If you've ever paid us a visit at Ciclavia in LA, you've probably also met our friends Healthy Active Streets. This year, we kicked off a partnership with their youth mechanic group to offer bicycle repair services to Ciclavia riders, completely free of charge.
As an organization, they're much more than just a group of youth bicycle mechanics. Nominated one of the 2019 Nonprofits of the Year by the California Association of Nonprofits, Healthy Active Streets aims to equalize access to mobility and environmental justice by empowering youths to create change through community outreach and civic engagement.
We caught up with Healthy Active Streets founder Danny Gamboa to talk about community, creating positive impact, and the ups and downs of running a local organization.
THOUSAND: What is Healthy Active Streets? What is your mission? What programs and initiatives do you run?
Danny Gamboa: Healthy Active Streets was established in 2013 (originally called Empact Communities), with the goal of leveraging the bicycle as a tool to empower youth, communities of color, women, and other disenfranchised groups.
We aim to increase underserved community members’ access to safe bicycling, walking, and rolling through a few different strategies, including youth programming, community outreach, and civic engagement.
As bike mechanics, our youth provide free services to other community members, further increasing access to biking as a mode of alternative transportation, recreation, and exercise.
In 2017, HAS served as a community outreach contractor for Metro’s award-winning Blue Line First-Last Mile Plan. The First-Last Mile Plan aims to increase the safety and accessibility of public transit by focusing on the first and last mile of patrons’ trips, particularly for people walking, biking, or rolling to the station. We trained residents along the Blue Line to conduct walk audits of the rail station areas, identifying barriers to access. Our efforts aimed to ensure that marginalized communities in our region are heard and see the benefits of funds for active and public transportation in their communities.
Since then, HAS continued working on planning and civic engagement efforts. In 2019, HAS was involved in SCAG’s outreach efforts for the 2020 Regional Transportation Plan in collaboration with Walk Bike Long Beach. Currently, we are conducting outreach for the City of Long Beach on the UPLAN Phase II in North Long Beach.
T: How did your experiences lead you to create Healthy Active Streets?
DG: I founded this project in response to addressing the needs of my community. There was a need for bicycle safety and advocacy. This project started as a pilot program called Empact Communities, which later became Healthy Active Streets.
T: What advice do you have for those who want to go out and make a difference in their community, but don't know where to start?
DG: My advice is to join an existing organization that is doing work that is related to your passion. It may not necessarily be the same focus but you can learn by doing and getting involved. My work in organizing also led me to found Walk Bike Long Beach, a chapter of the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition.
T: What is a project you're proud of?
DG: I’m particularly proud of our youth members who have been involved with HAS, some for over four years. We’ve learned to work together to make our community a safer place to walk and bike. For example, we facilitate pop-up bike fix-it clinics at PopUp Town at the Michelle Obama library, where we fix peoples bikes at no cost.
T: What were some of the successes and challenges you faced as Healthy Active Streets started to grow?
DG: A challenge we faced and continue to face is how to make our programming sustainable. In order to grow as an organization, we need to constantly find sources of funding. In addition to grant funding, we search for partnerships and community outreach work (contracts), like our partnerships with Thousand, the Metro Blue Line First Last Mile Plan, and the UPLAN Land Use Element Plan for the City of Long Beach. Our partnership with Thousand to provide bike repair at Ciclavia is one of our best examples of how community based orgs and businesses can partner on a project with great results.
T: What are some of your favorite moments in your organization's history?
DG: Some of my favorite moments in our history are:
We were nominated Non Profit of the Year by the Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.
The American Planning Association recognized our work on Metro Blue Line First Last Mile Plan with an award of excellence.
We co-facilitated the 3rd Annual West Long Beach Bicycle Toxic Tour.
Our legislative visits to the California State Capital where we met with Dr. Shirley Weber, author of SB392 Police use of force law, recently signed into law by Governor Newsom.
T: What's next for you and for Healthy Active Streets?
DG: HAS will continue to invest in youth by partnering with Jordan HS School students in a special project addressing mobility. We're also towards working towards building a new hub in Long Beach and strengthening our relationships with existing partners and establishing new ones.
We're proud to partner with a local organization dedicated to making an impact in their community. Want to get involved with Healthy Active Streets?