A photo of a masked cyclist leading other cyclists on a bike tour through Santa Cruz
Ecology Action hosted group bike rides throughout Bike Month in May 2021, and will host similar events for this year’s Biketober challenge.
(Josh Becker / For Lookout Santa Cruz)
Recreation & Sports

Get out of your car and ride: Biketober hits Santa Cruz for third year

For its third annual Biketober event, Ecology Action is encouraging novice and experienced cyclists to get out on the road, even if just for one ride, throughout the month of October.

With the calendar turning to October, local nonprofit Ecology Action is kicking off its third annual Biketober festivities, encouraging Santa Cruz County residents young and old to use alternative means of transportation, participate in group events, and possibly win cash prizes.

Program Specialist Matt Miller, who’s been a dedicated cyclist since his teens, said the monthlong event — in tandem with the group’s May Bike Month activities — is a great motivator.

“All of it is designed to help support people riding,” he said.

Those who participate, whether solo or on a team, are eligible for financial incentives of up to $1,000 in cash prizes, as well as receiving encouragement from the broader community. The organization will also hold community rides and bicycle safety seminars throughout the month, aiming to encourage participants to cycle long after Oct. 31.

As of earlier this week, the group has more than 100 organizations and more than 3,000 participants signed up — a 900% and 1,400% increase from the inaugural Biketober in 2018.

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Program Coordinator Tawn Kennedy originally ran the nonprofit’s Bike & Walk to School event, which paused during the pandemic. This year, however, the group is resuming the event on Oct. 21, working with participating schools and encouraging younger Santa Cruzans to ride.

Miller said Ecology Action’s approach is to help determine what works for cyclists on an individual level.

“We just try to be the bumper rails and talk to people to help move it along, but also talk to people on how to help today,” he said.

Claire Gallogly, transportation manager for the City of Santa Cruz, said she has been an avid supporter of cycling as alternative transportation, and applauds the work Ecology Action is doing.

A photo of masked cyclists riding in Santa Cruz.
Ecology Action hosted a few group rides during Bike Month in May 2021, such as this one from Westside to Seabright. The group will host additional group rides throughout the month of October for the third annual Biketober challenge.
(Josh Becker / For Lookout Santa Cruz)

“We share the same mission of getting more people trying to cycle to meet all of our shared goals of improving the world in so many ways,” she said, noting climate change, public health and getting folks happier.

The city is encouraging its employees to participate, promoting events via its Go Santa Cruz program, virtual educational events as well as with an e-bike rebate program.

Additionally, Gallogly said Santa Cruz is partnering with the cities of Watsonville and Capitola, Santa Cruz County, Cabrillo College and UC Santa Cruz to seek a new vendor for a regional bike-share program, slated for an early 2022 launch.

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“For us, our role is to promote the partnership — I like to let Ecology Action do what they do well, which is so much of that education and encouragement,” she said. “We can provide backup support and framework through infrastructure, programs and pilots that support the overall mission of getting more people cycling.”

Emily Thomas, owner of Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, is a longtime cyclist, and encourages the same in her patrons — she hosted a Bike Day a few years back where cyclists got a beer for a quarter. This year, she said she hopes to bring together other Santa Cruz area breweries to participate.

“Anything to do in the spirit of Ecology Action, we want to make it safe but make it fun,” she said. “Through this kind of fun, it helps people realize how easy it is to ride your bike — sometimes people just need that extra little push.”

Robin Nardello of New Leaf Community Markets has worked with Miller and Ecology Action since the inaugural Biketober. She said she is grateful to see the organization’s push for more alternative transportation as well as education to make sure cyclists feel comfortable riding their bikes.

“It’s really great programming they have, and we feel like it’s something we should support,” she said, noting that New Leaf stores have upgraded their facilities to better accommodate cycling customers.

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Nardello added that New Leaf worked with Miller pre-pandemic to host learn-to-shop events for cycling customers, saying the response was “tremendous.” She said she expects that interest to continue through the coming months.

“It’s really great to see that momentum and the positive response to all of those things — I think people are hungry for it,” she said.

While Ecology Action is hoping to get people on their bikes as much as possible, Miller said it’s not always practical. The goal is to have participants “hop in, and do what they can.”

“The beauty of the bike challenge is that it happens the entire month, and to take part, all you have to do is log one bike ride,” he said. “Obviously, you can go way more than that, but what’s beautiful is that it’s online and on its own terms — it’s all about positive reinforcement and meeting people where they’re at.”

Learn more about the month’s planned activities and how to take part via Ecology Action’s calendar of events.