The Bay Area is renowned for its many attributes, from the art culture to the history to the restaurants, and for the technological hub it became.
But, to locals, one of the most important and often underrated aspects of life in The Bay is the surrounding nature and the community that resides in it. The Marin County Bicycle Coalition (MCBC) works toward the goal of a future that will include a comprehensive network of safe, convenient and connected places to bike, both on-road and off, in an effort to preserve and witness Marin County’s natural landscapes safely and respectfully. Their efforts offer resources to local residents that provide accessible bicycling programs to adults and children in the community.
“The beauty of living here in Marin is that there’s so much access right from your doorstep,” said Matt Farber, the outreach coordinator for MCBC and lead instructor for Marin Safe Routes to School. “You can go to Mt. Tam, the Watershed District, you can go to Novato and the Marin Headlands. It’s pretty endless where you can go to bike here. There are so many great places, but what we really want to encourage is that these areas are for all people to use—pedestrians, equestrians and bicyclists alike. We want everyone to be able to share these spaces respectfully and equitably.”
Bicycling is not only a fantastic way to remain active and exercise, it also offers the opportunity to soak in the beauty of the natural landscape and to cut down the traffic and carbon emissions that result from car overuse. MCBC’s official goal is to make Marin County a place where everyone bikes everywhere, every day. That means bicycling is a normal part of life and the first choice for transportation, and that the strengths and benefits of the bicycling movement are understood and embraced by all.
“In Marin County, the environment is a primary focus for a lot of residents, and we feel that biking is an extremely important form of transportation,” explained Farber. “We have great places to bike, places we can make better for biking, and we truly want to make it as accessible and safe for all the people that live here. It’s no secret that global warming is happening and that our roads are getting more and more trafficked by the day. We at MCBC want the environment to be at the forefront of people’s minds. Parts of our county are at risk for sea-level rise and wildfires, all fueled, in part, by global warming. We want to get more people involved in biking for transportation and to improve health for recreation. Marin is such a beautiful place to live, and we want to do our best to keep it that way.”
A special program run through MCBC is Cory’s Ride. It was founded in 2020 in partnership with Tim and Suzanne Leonoudakis to honor the memory of their departed son’s vision to make cycling possible for those who could not otherwise afford the chance.
“Cory’s Ride got started when a family here in Marin, the Leonoudakis family, who have been longtime supporters of the MCBC association, sadly lost their son, Cory,” said Farber. “He was an avid bicyclist before he passed away. To honor his memory and his love of biking, they came to MCBC and said they wanted to start Cory’s Ride. They are wonderful, wonderful people.”
Cory’s Ride is a program that brings the benefits of bicycling to as many Marin students as possible, particularly those who could not otherwise afford the chance, by providing bikes and traffic safety education. In its inaugural year, MCBC was able to give 20 high school students bikes and gear of their very own, bicycle safety and street skills education, and training on bike maintenance and repair. Through the program, the students also gained civic engagement and leadership skills so they could contribute to their communities and support emissions reductions. Cory’s Ride’s goal is to make the health and mobility benefits of cycling a basic right, not just a privilege, for children in the county.
“Cory’s Ride is a program that basically aims to provide the opportunity to bike to as many kids in Marin as possible, specifically kids who may not have that opportunity otherwise,” explained Farber. “When it first started, we procured some loaner bikes, and we went to all the schools in Marin County. We put on bike rodeos and other safety events. The first part of Cory’s Ride was getting the bikes to bring to the school. Then, in 2021, we started working with high school students in San Rafael, and we created a curriculum of six classes. If the students stayed with the program for a year and if they did the classes, they got to keep the bikes and any other equipment given to them. We meet with them for group rides, get them food and do fun activities together.”
The Outride Fund is offering an opportunity for Cory’s Ride where they will match donations up to $12,500 until the end of the month on May 31. MCBC is relying on the community for contributions to put bikes in the hands of Marin’s vulnerable and priority populations. In addition to Outride’s match, the organization still requires another $40,000 to make Cory’s vision a reality.
“The children love the exercises they do with MCBC, especially the bike rodeos, where we come to the schools during the physical education classes,” said Farber. “We chalk out fake streets and obstacle courses, and the kids get hands-on practice with the bicycle education we teach in the classroom program. We teach kids at an early age to be alert and respectful, to stop, look and listen when you cross the street, and to follow the rules of the road.”
Those who wish to assist MCBC in furthering their goal of accessible biking may do so through volunteering and fiscal donations. MCBC also calls for members of the community to get involved with their local bicycle and pedestrian advisory councils and city councils.
“We really couldn’t accomplish a lot of the important work that we do without our community, our members and our donors—Marin County is a special place, and it takes all of us to keep it that way,” concluded Farber.
This year, MCBC plans to expand its vision by growing the size of the program, bringing on paid student interns and a full-time director, and developing a leadership retreat.