Toad&Co Ambassador Spotlight: Ricky Rodriguez, Move SB County, on Solving Problems and Encouraging Youth

Ricky Rodriguez, Education & Encouragement Coordinator at MOVE Santa Barbara


Toad: Let’s start with your work at MOVE. What’s an average day look like? Do you have a favorite part of your job?

Ricky: I work with schools to promote the Safe Routes to School program with the goal to make biking and walking to school safer and easier. We do that through connecting with school communities, learning about issues related to their school, and creating an action plan to build safer streets.

My favorite part of my job is working with our Teen Transportation Justice program where we focus on bicycle repair, advocacy training, and the occasional bike ride. Encouraging young people to be curious about how things work – whether it's bicycle bearing systems, or city government – gives the opportunity for growth, learning, and a deeper understanding of how to affect change in different ways.

Toad: We love the encouragement for youth to be curious in different ways! Did you ride bikes as a kid or discover biking as an adult? And what compelled you to build your first bike?

Ricky: I rode bikes when I was younger, but it wasn't until I was around 18 that I was obsessive about it. I’d ride from downtown to IV and back on the daily to go to music shows with my camera in tow. I built my first bike around that time. I learned about Bici Centro and was inspired by the problem-solving nature of mechanics. I wanted to go far; I didn’t realize I’d take that bike on multiple bike tours.

Bicycles are simple machines. Although there are complexities to different systems, they are easy to maintain, they are fun, and they're an equalizer because you see them throughout all communities, regardless of race, gender, and class.

Toad: Can you share some of your interactions with youth through bicycle education? 

Ricky: Giving young people a problem to solve is a fun process, especially when you provide the tools necessary. With bikes it’s a bit more tangible, but even seemingly abstract issues like public infrastructure or self-esteem are problems we can look at in a solution-oriented way.

Building a solution-oriented mindset is important to me because this allows for us to find creative ways to look and solve problems. It builds confidence and develops leadership skills. Also, bikes are cool and fun, so it’s an easy space to have a good time.

Toad: We couldn’t agree more. Creative problem solving, and those encouraging it, always opens new doors. Relatedly, what does “doing good” mean to you?

Ricky: Doing good means doing your part to better the world, even if nobody is watching.

Toad: We hear that you make your own bike goods! Tell us about Toast Tea Threads.

Ricky: Making bike-related caps and bags has been a great creative outlet, challenge, and therapeutic activity. I’ve been a bike nerd for a long time, so when I was offered a bike parking gig in 2009, I also received a cycling cap. I thought, “I could make this!” based on my limited sewing skills.

I made a cap, then a friend commissioned me to make them one. From there I knew that I could build my audience. When I moved to Olympia, Washington, the cycling caps didn’t cut it in the winter. So, I sourced wool flannel from the thrift store and started making cold weather cycling gear, to keep you warm and Toast Tea (Threads).

Toad: We love a good cycling cap… and a good cycling route. What’s your favorite Santa Barbara bike route and bike-friendly stop along the way?

Ricky: My favorite route in Santa Barbara probably has to be riding Mountain Drive up into Montecito. It’s got its hill climb, stunning views, and some fun descending. My go-to stop on a ride is probably Red Kettle Coffee in Summerland.

Toad: Complete the question: every day I aspire to…

Ricky: Be curious, give gratitude, and have fun!

Toad: Lastly, we hear you’re always down for karaoke. What’s your go-to song(s)?

Ricky: The list is long! I love singing country (Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood, Brooks n Dunn, etc), but right now Jose Jose is my go-to for when I go out and sing.