East L.A. festival mixes bicycling, safety & fun

Nov 18, 2012

A kid-friendly lesson in bike safety./Photo by By C.J. Salgado

By C.J. Salgado

It wasn’t just the park ducks that were out and about  on Saturday enjoying the drizzly weather at the East Los Angeles Civic Center. Local families, too, came out for the East L.A. Safe Connections Festival, which featured Metro’s proposal to make walking and bicycling to neighborhood Gold Line stations safer and more enjoyable. There were also law enforcement and firefighting exhibits, East L.A. Farmers Market vendors, as well as activities for the whole family.

The festival is part of a $9 million project designed to encourage and improve pedestrian and bicycle access to Gold Line station in East L.A. In keeping with promoting safer bicycling,  over 60 kids got a chance to participate in a short Bike Safety and Skills Course. For this, the presenter, Walk ‘n’ Rollers, provided various bicycles for youngsters from age 3 to 11, helmets, and instruction while putting the riders through a short, coned track complete with stop signs and traffic signals. Jim Shanman, biking instructor and founder, said it’s all about “having fun and learning essential skills to be safe.”

There were plenty of other family activities, too at the event, which was organized by County Supervisor Gloria Molina, Metro and  sheriff’s and county fire departments. Some kids preferred to dance away the time with hula hoops. Others jumped their hearts out in a jumper or got colorful face paintings. Even learning about law enforcement and firefighting was fun, too, because kids got to see the California Highway Patrol’s racy patrol car, the Camaro. Not to be outdone, the Fire Department was out in force with various exhibits including its Hazardous Materials Squad tractor-trailer. Firefighter “Ramirez” put a lot of smiles on kids as he gave them a little mini tour of the huge vehicle and let kids try on an official firefighter’s turnout gear.

As its name implies, this event sought to focus attention on a project to improve the walking and bicycling experience of those utilizing the local Metro stations thru the Metro Gold Line Eastside Station Access Program, providing over $9 million in funding for this purpose. Various workshops were held to provide information on the project, gather local input on needs, and identify community “treasures,” special places in East L.A. to visit.

Photo by C.J.Salgado

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