Why You Ride: Bicycle Edition – "Rio" Jill Contreras, committed to empowering cyclists through community rides, workshops, and more!

We are collecting nominations for the Year-Round Golden Pedal Awards, Metro’s competition for great stories about bicycling. We’re featuring these stories in a monthly Why You Ride series – because for many Angelenos, Bike Week never ends!

  • Name: “Rio” Jill Contreras
  • Distance: Long Commute (5 miles or more)
  • Commuting Features: Traffic-congestion and multi-modality

Since the age of 8, Rio dreamed of being a bike mechanic. Ten years later, at the age of 18, Rio got involved, as a first time mechanic, with the bicycle library, a community bike co-op, in Arcata, California. There e (e, em, eir, eirs, are Rio’s gender pronouns, as oppose to she or he) learned the details of being a mechanic, business savvy, and a lot about advocacy–skills e has carried with eir today.

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Rio, talking to the crowd at one of the events.

The following year Rio moved to Oakland, Cycles of Change’s hometown, where e got a job as a bicycle educator for an after school bike club. It was a hands-on learning experience, and e taught bike safety and commuting in addition to an array of topics under environmental and social justice. During that time, e also traveled around California visiting bicycle coalitions, organizations, and co-ops such as Cycles of Change, where e worked hard coordinating many of their bike education programs.

Rio’s next job was becoming Alameda’s Bicycle Safe Routes to School Co-Coordinator, where e developed the trainer’s manual and trained educators on how to teach bicycle safety for children and youth. At the completion of eir time in the Bay Area, e had obtained LCI status, helped build bicycle school fleets, taught over 7,000 students, and trained over 50 educators.

Bike touring is another of Rio’s passions. Eir first bike tour was Spoke ‘n Heart, a collective of female-identified community organizers who rode between Portland and San Francisco to further develop their leadership, values, and skills. Another bike tour e helped start was Raíces Roots, a people-of-color-collective that set out on a journey towards Guatemala to connect with their ancestry. The tour brought back the wisdom, traditions, and learning from their native homes to the youth in Los Angeles. In 2013, Rio helped create LA Rooted’s first Radical Youth Summer Camp, where they taught traditions of the Tongva and other indigenous groups of Mexico and Central America. Rio and eir group built a bicycle fleet for students to learn how to bike safely so they could go on their first field trip by bike.

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Rio with her bike and its awesome flower arrangement at the Los Angeles State Historic Park with Downtown LA in the background.

Back in Los Angeles and working for Multicultural Communities for Mobility (MCM), Rio taught Metro-sponsored workshops for adults in Spanish for the first time. Many attendees were day-laborers and immigrants who currently make up the biggest portion of bicycle commuters throughout L.A. County.  Additionally, with Standing Together Advocating for Our Youth, e organized a bike ride advocating for unity and peace. Finally, e ran for the first time a Women, Trans, Femme bicycle mechanics course at Bici Libre with the Ovarian Psychos.

Rio has big plans to continue working with MCM, cycling for communities, teaching mechanics classes, training more educators, and setting up bicycle safety and after-school programs for youths.

Thank you, “Rio” Jill Contreras, for your commitment to empowering cyclists through community rides, workshops and more! With help from our generous Bike Week sponsors, Rio will receive a Bike Week LA bag with a Nathan safety vest, Patch Kits, Bike Maps, and Every Lane is Bike Lane bumper stickers.

Please visit MCM to learn more about Rio and eir team. Also look for upcoming events!

Categories: Bicycle

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2 replies

  1. Thanks for the article!! I am happy to see this. I do want to note that I actually don’t identify as a woman and instead as gender-queer. :0)