The newest member of the BikeSGV team, Pomona resident Monica Curiel vividly remembers being taught how to ride her bike and then taking street trips with her father. The only daughter of Mexican born parents, Monica found that connecting with her father was not always easy. However the two had one thing in common that always brought them together: biking. In high school, her father signed them up for bike tours up and down California. Biking meant spending time with family, getting outdoors and staying healthy; all values that are still a big part of her life and work.
Following her graduation from UC Berkeley in Conservation and Resources Studies, Monica began
pursuing her goal to work for a better environment and a healthier community learning how to be an organizer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, working on mercury contamination issues. The role taught her valuable organizing skills in garnering support for a campaign, outreaching to the community and teaching others about important issues. As her campaign wrapped up, the opportunity to live and volunteer in Senegal, on the coast of West Africa, presented itself. The time flew and after a year and a half, Monica had worked on environmental education and ecotourism with the local community and environmental leaders. The experience was extremely educational. In addition to picking up French, Monica also learned that the world has many ways to do things. This understanding and ability to adapt are skills she considers vital to working in different communities and on diverse projects.
Coming home to California, Monica settled in the San Bernardino Mountains as the Program Coordinator of a very special place called the Children’s Forest in Running Springs. Her job there was to recruit and lead a team of youth volunteers from ages 11-17. Together they participated in forest restoration projects, environmental education and fun activities such as camping, kayaking, rock climbing hiking and snowshoeing. The San Bernardino Mountains holds a special place in her heart even now and Monica invites anyone to join her anytime on a hike in her old neighborhood complete with fun facts about the trees, plants, birds and wildlife all around.
Life and work eventually brought Monica down off the mountain and to Los Angeles and now to the San Gabriel Valley. Working at BikeSGV is exciting because alternative and active transportation is connected to so many human and environmental health factors. Although her experience has been in working in everything from toxics to community gardens and water conservation, as an ecologist, Monica’s philosophy believes that all things are connected. The individual choice to ride a bike positively contributes to a person’s overall physical and mental health. It also contributes to cleaner air quality by taking cars off the road, sparking a positive feedback loop by further contributing to better health and a cleaner environment. Walking and biking more also reduces the demand for fossil fuels which is connected to the incredibly important issue of climate change. We can even find the added benefit of connecting communities when folks get together to share a train, a bus or a bike lane. In fact, Monica’s favorite part of public transport is striking up conversations with a diverse array of people, recalling one woman who boarded with a beautiful live parrot on her shoulder!
Speaking of parrots, Monica is confident her expertise and background counting pelicans, flamingos and other shorebirds will translate well to counting slower-moving pedestrians and bicyclists. As BikeSGV's Active Transportation Data Coordinator she is looking forward to working with local volunteers to collect this incredibly important data, identify local and regional needs, and support communities in securing funding to make walking and biking safer and more enjoyable for all.