Bikes for the World

Monday, October 2, 2017

#YBS17: Shifting Gears

What is a Youth Bike Summit? Last time we introduced you to a local group of young writers who are also learning about bikes and becoming young riders. Some of those Story Riders will be attending the Youth Bike Summit this weekend...but what exactly is a youth bike summit?

Simply put it's the future of cycling. Every year Washington DC is home to the National Bike Summit, where businesses, organizations, advocates, bikers, and the like all gather to talk about ideas, plans, and facilities that worked or needed improvement in the grand scheme of making cycling safer and more accessible to everyone.

The one step that has propelled biking farther and faster than any other component is a change in ideas. And where is there an untapped resource of fresh ideas? The professionals of tomorrow.

In so many of our cities, cycling sat on a back burner when it came to laying out roads and bridges and sidewalks. Bike sharing was something that happened in other cities not our cities. But all of that is changing. People are riding bikes more and because of that our infrastructure must change to meet that shift.

Around the country there are many youth based bike organizations that teach mechanics, help kids earn bikes, and get young people out on our roads and more comfortable on bikes. These kids are the future of cycling and their numbers are growing. They are growing up, living and working in our cities, and they are using bikes on a daily basis. They are passionate about bikes, they are experiencing the challenges put in place by car-centric designers and engineers, and they have ideas. The Youth Bike Summit  connects them to like-minded allies and gives them a voice.

At this year's summit, youth and adults will come together to talk about issues immediately affecting youth and cycling, such as riding on trails, career opportunities in the bike industry, bike facilities on college campuses, etc. There is even a panel about relationships with law enforcement and how the bike can help bridge the gap in communication.

The bottom line is this, our youth will be the next drivers on the road, they may already be there. Educating them about the rights of cyclists will make them better drivers and make the roads safer for everyone. They may also be our future engineers designing our roads and communities. They most definitely will be tomorrow's advocates fighting to have our voices heard.

The Youth Bike Summit comes to Arlington this year and is being hosted by our own youth group Phoenix Bikes. This experience has helped introduce mature concepts to the youth in this program through something they all love, biking. It has brought them together to work as a team, to express their thoughts and ideas and come up with plans and solutions...in just planning the event itself.

Several of them have been invited to speak at the conference. They will create a presentation, get up in front of a crowd, share their thoughts and answer questions. They will meet other inspired minds and share ideas and work together to change the future of cycling and possibility their communities.

This experience is more than encouraging youth to take an active, vocal role in their cycling futures, it's about maturing and growing into themselves. It's about figuring out that their opinions matter. It's also about learning how to effectively express themselves and make change happen. It's learning to come together and work together for a common goal; something we all could use a little more of in our lives.


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