Bicycle Safety en Español (no subtitles needed)

February 20, 2013

This is our second time offering a bicycle education class in Spanish, and our third year partnering with the Shirlington Employment and Education Center (SEEC).  Two years ago we offered basic bike tune ups and bike lights for free to all of the day laborers at SEEC whose primary mode of transportation are their bicycles.  Last year, we worked together with the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and League Certified Instructor, Edgar Gil Rico, to put on our first Spanish bicycle commuting seminar.  Because that class was such a success, we knew we had to continue these efforts in educating this community about riding safely and courteously, so we put on a second bicycle commuting seminar in Spanish.

Edgar is not only fluent in Spanish, but as a native Colombian, he brings with him his personal experiences growing up, living, and bicycling in Latin America.  We found this to be immensely important when speaking to the Latino community because he has the ability to relate to their experiences and is in tune with their culture.  For example - Edgar started the class with a bunch of pictures of people doing things you should not be doing while riding your bike.  Some we see here in Arlington (riding the wrong way down a bike lane), but others I've never seen before, like carrying a palette of food on the head or holding onto the back of a truck to catch a lift up a hill.  Edgar informed me after the class that these are very common things to see in Latin America and it was wise for him to impress on them the danger of doing any of these things here (or anywhere for that matter!).

I also heard the words "familia" and "niños" used quite often which translate to family and children.  One cultural difference between the United States and Latin America is the importance of family.  Of course we'd like to say that here in America our family is important, but sending your elderly parents or grandparents to a nursing home is a foreign concept to many cultures in Latin America.  Their families tend to be very close-knit and most extended family live under one roof.  Almost a year ago, Los Angeles introduced a bicycle safety public awareness campaign in Spanish that capitalized on family values to enforce safety (right).  The text translates to:  Caution: Your family also rides a bicycle.  The 60 second video that goes along with it helps reinforce the message.

We are very grateful to have someone like Edgar who understands these cultural differences and can relay our message on safety to a large population of people who ride bikes but are not being reached through our normal outreach efforts.  Getting over the language barrier is only a small barrier - the bigger obstacle is figuring out how to communicate with this group of people in a way that will resonate with them so they might go home and think, "I need to be a good role model to my children and wear a helmet every time I ride my bike so they will do the same thing."

To end the seminar we provided the day laborers with helmets, bike lights and reflective pant straps to make sure they have the tools they need to be safe when they're riding their bikes.  Don't worry, Edgar made sure they all put their helmets on correctly.

We plan to continue working with SEEC and the day laborers to educate and encourage them to ride their bikes safely.  Check out our Facebook page for more photos from the seminar!

Zanna is the Events and Outreach Coordinator for BikeArlington. She would love to ride her bike in Latin America.  She will remember never to hang onto the back of a vehicle to catch a free ride up a hill, even though she dislikes hills...a lot.


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