Every year COAST recognizes an individual or a group for making significant contributions to Santa Barbara County in the field of sustainable transportation. Recipients of the Barry Siegel Award are chosen either for a particular achievement or for their lifelong work.
France has the gift of being both a visionary leader and a capable facilitator. He is extremely personable and friendly, and knows how to inspire and mobilize people. He speaks Spanish; he is a great bike mechanic, and a great networker.
In 2007 France and a group of friends created a financially sustainable social enterprise model that addressed the lack of bike shops catering to low-income clients and to those who wanted to “work-trade” or “do-it-yourself.” He came up with the name Bici Centro.
Casa de la Raza was a major early supporter, giving the nascent group space in its facility free of charge until Bici Centro moved into its own, larger shop space on Haley Street in 2012.
In 2010, France became the Bicycle Coalition's first executive director, and since then he has taken the organization to new levels of activism, service and outreach. SBBC now offers a large number of bicycle education classes, for both adults and children, on topics ranging from bicycling skills to traffic safety to bicycle maintenance, at various venues in town including local schools. SBBC has made significant efforts to reach out to Latino bicyclists and created the Bike Valet program.
Under France’s leadership, SBBC is intensifying its efforts in advocating for safer, more attractive infrastructure for cyclists on the South Coast. Most recently, he has been leading the campaign to add bike lanes on Hollister Avenue in Old Town Goleta.
The 2013 Barry Siegel Award will be presented at COAST’s Annual Fall Gathering from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26 at the Spanish Garden Inn, 915 Garden St. in Santa Barbara. For information and reservations, click here or click here.
— Caitlin Carlson is a project director for COAST.