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Making the most of every minute: Ciclovía Salinas, Monterey County Open Streets

Since relinquishing my former e-bike snobbery, and now having the option of pedaling an e-assist, I’m discovering advantages beyond having a welcome boost when pedaling up steep hills.

Ciclovía Salinas—Monterey County’s first Open Streets, and in 2017, still just an annual event—was on a Sunday again in 2017. The four-hour event began earlier this year though, at 9 a.m. That didn’t work well for my Sunday schedule, yet I didn’t want to miss Ciclovía. I’d attended every Ciclovía Salinas since the inaugural date in October 2013, and I eagerly look forward to it each year. Even though this time I’d only be able to catch the last hour or so, I didn’t want to let that keep me away.

And it didn’t—as you’ll see in the

scenes below from Ciclovía Salinas 2017!

Making the most of every minute is where the newly appreciated advantage of my Raleigh Electric Superbe iE came in. Even on my old, traditional bicycle, the route I take to reach Ciclovia’s mile-and-a-half of car-free streets is an easy bike ride. I’ve taken the route regularly many times since launching the Monterey County Probation Department Youth Center’s bike education program. When I’m biking to the Youth Center—coming from California State Route 68, the Monterey-Salinas Highway—I bike from Main Street at Blanco Road in South Salinas, then cut over from Main to the Pajaro Street bike lanes. From there, I continue to Alisal Street. That’s where Ciclovía Salinas was taking place, on Alisal Street from Main Street in Oldtown/downtown to Sanborn Road in East Salinas / the Alisal.

When I’m heading on to the Youth Center, I continue on Alisal to Sanborn, then head north on Sanborn to Circle Drive. And that’s also what I did after Ciclovía Salinas 2017—to relax in the shade at the home of some longtime friends in the neighborhood. Why? Because Ciclovía Salinas 2017 was unseasonably warm, with temperatures soaring to 90 degrees!

Thanks to a different kind of warm—the warm, caring people I’ve met while biking East Salinas / the Alisal—those Salinas neighborhoods have become some of my favorite urban places to ride.

If getting to the Ciclovía Salinas route is such an easy ride, what was the advantage of e-assist?
The time it took to get there!

Having so little time to enjoy Ciclovía Salinas this year, every minute it took me to reach Alisal Street made a difference. On my way there, having the option of pressing that magical e-assist button meant I was able to get to Alisal Street quicker. Yay! More time for Ciclovía fun!

Once you’ve arrived at an Open Streets route, it’s time for just people-powered transportation. Simply turn off e-assist, and continue pedaling—now using only your own power.

No problem, since I find the Superbe iE to be a smooth ride even when I’m not engaging its optional e-assist.

I reached Alisal Street in plenty of time to pedal the length of the route with others who were biking, running, skateboarding, rollerblading, scooting, rolling in wheelchairs, wagons, strollers and more. People of all ages and abilities were out sharing the street, learning the local Open Streets etiquette while having a great time doing so. There’s nothing quite like being part of the world’s growing numbers of car-free, carefree ciclovístas!

Among North American Open Streets, Ciclovía Salinas is acclaimed as the first youth-led Open Streets initiative.

Youth ages 13-18 develop leadership skills by planning and carrying out this free event for thousands of locals and visitors. While benefiting public health and fostering new, harmonious relationships, the youth experience how they can help create the future they want—for themselves, their families, their communities and world.

When people think of Monterey County, many think of Monterey Peninsula cities like Carmel and Pebble Beach, or the Big Sur coast. Ciclovía Salinas is a wonderful way for tourists, and county residents, to get better acquainted with the Monterey County seat and its largest city, Salinas.

At Ciclovía Salinas, there are enchanting opportunities for anyone eager to know the full array of culture in the county. For example, you’ve likely eaten many meals that began as fresh produce from the Salinas Valley, Salad Bowl of America. At Ciclovía Salinas, among the friendly people you can chat with are some of the many neighborhood residents who help get that fresh produce from field to table.

Enjoy languages? I do! At Ciclovía Salinas, there are plenty of opportunities for listening to or speaking not only English but some other languages, especially Spanish—and perhaps even some indigenous languages. The top indigenous languages spoken in Monterey County are Triqui, Mixteco, Zapoteco, and Chatino–all native to Oaxaca, México. (For a related resource, see Indigenous Interpreting +.)

Oaxaca? Yes, there was even Oaxacan Cultural Dance at Ciclovía Salinas 2017.

Ciclovía Salinas is a vibrant, family-friendly scene that plays against a backdrop of the Gabilan Mountains, the mountain range of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, East of Eden, and The Red Pony. Listen to my two-minute audio below from the inaugural year.

If you’d like to attend, contact Ciclovía Salinas and ask to be put on their email list for earliest possible notice of confirmed upcoming dates. When dates are confirmed, they’re normally added to Bicycling Monterey’s Open Streets resources page and the Monterey County bike calendar too. Since Ciclovía Salinas is a four-hour event, you may want to also explore Salinas the rest of the day, and evening. Some recommendations are provided in “Vacation or Staycation: 16 sweet spots in the Monterey County seat.”

People zipping by on the freeway above—California Highway 101—
often miss out on the beauty beneath it, including

murals along East Alisal Street, Salinas.

Youth Orchestra Salinas (YOSAL) was among the live music attractions along the Ciclovía Salinas 2017 route.

Kudos to the young musicians of YOSAL, and to YOSAL Teaching Artists Miran McPoland, David Giertz, and ReNae Jackson, on this excellent first performance of the semester.

Live music also included the Vanity band’s young musicians Brian Aguirre, guitarist, Rudy Vargas, vocalist, and Jonathan Ordiano, drummer.

Below, Grupo Folklorico Juventud of North Salinas High School. Folklorico is a traditional highlight at Ciclovía Salinas.
For 2017, public health and other information booths were positioned in the center of Alisal Street, rather than along the sides. One advantage to that: it helped people notice the many cool neighborhood businesses along Alisal Street, such as HER Helmet Thursdays spot El Zacatecano Restaurant.

When businesses and Open Streets organizers share ideas and work together to increase attendance, Open Streets provide a significant boost to the local economy.

Another advantage to booths being in the center of the street: it helped keep bicycle traffic at a moderate speed, in accord with the local Open Streets etiquette.

A Bicycling Monterey community partner, Natividad Medical Center, hosted a popular booth.

Many free bicycle helmets were given to children and teens at Ciclovía Salinas. (California law requires helmets for minors.) Natividad provided helmet safety fittings and also raffled off two bicycles, which were gifted to a delighted boy and girl.

Pesticide Action Network (PAN) felt right at home at Ciclovía Salinas, since East Salinas is home to lots of agricultural laborers—workers contributing toward the Salinas Valley being Salad Bowl of America.

Education and advocacy organizations like PAN, and organic farming organizations such as Agriculture and Land-Based Training (ALBA) of Salinas, are appreciated by many residents here.

Youth leadership? We dig it! The Epicenter is celebrated as “Monterey County’s first youth-led community center.”

From the very first year, the City of Salinas has been supportive of Ciclovía Salinas.

That includes the city council, transportation planners, police, public works, and other departments and officials of the city.

As Monterey County’s largest city (Salinas is home to about 37% of the county’s residents), Salinas is not immune to violence. Partners for Peace is one of the many organizations dedicated to helping change that.

Radio Bilingüe’s “Alza Tu Voz / Speak Out”  is a music and talk show “designed for youth on self-identified topics that raise their voices and illuminate issues of concern” in their communities.

To get an idea of how those youth leaders roll, hear co-hosts Felicia Aguilar and Ali Manouchehrizadeh conduct an on-air interview in 2016 with youth bike advocate Jerry Ramos and Bicycling Monterey’s founder; to listen, see Alza Tu Voz / Speak Out.

Open Streets are appreciated by people of all ages, and community elders are among the most enthusiastic supporters of Ciclovía Salinas.

“That’s a beautiful bike! Is that an electric-assist?”
Yes! It’s my first new bicycle in decades, an e-assist made by Raleigh Electric Bikes, the Raleigh Superbe iE Step Thru.

Already I find that having an e-assist option is helpful in unexpected ways, like getting me to the Ciclovía Salinas route quickly when my available time was very limited. Maybe best of all, rather than too often relying on a bike-and-ride option, or just driving, my hours in the saddle are back to increasing.

That’s not only good for my personal health and pocketbook, it delivers the many other benefits of bicycling too. Not least of all, it’s good for our Mother Earth.

Bicycling more often for transportation, yes! Sounds good to us!

Are laws about e-bikes different than for traditional bicycles? Refer to “Regulations for E-Bikes / Electric-Assist Bicycles and Other Non People-Powered Bikes — in Monterey County and Elsewhere.”

This post was published on 31 October 2017. One or more changes last made to this post on 1 March 2020.

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