Rachel & Owen from image right, blowing the minds of Roosevelt Elementary students ( who were competing for active miles to school) with their cross country trip plans. (source: odog4life.wordpress.com)
Owen Gorman and Rachel Horn, two friends who’ve known each other since their time attending Samohi, are embarking on a coast to coast bicycle tour combining their advocacy interests along the way. The two college graduates were both part of the early student led effort to host a bike to school event on the Samohi campus that became the successful Bike It! Walk It! program. I caught up with them recently to chat about their plans for riding coast to coast and about their advocacy.
Our Santa Monica weekly column is supported by Bike Center in Santa Monica.
Owen, who you may have seen behind the scenes at many Santa Monica bike advocacy events, first filled me in on some of the back story to the early days of the Bike It Day! movement at the school. I was curious to hear more details about the beginning as I had seen it all developing from the outside back when I was first taking interest in blogging the local bike movement, but I had never been involved directly.
He told me he had started going out to Santa Monica Critical Mass rides, back when it was bigger and before the police campaign had completely stifled its momentum. That participation sparked his interest in the politics of bicycling, and new possibilities for the way life and local transportation. Owen was a school newspaper photographer at the time and started covering Santa Monica critical mass and started the Santa Monica High School Bicycle Coalition, with students he got to know through covering critical mass.
Around the same time, the Samohi Solar Alliance, a school club that started in 2004, succeeded in their goal of getting solar water heating installed on the school’s Drake pool building. The scope of issues the group tackles has revolved around moving away from fossil fuel dependency and environmental sustainability, with a think global act local ethos. From solar power, to waste reduction, to reducing car trips, the Solar Alliance has had it’s sights set on promoting forward thinking at the school.
Rachel Horn was a member of Solar Alliance club when the group, led by then Samohi student Lulu Mickelson, decided they wanted to promote biking to school as an alternative to the line of cars drop off culture that became the norm. Rachel told me the idea was proposed as a collaboration with the Bike Club. The initially generically titled “Bike To School Day” event was born at Samohi in 2007. The effort expanded and later became known as Bike It! Walk It! day, which I’ve watched continually and gradually shift the culture not only at the local schools, but of the whole community.
Owen stayed involved in bike advocacy while he was studying cultural anthropology at UC Santa Cruz, helping to get a student bike library program going to make bikes more accessible to incoming students. He also helped put together an after school bike club at the local middle school. I’ve also seen him teaching student bike safety classes since returning to Santa Monica among other things to keep building the local bike culture. Read more…