Every Tuesday evening at 5:45 you will find Juan Chavez setting up his custom stretch cruiser bike and speaker system at Humboldt Park. Soon he is walking around greeting new and returning riders, helping folks with last minute fixes to their bikes. Between 50 and 70 riders arrive from every walk of life – individuals and families, cargo bikes to BMX/cruisers, every age, race, gender expression, and ethnicity gather to build the most diverse, creative bike parade that fills the streets with music, laughter, and joy.
It was just over a year ago when the pandemic inspired Juan to reach out to his friends Chad Hunt and Juanes Rios with the idea of the Santa Rosa Taco Tuesday ride. “People needed to get out and connect to one another! What is a better way to do that than on a bike and sharing tacos together!” he says.
Each week more riders heard about the event and started sharing photos, videos and letting more and more people know about how much fun they were experiencing and the new friends they made. By last summer the Santa Rosa Taco Tuesday Bike Ride was featured in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, resulting in over 75 riders arriving the following Tuesday! The Taco Tuesday Facebook group now has over 500 members. In addition, the ride the was recently featured in the city of Santa Rosa’s Out There Insider’s Guide.
Juan has been part of bike culture his entire life. As a young adult living and working in Roseland, he learned to wrench on his own bikes and took those skills to the neighborhood, helping kids repair their bikes in his front yard. Over the past several years Juan has been part of the custom stretch bike community as a member of NorthBay Kruzers and 707 Bike Life, building two-wheeled works of art and showcasing them at events all over the West Coast. Prior to launching the Santa Rosa Taco Tuesday ride, Juan hosted a pop-up bike show in downtown Santa Rosa that drew over 170 riders.
Seeing multiple and overlapping needs in his community, Juan joined the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition and utilized its cargo bicycle lending library to help volunteers with the non-profit Impact Foundation distribute emergency supplies and offer help to homeless individuals living on the bike trails. In addition, Juan collaborated on a bike-inspired float for the local art happening Winterblast and rallied members of the community he’s built to donate to the purchase of twenty bikes he and a team of volunteers assembled for local kids at Christmas.
Juan has inspired hundreds of people throughout Sonoma County to come together on bikes and build a joyous and diverse community. His steadfast dedication, his willingness to support the creative efforts of others, and his hopeful outlook toward the future are just some of the reasons Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition chose Juan Chavez as our Bike Champion of the Year.
(Since work and transportation patterns have changed since the beginning of the pandemic, Bike to Work Month has been re-branded as Bike to Wherever Month; the award formerly known as Bike Commuter of the Year is now Bike CHAMPION of the Year!)