** St. Mary's Center's tireless director Carol Johnson and her development staff are now unofficially on board with this project as of now, as her esteemed Board has given the go-ahead to explore funding options. This would be the first ancillary program that St. Mary's Center has fiscally sponsored. The Center is in the midst of a vital Capital Campaign to continue demolition and construction projects on mission to build their Senior Village, a beautiful vision for this West Oakland community. I am thankful St.Mary's Center's staff and board of directors can see the correlation between my vision and theirs and that they are willing to take it on. Ongoing talks with like-minded friends at CalTrans bodes very well for this project's true potential as a pilot program. This is all very exciting, and I look forward to sharing developments here as things progress. Many thanks for patience support and friendship; Be Well. -frank m.**
Occupying the iconic space in our society where the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. Population-seniors-meets the astounding persistence of urban poverty, homeless seniors face particular challenges in meeting the most basic and everyday needs.1
The St. Mary's Center annually serves thousands of local citizens of low income aged 55 and over, including many homeless persons, through its Senior Services Program. It is the only agency in Oakland with programs specifically designed for seniors. These include daily meals, case management, counseling, health screening, substance abuse and dual-diagnosis programs, as well as music, art, communication, wellness and meditation groups. For many impoverished local seniors immobility is one of the most daunting obstacles to procuring food, getting medical attention, and engaging in healthy social relations. Many able-bodied seniors can and do use bicycles to overcome this problem, and there is a real need for education around urban cycling safety and health. Other seniors need only the opportunity to have a bicycle, or a tricycle, in order to immediately feel the positive benefits in their lives. For instance, many of the homeless and disaffected, yet resilient and active seniors in the Bay Area already include recycling among their varied means to survival.
Folks from backgrounds as diverse and storied as the numerous communities of the world whose descendants are found here, by bike and on foot, can daily be seen precariously pulling shopping carts full of painstakingly scavenged and sorted recyclables up & down Adeline Street, San Pablo Avenue and Peralta and Market Streets, trudging westward across the 34th street overpass from Telegraph Avenue - from all around Oakland, Emeryville and Berkeley to the Recycling Company on 34th and Peralta Streets, a scant minutes walk from St. Mary's. These elders need safe, properly fitted working bicycles, helmets, lights, access to repair help, tools, and supplies. They need bicycle trailers to pull their materials safely behind them, out of the range of vehicles.2 Many other area seniors need access to bicycles, tricycles and recumbent bicycles, so that they too can enjoy the benefits of regular cycling.
Oakland area seniors need to take part in the bike commuter lifestyle that is burgeoning amongst the nation's seniors. Groups and city officials in other parts of the country, like Elders in Action with the Community and School Traffic Safety office of the City of Portland, have been able to obtain recumbent trikes for use by a community of seniors; in Portland they accomplished it by using Federal Safe Communities Grant funds. Projects which seek to provide the sort of support mentioned here surely are what the proponents of Measure B had in mind when they cast their vision for a more sustainable Oakland.
Community bicycle programs operate in communities across the U.S. to offer free or low-cost access to bicycles, repair, and training. Indeed, around the globe, the bicycle's importance to sustaining healthy communities has never been more apparent. From Ghana to Australia, from Santa Cruz to New Orleans to Baltimore, people are coming together to tackle the issues of health, economy, and environment on a local, neighborhood level, by operating and supporting community bicycle programs.
The authors of this proposal have been developing a long-term vision of addressing the aforementioned and other needs of their Oakland area neighbors, and have the necessary skills, background and contacts to realize the potential of such an undertaking.3 As a pilot program, St. Mary's Bicycle Program seeks to begin to address these needs and to engender a sense of independence and of caring community amongst the St. Mary's Center's many clients and neighboring downtown West Oakland seniors.
1From U.S. Census website at http://www.census.gov/population/www/pop-profile/elderpop.html
2Such trailers can be made from scrap metal readily found at Recycling Co. and the numerous other recycleries in the greater Bay Area; Skill in building them should be passed on, as well.
3 Biographical information is accessible via the web at http://peoplesbike.blogspot.com