Mercedes Feris

  • Name
    Mercedes Feris
  • Title
    Executive Director
  • Organization
    Bike Austin
  • Number of Years as Executive Director
    April 1 will be my two-year anniversary! It’s been a fun ride!

What does your organization do?
Bike Austin improves quality of life for all of Austin and Central Texas by growing bicycling as a form of active transportation, exercise, and recreation. We envision Central Texas as a place where everyone recognizes and embraces the benefits of cycling, whether they ride or not, and where cycling is a common aspect of daily life for everyone. Bicycling supports the community as a whole by: increasing roadway capacity and user mobility; strengthening the economy and household affordability; improving the environment; and promoting an active, healthy lifestyle.

How did you become interested in this work?
I have been in the Austin nonprofit scene for 12 years. From my experiences I learned that a major issue or barrier is transportation. Whether it was an individual with a disability or a person that could not afford a car and not living close enough to public transit therefore limiting access to healthy food, care, school or work.

It all didn’t come together for me until shortly before I began working for Bike Austin. In my prior role I worked in the community offering resources and promoting a healthy lifestyle to people with diabetes or at risk of developing type two diabetes. I often heard from the community that it wasn’t safe for their children to walk/bike to school/work which led to the passion which also reminded me of my own childhood. Being a first generation American and not having a lot of resources I rode my bike everywhere. It was free fun and back in my younger days the streets were much safer.

Now, in lieu of preaching healthy living I now work toward building the access to…. whatever that might be for that individual person. Bicycling = Environment, Health, Economics and Affordability

Did you have a mentor or a role model?
I have been blessed to have many who taught me everything I know today and a wonderful board of directors who continue to guide me.

What's the biggest challenge in your work?
Our biggest challenge is how to inform the community that bicycling is good for everyone whether you ride a bike or not. The upside is that Austin is a progressive town and our city government understands what is needed to grow a vibrant healthy city.

What's the best advice that you have ever received?
Don’t underestimate yourself. You got this.

What are your top tips for new Executive Directors?
1. Don’t underestimate yourself.
2. It’s ok to feel overwhelmed, it means your growing.
3. You don’t have to be right all the time. Trust your staff.