This Memorial Day weekend, a group of local teens will do something many of them never thought possible — pedal their bikes nearly 100 miles from Santa Cruz to Monterey and back.
This is the fifth year of Bike the Bay, an annual youth ride organized by Green Ways to School. Green Ways to School, a project of People Power, works to encourage youth leadership and alternatives to driving in local middle and high schools throughout Santa Cruz County.
The ride brings together a diverse group of youth from throughout the County, many of whom are involved with projects promoting biking. Esther Stilwell, a senior at Santa Cruz High has been working to promote cycling in Santa Cruz for the past two years as an intern with People Power.
“I’m very excited to get a chance to wrap up my two years with People Power with this challenging ride before I goes to Pitzer College in the fall,” Esther says. “Helping with this ride is a perfect accumulation of everything I have learned at People Power: community outreach, group ride planning, sustainable transportation, and having a good time cycling!”
The tour is a transformative experience for many who participate. Traveling 100 miles round trip on a bicycle is no small feat for someone who may not have ridden more than 10 miles in a day. The trip affords spectacular views, a powerful connection to the local landscape, and the joy of reaching Monterey County’s 18-mile Coastal Trail after a hard day of pedaling.
“That’s my favorite part of the trip,” says Green Ways to School director Tawn Kennedy of the Coastal Trail. “After meandering through back roads and a short section of Highway 1, getting on the Monterey bike path is a real treat, and I notice everyone’s spirits pick up. I look forward to the day we can ride the whole route on the Coastal Rail Trail.”
The Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail will eventually provide an off-street path spanning Santa Cruz County, and will one day connect to the Monterey Coastal Trail. If that connection is made, riders could travel safely away from cars all the way from Santa Cruz to Monterey.
Bike the Bay aligns perfectly with Green Ways to School’s mission to empower youth and change the way they think about transportation. After 100 sweaty miles, these teens know one thing: if you can bike the length of Monterey Bay, you can ride anywhere, and if you can ride anywhere, you can do anything.