We’re big on finding joy in everyday adventures. From the simplicity of backyard brewskis on a Tuesday, to strolling your neighborhood or biking the local trail system.
And we love when joy meets doing good, as is the case with our partner MOVE Santa Barbara County.
They’re on a mission to promote walking, biking, and public transit county-wide (with the hopes of inspiring options that are country-wide). MOVE believes that when safe, vehicle-free options are available, communities become more healthy, sustainable, and equitable.
Think of your favorite walking spot – maybe it’s downtown; maybe it’s made of dirt. How do you get there? If the location’s bike-ability factor or proximity to public transit is high, you’re one lucky Toad. For many, it’s difficult to safely navigate to this spot without a vehicle.
That’s where MOVE steps in (no pun intended). We had the opportunity to chat with Executive Director Heather Deutsch, whose first alternative transportation experience was walking to school in kindergarten.
But it wasn’t until living in Vienna, Austria for several years that she became aware of the environmental, health, and economic inequities of America’s transportation system. She returned to the US and received her Master’s in City and Regional Planning. Then, she focused her career in public, private, and non-profit sectors aimed at planning, designing, building, and maintain alternative transportation projects.
“I spent the next 10 or 15 years – I mean, I’m still doing it today! – trying to understand why we spend all this money on moving people in single occupancy vehicles,” she explains.
Heather and her team’s work at MOVE focuses on adult and youth education, advocacy for alternative transportation, and offers resources to the community, including their bike shops and events.
On the education side, MOVE works in schools to teach kids how to ride bikes as part of their PE education. This also comes with important lessons on bike safety techniques. They also recognize that not everyone owns a bike. So, they bring their own fleet and offer opportunities outside of school… for kids and adults!
Their community bike shops encourage all ages and skill levels to ride by providing low-cost refurbished bicycles, parts, bike maintenance, and do-it-yourself repair programs.
Donations fuel the shops, taking both functioning and well-loved (and rusty) bikes. The bikes are refurbished – sometimes salvaging parts, other times giving love to an old bike – and used to give back to the community. Some are matched with youth, others are sold – intact or in specialized parts – with all proceeds benefiting MOVE’s programs.
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve also really tried to expand our work in schools to talking to parents and principals, too. Because it’s not just about kids knowing how to ride or look both ways before they cross the street.” Heather says.
Their hope is to bridge the gap between bike knowledge and actively making the choice to ride or walk to a local destination. A choice that is often barred by road infrastructure made for vehicles, not people.
Heather points out that a lot of people would make the choice to walk, bike, or use public transit… if it was available to them. For example, biking to work may sound great, but nearby roads might not be safe to navigate by pedal power.
That’s where their advocacy work comes in. MOVE works tirelessly to make Santa Barbara County streets safe for every user on them, from bikers to walkers. They also advocate for connecting communities to public transit with a focus on major infrastructure projects that create equitable public transportation. This means working alongside public works staff as well as city planners and engineers. All with the hope of creating change – and consideration for personal transportation choices – beyond Santa Barbara County. (Plus, bike riding in PE? Sign us up!).
“Our perspective is that we’d rather have half a block of something good, than not. Because ultimately, if we build a better environment piece-by-piece, we will then have an entire working network. And that’s major.”
Inspired and can’t wait to see more people-friendly infrastructure? Heather encourages everyone to speak up and share their thoughts with community leaders.
“Know that your public works department is a gatekeeper of sorts,” she says. “Be informed and voice that this is for safety of people, not cars.”
MOVE is also always on the lookout for volunteers and hosts many fun education and advocacy events throughout the year (peek their upcoming bike valet opportunities!). Learn more about their programs and bike shops at movesbcounty.org.