Remembering our friend and member Hansel Palarca-Reiva

Hansel and I first met on the JFK Promenade during the spring of 2022. He introduced himself to me because at the time I had just been appointed the Executive Director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. He was wearing his signature eye glasses and had his trusted bicycle. He was just one of many people I met that day, but what made our meeting so memorable for me was his absolute joy and sincere enthusiasm about his ability to ride his bicycle on the JFK Promenade.  

Hansel was raised in San Francisco by his hard-working immigrant parents. He did not have the opportunity, or even a safe space, to learn to ride a bicycle when he was young. He learned to ride in May 2018 in one of our Adult Learn to Ride classes, but really began to thrive in his cycling skills during the pandemic, on the newly created car-lite and car-free spaces. 

Hansel once admitted to me that he never felt like he belonged in the biking community or “looked like a cyclist.” Spaces like Slow Streets, the Great Walkway, and the JFK Promenade gave him the opportunity to blossom as a cyclist in his own way and feel part of the larger biking community in San Francisco.

Over the months, I would encounter Hansel at outreach events or in the park, and we became fast friends. He genuinely connected with other people, whether they were biking, walking, or rolling along treasured places like the Promenade or Great Walkway. He helped them feel like they too were a part of the movement to transform our streets into safer and more bikeable spaces. He showed others that safer streets are for everyone. 

When we chose Hansel to be our 2023 Bike Champion of the Year, we read multiple nominations sharing heartfelt stories of Hansel’s impact on others in the biking community.

My dear friend had a tragic bicycle crash a few weeks ago, and it deeply touched our bicycling community. The crash happened with no cars in sight, among friends and loved ones together on a bike camping trip. He was having a wonderful time and was filled with a tremendous amount of joy. The outpouring of love for Hansel’s partner and his family is a testament to what I have always known exists within our community, a deep love and support for others. 

Hansel set the perfect example of what our movement is all about – the joy of riding bikes, connecting and strengthening our communities, and fighting for safer streets so that more people can join our movement. We continue to honor Hansel’s memory by creating inclusive spaces for all people who love to ride a bike and removing barriers for people to join our movement. 

The next time you are riding your bike along the Great Walkway on a clear evening and you see the gorgeous sun setting on the water, remember the joy, freedom, and feeling of being connected to your city and to your community. Honor Hansel’s memory and keep on riding. 

Rest in Power my friend. 

-Janelle Wong

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