All about the Youth Bike Summit

September 20, 2017

The Youth Bike Summit is an annual event that engages and celebrates young people who are developing leadership skills and community involvement through bicycling. PeopleForBikes is proud to sponsor this great gathering for the third year. This year’s Summit will take place at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia, from October 6-8 (register here). The event is inspirational and affordable—just $60 for adults and $35 for youth up to age 24. We sat down with Meg Rapelye, the executive director of Phoenix Bikes, and the event’s organizer, Pasqualina Azzarello, to find out more about this unique and important event.

Where did the idea for the Youth Bike Summit come from?

In March 2010, Kimberly White and Kristi Nanco, two bike-loving high school interns from Recycle-A-Bicycle’s Earn-A-Bike program in New York City, expressed an interest in learning more about how bicycling fits into policy, the environment, social entrepreneurship, and community-building. The then-17 year-olds attended the National Bike Summit and as they debriefed on the bus ride home, they discussed the importance of engaging people of all ages and backgrounds in the national dialogue of cycling education and advocacy. As a result, the idea of the Youth Bike Summit came into being. The first Youth Bike Summit took place in 2011 in New York City. The goal was to explore how the bicycle can be a catalyst for positive social change.

Why is it important that young people have a voice in the direction of bike advocacy?

As described by our Guiding Principles:

We believe in the capacity of youth to lead
We believe in the power of the bicycle as a catalyst for positive social change
We believe in the importance of a diverse, multi-cultural and equitable movement
We believe when youth ride bikes, our communities are healthier and more sustainable
We believe that sharing & learning together will make each of us stronger

What roles do young people play in the organization and execution of the event?

Young people from the host organization are consulted on much of the planning, from the welcome and social activities, to the venue, to the food. At least half of the keynote speakers are youth and many of the presentations are led or at least co-led by young people.

Who comes? Who is welcome?

Everyone is welcome! And in the past, we’ve had 26 states and 3 different countries attend. They come from mostly urban environments, but more rural areas are also represented. In recent years, and 2017 is anticipated to be no different, at least half of the attendees are young people (age 24 and younger), and half are adults. Youth program participants and staff, along with bicycle advocates, educators, parents, policy makers, industry leaders, entrepreneurs, and more all have a place here.

What role can adults play in the event?

Adults can network, share, learn, explore and be inspired just by attending. Additionally, there are numerous volunteer opportunities in support of the Youth Bike Summit, which come with complimentary summit registration. Click HERE to sign up!

We also wanted to hear from some young people who will be attending the Youth Bike Summit for the first time in 2017.

Selene, age 15

I come to Phoenix [Bikes] a few times a week to work on bikes and go on rides to events hosted by Phoenix. I didn’t bike much before Phoenix but got involved with bike club at school. Bike mechanics is important to me because I want to go into engineering. I also want to start commuting more and want to know how to fix things on the go. I also wanted to find a sport and am not super athletic but cycling seems more about having fun and trying your best. It’ll be my first time going [to the Youth Bike Summit] and I’m excited to see what else is out there in this community. A lot of issues with biking actually discourage young people from riding so more young people should feel involved in finding solutions.

Darius, age 13

I am in the youth program [at Phoenix Bikes] and on the race team and help other youth mechanics at the shop. My mom signed me up because I really wanted a bike and she said that was the only way I could get one. But then I had a whole lot of fun at Phoenix and like coming back here and learning more. Phoenix is an amazing outlet to be yourself and have fun. Also it helps me stay fit by going on Saturday rides and with the team. It’s given me a new perspective of the bike world. I think everyone should have a better grasp of how cyclists operate and bike safety and everyone should be comfortable on all bike routes. Youth especially should be involved because it will have a larger impact on society.

Gio, age 15

I ride mountain bikes, some road bikes and encourage people to wear helmets. I also volunteer at Phoenix and help new youth mechanics. I got involved with Phoenix because I was interested in working on bikes and then Phoenix has gotten me more involved in biking too. Cycling is important because it’s fun and healthy. Phoenix is important because it gives me motivation to finish my other homework or chores so that I can come to the shop.

For more info, event schedule, and National Youth Bike Ride registration, visit the Youth Bike Summit website.

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