In February, 320 young people from around the U.S. (and Canada and Denmark) gathered in Queens, New York to talk about all things bike related. They weren’t there to sit and listen though: they were there to teach.
The keynote featured NYC Council Member Antonio Reynoso, bike activist Joelle Galatan, and members of BRAG promoting next year’s conference in Atlanta. The day then launched into nearly 50 different workshops and presentations. Everything from “Bicycle Advocacy for Beginners” to “Grassroots Fundraising” to “Biketopia: Creating the Best Bike-Friendly City” to “First Aid and Fitness for Cyclists.” Adults and young people gathered in various classrooms at Middle College High School to share ideas and create goals and plans. What happened most often, was that the young people stepped up and led discussions. Where adults tended to be practical and calculated, the young people were enthusiastic, creative and ready to work to improve their place. A necessary and refreshing breath of productivity.
Anthony Gonzalez, Luis Gonzalez, Mario Harper and others from Worcester, MA screened the documentary 508: The Takeover, and then took questions on the project. They forced people to think beyond safety and rules, and consider how bike-riding can mean different things to different people and cultures, that low-stress is often about more than protected lanes, and that more enforcement doesn’t always mean more safety. They also put on a “Learning the ABCs of Bike Rights and Safety” panel. The group encouraged continued conversation around intimidation vs. expression, and what it means to be a citizen of the streets.
Founders and instructors from Bici Ninxs (@cycle.bici), a group of passionate educators and bikers bringing biking to women and girls in Queens, talked about their achievements and goals. Bici just started a new program in Ridgewood to bring biking and free bikes to 10 immigrant girls. They are multilingual in Spanish, English and Bengali with strong ties to Queens, and will also be focusing on outreach in Bushwick, Brooklyn. They’ve got an ongoing goal to provide a space to learn how to bike safely, be comfortable on a bike and to be able to continue the practice even after the bike immersion ends.
Transportation Alternatives was on hand to talk about different versions of bike lanes, and what it means to put your body on the line. And the Major Taylor Iron Riders were there to talk about the legacy of the racer, and how he paved the way for so many to follow. Members from NICA / PICL talked about the importance of respect when it comes to racing and riding in general.
It’s a remarkable thing when so many conversations about infrastructure and bike culture can be entirely positive. Overall, it’s a nice reminder that the youth are ready to lead: that young people are full of energy and ideas, and that’s what we need the most when it comes to advocacy. Stay tuned to the Youth Bike Summit website for details on next year’s gathering and exciting events between now and then.