While competitors were trying out the 12 tests on June 15, cyclists were also out at Camp Mabry supporting the 2013 AFM FITTEST. These volunteers came from the nonprofit organization Please BE KIND to Cyclists (PBK); you may be familiar with the sporty yellow stickers seen on car bumpers all over Austin. The group is quick to point out that there’s more to them than an eye-catching sticker.
“The AFM FITTEST is the type of event that we are dedicated to supporting,” said Al Bastidas, founder of PBK. Bastidas, his family, and the nonprofit’s group of volunteers work tirelessly to raise public awareness and encourage harmony and tolerance between drivers and cyclists. The group’s vision is to motivate global social change in the behavior of motorists and cyclists so that both use the roads safely and with mutual respect, resulting in healthier, more harmonious communities.
Bastidas remains an avid cyclist in spite of a near-fatal accident on September 14, 2002. While riding his bike on a small neighborhood street, a distracted driver made a left-hand turn directly in front of him. Bastidas was slammed head first into the driver’s car before being catapulted onto the roof with such force that he was thrown ten feet into the air before finally slamming onto the asphalt. Doctors gave him a 50 percent chance to live, but Bastidas pulled through and founded PBK in 2006. You can learn more about the organization at bekindtocyclists.org and by following the group on Facebook.
Bastidas was at the AFM FITTEST with ten volunteers from PBK. The riders helped safely guide and lead runners through the one-mile course by keeping each runner on the route and making traffic aware of their presence.
“It was very encouraging to see so many healthy people from the Austin community participating in such a great event,” said Patricia Bastidas, co-founder of PBK and Al’s wife. Fernando Martinez, a former professional cyclist for 25 years, found the event to be inspiring. “I was very impressed with all participants,” said Martinez. “Sometimes, we don't know how strong we are until we put ourselves into an endurance event like AFM FITTEST. I saw that you have to learn how to manage your time, focus your mind, and get strong exercising; [this] all together makes you a champion, no matter if you win or not. Just by finishing you become a champion.”
Juan Quezada, another rider who kept the one-mile runners safely on course throughout the day, said he was “really impressed with the event organization and safety awareness, the layout of the competition stages, and the vendors’ tents,” going so far as calling Camp Mabry “the perfect setting” for the AFM FITTEST.
Each PBK volunteer hoped that his or her presence at the AFM FITTEST would encourage people to learn about the organization’s mission and spread the message of safety for all vulnerable road users. Each supporting voice and every new member represent a vote and a choice to lawmakers and community leaders who, in turn, promote laws that protect cyclists and all vulnerable road users. And, as much as these volunteers hope to encourage Austinites to be aware of cyclists on the road, they also found themselves encouraged and inspired by the AFM FITTEST. Martinez, who’d like to come back next year to volunteer again, said, “You know I don’t compete [as a professional cyclist] anymore; I got it all out of my system. But after seeing all these people from all ages doing their best, I wanted to get on my bike and do it for myself.” Quezada agreed: “I am inspired to participate in the event after all the encouragement and cheering I heard. More than anything, I enjoyed my time volunteering at the AFM FITTEST!”