.

More than 200 people of all ages came out to the family picnic designed to give the local Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) community an opportunity to come together and meet each other. Rainbow flags flew around the park as attendees enjoyed food, a DJ, live music and performances including a drag performance.

“It brought tears to my eyes to see that day had finally come to Richmond,” said longtime Richmond resident Duane Chapman, co-founder of Richmond Rainbow Pride, a new group founded to represent Richmond’s gay community at the San Francisco Pride Parade. Richmond Rainbow Pride organized the family day with support from Richmond City Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles, Terrance Cheung, chief of staff for Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, the Rainbow Community Center and others.

When he was at the SF Pride celebration a few years ago, Chapman said, he discussed the idea of bringing the event to Richmond with former assistant City Manager Leslie Knight. But he ultimately decided that it wasn’t the right time.

Then, when he saw the gay pride flag flying at Richmond City Hall for the last two years, he knew it was the right time. After being introduced to Cesar Zepeda, who shared the same vision, the two formed Richmond Rainbow Pride and decided to hold the first-ever LGBTQ pride event in Richmond.

In 2013, amid some backlash, the City of Richmond began flying the flag at City Hall in June to celebrate LGBTQ pride month. The push to fly the flag came from Councilmember Jovanka Beckles, who is Richmond’s first openly gay councilmember.

Since then, Beckles says she has seen a change in Richmond.

“Years ago, vicious attacks on the LGBTQ community were common and allowed to go unchallenged. No longer,” Beckles wrote in an email.

“By standing strong and proud in public, the LGBTQ community in Richmond is now respected. There are still problems, but the leadership and support that is emerging in the LGBTQ community and organized this wonderful picnic are a big part of the solution.”

Attendees at Marina Bay Park wore name tags, shared food, danced and celebrated Richmond’s LGBTQ community. Zapar said the picnic was a chance for the community to celebrate diversity but also its many similarities.

“People from all over came out to partake in the celebration; gay and straight, old and young, white, Latino, black, Asian; the whole LGBTQI rainbow,” said Zepeda. “Pride in the Park showed the community that we are here and, most importantly, that nobody is alone.”

 

An Open Letter from a Samoan ‘Caitlyn’- Jaiyah Saelua

To my beloved Samoan community,

Firstly & most importantly, #CallHerCaitlyn Bruce Jenner is no more. She has evolved into a human who is living her truth, as should all human beings, transgender or not.

Transgender women prefer to be called who they appear as; it helps with confidence & self-esteem. And if you aren’t sure, out of respect, ask. Simple as that.

Fa’afafine is the third gender specific to the Samoan culture, but the stereotypes associated with fa’afafine are mostly positive – a perspective that western cultures are freshly adapting to. When I speak to western societies through press about fa’afafine, I speak of those positive aspects (reliable, compassionate, loving, organized, talented), because the lesson for them is tolerance.

For the first time, I will address the problems many Pacific island cultures have with their perception of their respective 3rd gender.

Familial support and respect are key to maintaining a healthy and balanced relationship between a fa’afafine & their community. As do most things, a child’s perspectives on life begin within the family. Caitlyn Jenner might give a young fa’afafine hope to become her true self one day, but when that truth isn’t being supported at home, their paths become wavering and almost immediately comes trouble.

Respect is said to be the foundation of the Samoan culture, and that includes respect for fa’afafine. Fa’afafine who are respected by their families and community are able to overcome obstacles more easily and realize their abilities to reach their highest potentials earlier in life. These fa’afafine become very crucial members of society.

Everyone knows that Samoan humor is crude, but to what extent does it become an issue of the Samoan people? How can one support Caitlyn Jenner [who is without a doubt an icon for transgender women & fa’afafine together, but a complete stranger] and not support the fa’afafine in their own families? That is when it becomes an issue. We must understand that joking about a fa’afafine is not a means of support. Understand them first.

A million transgender women can be visible in their societies and it truly helps when those women are well-known (ie: Janet Mock, Lavern Cox, Carmen Carrera, Caitlyn Jenner), but change comes from society members who do not understand or tolerate. They are the target. They exist within our Pacific Island communities, and I strongly feel that this is a crucial time for these lessons to be introduced to them. Pacific means peace. Let the world learn from the people who hold the true meaning.

I love you my Tagata Pasifika. Love one another.

Love fa’afafine.

This article was first published in
 Suga Magazine Online.

Richmond Commuters Trade Four Wheels For Two

By David Meza

Sequoia Erasmus,Gabino Arredondo,Emila Lipman,Marilyn Langlois,Jovanka Beckles, Adam Linz

Even though the weather threatened to rain on their parade, nearly 700 Richmond commuters took part in the annual Bike to Work Day May 14.

The event encourages commuters to leave their cars at home and choose alternate transportation to get to work — a way to save on gas, skip traffic and get some exercise all in one.

The City of Richmond, in collaboration with local businesses and advocacy groups, hosted four “energizer stations” across the city where riders could get coffee, snacks and a tote bag filled with giveaways on their way to work. Stations were located at Marina Bay Park, the Richmond Greenway, the intersection of San Pablo and Macdonald avenues and the Richmond BART station.

Mike Uberti, a health and sustainability associate with the city, said Richmond has organized a Bike to Work Day for the past six years.

“Bike to Work is special because it is a regional event, with Richmond riders joining the greater Bay Area to showcase biking as an effective, popular mode of transportation,” Uberti said. “It also encourages first-time riders, or people who may not just regularly bike, to think of bicycling as more than an activity or hobby, but also as a reliable commute option.”

For Emila Lipman, the event became her first time riding her bike to work. Now, she said, “I will try to bike the 14 miles to work once a month.”

New this year were volunteers from Pogo Park, who took pedestrian-biking surveys at the Richmond Greenway station, looking to find out more about bike use and pedestrian infrastructure needs in the community.

Uberti said this was also the first year that the event didn’t see a substantial increase in riders — which he said was a good thing.

“In the past, we were noticing a growing trend, but now we are starting to see a more established base of riders who recognize biking as a safe and reliable option within Richmond,” he said. “We hope to continue to build bicycling as a cost-efficient, sustainable, and safe method of transportation for the Richmond community.”

Other organizations to participate included Bike East Bay, 511 Contra Costa, Rich City Rides, The Richmond Bicycle / Pedestrian Advisory Committee and local business SunPower.

Richmond bart Bike rack