Most Influential 2015: Tony Gatica and Maribel Mateo

Cars tear down Edinger Opportunity in Santa Ana as schoolchildren– some on bikes– make their way residence. In an area that averages one bicyclist death a month, the scene is terrifying.

However while many people see a hopeless and also harmful standoff, with bikes and also cars discussing the very same roadway, 18-year-old university freshman Maribel Mateo and also her brother, Tony Gatica, a 15-year-old senior high school student, see opportunities for safer roads.

The teens already have actually done what several adults taken into consideration difficult. Mateo as well as Gatica handled to press through a state bike security grant application worth $2.37 million. The intended improvements consist of barriers separating bicycle as well as auto streets in among the busiest– and most unsafe– components of Santa Ana.

“I was so glad, happy as well as actually honored,” Mateo stated of the initiative, standing on the walkway at West Edinger as well as South Fairview Road, where security improvements will soon be made.

The winding road from idea to implementation, however, was– as well as remains– lengthy.


5 years back, Mateo, her sibling as well as a compilation of kids at Santa Ana’s KidWorks Young people Empowerment Network program found out about transportation needs and began going to city meetings.

Couple of adults took their input seriously. Nevertheless, transport is technological, intricate, wonky. Still, city officials welcomed the students to carry out walkability analyses, and also the teenagers jumped at the possibility.

They searched courses they recognized their friends used to obtain to institution. They talked with some 200 individuals who depend on bikes for transportation. They fired video clip. Soon, they created three areas they thought about in alarming demand of safety renovations.

City officials applied for state and also government grants and also obtained financing for 2 of the locations. They invited the pupils that went to KidWorks to handle the 3rd grant application.

Gatica remembers the procedure as sluggish and hard.

Experts rejected recommendation after idea. It was a massive battle to get the pupils together at the very same time. With the majority of teens coping with their households in cramped apartment or condos, simply finding a place to satisfy was very difficult.

Yet Mateo and also Gatica were identified. Throughout the application procedure, their father, Rufino Mateo, who commutes by bicycle to his work as a cook, was struck by a car.

“He could not walk,” Mateo silently confided, “as well as his bike was broken.”

However with cash tight, Papa still had to work. He located one more bicycle and pressed via the discomfort.


While seeing clusters of kids browsing traffic as well as road crossings on Edinger, Mateo mentioned that lots of people in her hometown of Santa Ana can’t manage automobiles, her family members included. To obtain around, they take the bus, bicycle or both.

She spoke about Bike to Work Month, which is Could. It’s likewise the very same month for the Trip of Silence, a global advocate safer streets that hallows bicyclists eliminated by motor cars.

While collecting the information for the grant application, the KidWorks team recorded that from January 2011 through this previous May, on the 1.7 miles they examined, there were at least a dozen bicycle crashes, a lot of involving autos.

Weeks after their research, Priscilla Vallejo was killed July 13 while riding her bike to college. The 13-year-old passed away after being struck by a truck in a crosswalk at South Facility Road and also West Edinger Opportunity.

Lynnete Guzman, area involvement organizer for KidWorks, joined Mateo and also Gatica on the pathway off Edinger. Web traffic sound almost hushed their conversation.

As she generally does on her 2.5-mile commute to function, Guzman rode there on her bike. “Why fight over an auto parking area?” asked Guzman, who assisted the teens with the application. Gatica described he arrived by skateboard since his bicycle is broken after an additional bicyclist struck him.

Mateo stated the multimillion-dollar grant will certainly help relieve several of the threats. The renovations will take numerous years to execute.

To commemorate obtaining the grant, the KidWorks team visited Knott’s Berry Ranch. Still, they proceed their job by pressing exactly what’s called “active transport,” relocating by human power. Their most current effort was leading a night bike trip with, yes, lots of lights.

Both bro as well as sister already plan careers as civil engineers. Their goal? To aid make a much safer globe.

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