Beyond Equity — A Strategy for Developing Critical Leadership in Transportation

Chicago Honors Youth Bicycle Advocate

by Kiran Herbert, Local Programs Writer and Content Manager

Teenager Zair Menjivar, from the Belmont Cragin neighborhood, is the youngest person to receive the Mayoral Medal of Honor.

Last April, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced nine recipients of the Medal of Honor, which recognizes individuals who have made extraordinary contributions in the city throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the nine, the youngest was 18-year-old Zair Menjivar, who was selected due to his work advocating for transportation equity and pandemic volunteer efforts. 

“When I started, I didn’t want to do anything more than just get out of the house,” Menjivar told the Chicago Sun Times. “To see that I’ve worked so hard with the community and we’ve done so much, to the point where I can get recognized on a city-wide level, that’s absolutely astonishing.”

Menjivar is a member of the Belmont Cragin Youth Leadership Council (BCYLC), which is part of the Northwest Side Housing Center (NWSHC), one of four recipients of a BBSP Living Lab grant. Menjivar and his peers on the council have been leading Belmont Cragin’s micromobility planning and implementation efforts and have stepped up in recent months to adapt to neighborhoods’ various needs due to COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, Menjivar has not only continued to fight for transportation improvements but he’s also been distributing PPE, delivering food to unemployed community members and serving 31st ward constituents as a member of Alderman Felix Cardona, Jr.’s team. 

We are incredibly proud of Menjivar and all of the Belmont Cragin youth working hard to advance equity in their community. Already, the BCYLC has successfully lobbied its representatives to start bringing bike lanes and low-cost bike rentals through Divvy, Chicago’s bike share system, to the neighborhood. Throughout the two-year grant of the Living Lab, we’re excited to see what they accomplish and to share any replicable learnings with our audience here.


The Better Bike Share Partnership is funded by The JPB Foundation as a collaborative between the City of Philadelphia, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and the PeopleForBikes Foundation to build equitable and replicable bike share systems. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or sign up for our weekly newsletter. Got a question or a story idea? Email kiran@peopleforbikes.org.