In 2015, Michael Montenegro, the outreach and media coordinator with Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition, participated in the Eastside Mural Ride in Los Angeles. As he pedaled along the route with his young daughter, he became inspired. “We could totally do this in S.B.,” he remembered thinking. “We have plenty of murals, rich in history and culture. Our community would love this.” He was right. Last year, the inaugural Santa Barbara Mural Ride drew more than 100 riders. This year’s event is cranking up to be even more popular.
Hosted by the coalition, the ride begins at its downtown headquarters, Bici Centro, where participants can fit their helmets and make bike adjustments before the ride. Then, they set off as a group, cruising through both the town’s Eastside and Westside, pausing to hear speakers in English and Spanish at each mural site, before making a final stop at Ortega Park for a potluck and Día de los Muertos celebration.
A sense of regional culture and history is woven throughout the ride, said Montenegro. “We start with the indigenous people of this land, then we talk about the Mexican-American experience of the civil rights movement, how Casa de la Raza started, and the beginning of ethnic studies at UCSB.”
Montenegro is especially grateful to have the support of the area Chumash community. Several members volunteer their time to share knowledge about the Syuxtun Story Circle mural, an intricate mosaic on the sidewalk along Cabrillo Boulevard, a space that was once home to the largest Chumash settlement. “It was really beautiful. It was an honor to have them come and speak [last year],” he said.
Leading the opening ceremony for the second time, Future Leaders of America (FLA) Coordinator Vicente Garcia Jr. said the ride “gives insight into Santa Barbara’s rich cultural wealth and acts as a platform for the community to come together.” A number of junior high and high school students from FLA and Just Communities Santa Barbara will help facilitate the ride. Garcia said that discussing the murals and sharing their own life experiences growing up in Santa Barbara provides youth an opportunity to hone their public speaking skills and to network with others. Area artists are also on hand to contribute stories about their life and work in the area and to describe the planning and collaboration that goes into creating the murals.
Rosalinda Ruiz, assistant center director at Girls Inc., said participating in the ride last year gave her new perspective. “We saw all these beautiful murals that many people don’t realize exist, and because we were on bikes, we also got to really see the communities that the murals are a part of.” The route offers a relatively flat five-mile ride and accommodates people of various ages and fitness levels.
The Mural Bike Ride starts at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, October 28, at Bici Centro (434 Olive St.). Visit sbbike.org/muralride2017.