At least one candidate for Davis City Council loves that the Zombie Bike Ride brings our community out for a day of bike-related fun, and does so while supporting Norcal Trykers, a non-profit that creates custom tricycles for children with special needs.
Based on a straw poll of local zombies, the collective conscious of Davis' bike riding undead appreciates Bapu Vaitla's bicycle-centric values.
Vaitla has lived in Davis a total of about 15 years, first from 1995-2003 and then again from 2017 to the present. He moved here for his bachelor’s degree in Nature and Culture, a program focused on environmental ethics, and then stayed for his master’s degree in International Agricultural Development. Vaitla then worked abroad in Ethiopia, India, and Brazil on issues of child malnutrition and climate change before returning to the US for his PhD. He says he came back to Davis because, "wherever I went in the world, the people that were most effective in promoting environmental action and social change were those who committed to a community. Davis is the only place that’s ever been home."
When asked about his favorite things about the Davis community, our Zombie Bike Ride committee was delighted for his answer "The bikes!" Bapu admits there's a lot of room for making our city more bike-centerd and human-centered, but that Davis is lucky to have far more biking infrastructure than other communities.
In Vaitla's view "the positive effects [of bicycling] go far beyond reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and better individual health; I believe that biking culture is the binding element of our extraordinary sense of community. I also love the thoughtful planning that’s gone into creating greenbelts between and through neighborhoods, which again has the effect of promoting togetherness, as well as the integration of parks and schools."
Riding the 12 mile Davis Bike Loop for the 4th annual Zombie Bike Ride is a great way to experience Davis' bike paths and greenbelts. Some of the paths even go along Putah Creek through the woods. There's so much to experience and around 15 Halloween entertainment stations along the way! Plan your route at https://www.zombiebikeparade.com/route
As for other favorite things about Davis, Vaitla gives an enthusiastic shoutout to UC Davis for its impact on enhancing diversity in Davis, including across age, class, gender, and racial lines.
Professionally, Vaitla works for the United Nations Foundation on an initiative called Data2X, whose mission is to improve knowledge about the lives of women and girls in order to inform policymaking around equity. They focus on the gendered aspects of critical issues like mental health, domestic violence, and forced migration—issues for which data are severely lacking. Vaitla works specifically on the digital data team, which uses novel sources of data to fill knowledge gaps. In addition to the degrees mentioned above, he has a PhD in International Relations from Tufts University, was a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, a Fulbright Scholar in Brazil, a Boren Fellow in India, a Leland International Hunger Fellow in Ethiopia and the UK, and a UC Regents Scholar as an undergraduate.
As for volunteering, Vaitla serves on the Social Services Commission, and was the chair from 2020-21. He is on the steering committee of the Davis Homelessness Alliance and was previously a board member of Davis Opportunity Village. Vaitla is currently on the Board of Directors of the climate resilience non-profit Cool Davis.
Bapu is formally trained as an economist, with additional academic training in ecology, environmental policy, and political science. He's worked for a variety of non-profit and multilateral organizations in the fields of sustainable agriculture, public health/nutrition, environment, and social equity.
Supporting the Zombie Bike Ride as a sponsor means a larger donation to Norcal Trykers, and supporting bicycling equity by making sure that children with disabilities can ride a custom made bicycle and feel the wind in their hair. Striving to make bicycling available to everyone is what the Zombie Bike Ride is all about, and our bike-centric community has really come together around that mission. For full details on the Zombie Bike Ride Halloweekend festival visit www.zombiebikeparade.com