We attended the Youth Bike Summit this past Saturday held at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. Here are some of the highlights from the summit!
The summit organized by Cycles for Change, a local non profit working to create a diverse base of cyclists, brought together organizations and public figures from across the globe that are working tirelessly to advocate for comprehensive and equitable biking policies. The summit focused on youth biking because it transforms communities and gives youth transferable skills to create brighter futures for themselves.
To start the summit off, there were some great speeches by keynote speakers: youth leaders, youth apprentices with Cycles for Change, former commissioner Gil Penalosa who spearheaded the seminal Ciclovia events in Bogota, Colombia, lawyer Nekima Levy-Pounds who heads the NAACP Minneapolis (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). Each speaker was trying to get at how important youth are in creating a more just and equitable world through biking.
Youth biking, social justice and youth leadership go hand in hand together. Homeboy Industries talked about the ways in which youth can leverage their skills from the street and turn themselves into entrepreneurs in bike shops. In their own words “nothing stops a bullet like a job.” They provide opportunities and support former gang members and people that have been incarcerated. Along a similar vein, Neighborhood Bike Work led a session on the impact of providing youth, especially youth of color in underserved neighborhoods, the opportunity to work in bike shops, serve on youth boards and promote biking in their own communities. Through these various opportunities youth can grow social skills, become excited about community service, and give them confidence through responsibility. Bikes Not Bombs addressed the ways in which biking can help support those who are incarcerated both in the US and internationally.
Safe cycling is a right! With the kickoff of the annual Open Streets Minneapolis and the passing of the Minneapolis’s Complete Streets policy, Gil Penalosa’s presentation on Complete Streets and Ciclovias could not be at a better time and in a better place. Gil talked about the benefits of complete streets and how Bogota, Colombia has served as a world renowned model for Ciclovias across the globe. There was discussion about how Minneapolis could learn from Bogota and the challenges of translating lessons from the Global South to the Global North. An interesting idea that came up during the presentation: the need to transition open or complete streets events to more normal regular events that can contribute to positive habit forming with regards to biking.
Youth are key stakeholders in creating safer streets. The streets should be a safe place for youth to bike, walk and roll. Creating safer streets can have an enormous impact on the environment, health and social cohesion. From this summit, biking emerges as a powerful social justice tool to empower communities and youth leaders.