I recently returned from the 2013 Youth Bike Summit. It totally rocked.
On Friday night we heard from Enrique Peñalosa, the former Mayor of Bogota, Columbia. Mr. Peñalosa is the founder of the worldwide Ciclovia movement. He is the most gracious speaker on biking and walking issues I have yet heard. He can say the hard truths such as cars destroy cities and bikes build equality in a way that most people can hear, even those who are anti-bike and in love with their cars. I’m not sure what his magic sauce is, but I like it.
The workshops got going on Saturday. During the first session I participated on a panel titled Unusual Suspects, a discussion of equity and diversity within the bike advocacy movement and industry. No surprise, there isn’t much. Growing the diversity within bicycle advocacy was common theme throughout the summit. I contributed my perspective on why the bicycle industry is so white and so male as well as my personal journey with issues of race from my childhood to the present. It mostly reflected the growth I’ve experienced since participating in an Institute for the Healing of Racism session a number of years ago. (I’m only now getting to the point that I can talk about it with strangers. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.)
The next workshop I spectated was titled Get A Job workshop. A former racer, women’s bike accessory retailer, bike shop manager and bike shop strategist shared their experience in the bike industry. The main take-away is that small scale entrepreneurship is currently a valid and effective approach to consumer -facing bike businesses. In addition to traditional and non-profit bike shops these businesses include unsanctioned races, women-focused bike accessory retail via both web and brick & mortar stores.
Then came the Youth in Governance workshop. Bike Works in Seattle has implemented a program to appoint youth to their Board of Directors. It has been a very thoughtful process that includes: Amending the bylaws to indemnify youth Board members from fiduciary consequences; An adult Board mentor for the youth director; Knowledge transfer from outgoing youth Director to incoming youth Director; The understanding that a youth Director does not speak for all youth, but just themselves. (Just like adults, go figure.); The creation of a youth run Youth Advisory Committee to provide a broader youth perspective for the organization.
The Summit wrapped up on Sunday with an Open Space visioning session. The group as a whole listed all the topics they still wanted to know more about. These were grouped like with like and given locations. We then broke up to attend these impromptu workshops with the directive that if you weren’t learning or contributing, it was time to move to another workshop.
The overall conference design was very successful. It took place in the Parsons The New School of Design. The space was conducive to creating small group interactions, optimized for collaboration: within the space it was easy to gather a small group, do some work, breakup to work solo or otherwise, then come back together to collaborate some more.
All in all a great conference and I highly recommend anyone who wants to see the next generation of bicycling advocates laying their foundations, get to this conference. They are now passively waiting to take the lead from the established main stream bike advocacy groups. They are defining their own issues and getting going on solutions. Beautiful.