Pati Gutiérrez is the Bicycle Coalition's newest staff member.

Pati Gutiérrez is the Bicycle Coalition’s newest staff member.

The Bicycle Coalition recently held our fourth-annual Bike Light Giveaway on the corner of 8th Street and Washington Avenue—and, as usual, got rid of all our lights pretty quickly.

It’s become a tradition to post up on a street corner of some Philly neighborhood on the first Monday after Daylight Savings with free lights, and we were pretty excited to do it in South Philly for the first time this year.

We came with roughly 250 bike lights and left with a small box of about 30 that we set apart for our other programs. This year’s giveaway was made possible thanks to the support of sponsors Councilman Mark Squilla and the Garces Foundation.

At this year’s bike light giveaway: The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia’s newest staff member, Pati Gutiérrez, who joins our staff as a Better Bike Share community liaison.

Pati helps a South Philadelphia community member get his new bike light all set up.

Pati helps a South Philadelphia community member get his new bike light all set up.

Gutiérrez graduated from Swarthmore College with a major in Latin American Studies and a minor in Film and Media Studies. She was born and raised in the small agricultural city of Santa María, California.

The daughter of Mexican immigrants, she is dedicated to social justice and access for low-income communities of color. Before joining the Bicycle Coalition’s team, she worked for different nonprofits supporting labor issues and affordable housing. We spoke with Pati about starting up at the Bicycle Coalition recently, and here’s what she had to say.

What about the Bicycle Coalition’s mission interested you in the first place?

I was really drawn in by the Bicycle Coalition’s emphasis on making bicycling a safe and fun way to get around for anyone in Greater Philadelphia. In my personal experience, biking was always about its convenience and affordability. Whether it was good for me or good for the environment was an afterthought (if a thought at all).

Now I’m at a place in my life where I can think about those things, but that’s a reflection of the privilege I’ve gained as I’ve been able to get pretty good jobs (namely, this one). I appreciate that what’s implicit in that “anyone,” is an acknowledgement of the various kinds of people who bike and their various reasons for biking.

You’ve worked on labor issues in past work. What overlapping issues do you see between Better Bike Share and labor?

The needs of low-income communities of color and the issues they face are as diverse as the communities themselves. Whether it be access to good jobs, affordable housing, education, healthcare, or transportation, it’s all important and needed. The real obstacle that comes up over and over again is that so many of these systems were not established with the wellbeing and success of low-income communities of color in mind. On the contrary, most were specifically designed to benefit from and function off of their exploitation. That’s why it’s so important and really exciting that the Better Bike Share Partnership exists with the sole purpose of working to build socially equitable and replicable bike share systems. I feel honored to be a part of that process.

We were specifically looking for a Spanish-speaking BBS community liaison. How do you think your being able to communicate with Philly’s Spanish-speaking community can help create a better bike share system?

Taking South Philly as an example, huge portions of the Latino immigrant community there bike everyday for work and there are many great organizations working with them on different issues. Yet because so many of the members of that community feel most comfortable speaking in Spanish, the BCGP had very little access to them. I’m really glad that I can use the Spanish I grew up speaking to connect with people and work towards making sure their voices are included and that we can communicate our work and resources to them as well.

What kinds of connections have you been building as community liaison so far?

A lot of the work that I’ve been doing so far has been around introducing myself to different people and organizations so that I can start to be recognized as a resource for Spanish-speaking communities. A few Spanish-Language Urban Riding Basics classes are in the works to be hosted at different organizations in South Philly before the end of the year, but I won’t say much more about that until we’ve finalized all the details.

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