Recycle-A-Bicycle held its second annual Youth Bike Summit over the MLK Jr. holiday. More than 275 participants from 20 states and 3 countries joined together for a dynamic inter-generational exchange about youth, bikes, education, and advocacy. The three-day touchstone event included a diverse range of sixteen workshop sessions, including A Role-Playing Exercise in Community Planning by Local Spokes and the NYC Department of Transportation, Progressive Leadership Models by a team of youth from Bike Works in Seattle, and Women in the Cycling Advocacy Movement by the Alliance for Biking & Walking and the Girls Bike Club from West Town Bikes in Chicago. Participants of all ages brought new ideas and questions to the table, along with a willingness to learn and a willingness to teach.
Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez spoke at the Youth Bike Summit and acknowledged the invaluable role that youth leadership plays on a local and national level. Youth advocate and Keynote speaker Alpha Barry shared his experience of growing up in Labe, Guinea and how his love for bicycles led to many opportunities on a personal and political level. In his speech he states, “When I was a child, I had no idea that the new-found feeling of freedom that comes with learning to ride a bike would become a feeling I could return to forever. Now I understand that riding a bike is like visiting an old friend --a friend who will never ask where you’ve been but will always tell you I’m glad you’re here.” He also thanked Congresswoman Velazquez for “taking the bold step of securing the first federal funding for the planning and development of the Brooklyn Greenway,” which Alpha studied as a Youth Ambassador at Recycle-A-Bicycle.
In addition, Robin Urban Smith of Streetfilms screened films about youth-led advocacy initiatives and Jeffrey Miller, President/CEO of the Alliance for Biking & Walking engaged the audience in an informative “sneak peak” of the Alliance’s 2012 Benchmarking Report and offered an important reminder: "If it isn't counted, it doesn't count."
On day three of the conference, all of the participants gathered together to activate and formulate a plan from the shared experiences and collected knowledge of the weekend. Youth and adults formed two separate groups. The youth focused on three topics: Why youth ride, why youth might not ride, and action steps to get more youth riding. The adults explored possibilities for working collectively, sharing resources, and engaging youth leaders within the framework of youth bike education organizations. The group revitalized its commitment to researching issues on a local level, sharing the findings on a national level, and working together to create change.
More striking than the number of people who traveled to New York City to take part of the event was the richness of the exchange. This is a dynamic group with a lot of energy, comprised of young leaders and people who've been dedicated to bike education, planning, and advocacy since before half the YBS participants had even been born. By building bridges between local, state, and national initiatives, and through a commitment to engaging youth and communities in the process, this ever-growing movement can become all the more strong. Together, we are changing the world.
To follow the progress of the youth bike advocacy movement please visit our website. For updates simply "like" us on Facebook or sign up for our monthly newsletter on the homepage of our website. For more information about how to get involved contact Pasqualina Azzarello, Executive Director of Recycle-A-Bicycle, at firstname.lastname@example.org.