With bike ridership at an all time high in NYC, organizations like Recycle-A-Bicycle are paving the way in educating the bike advocacy leaders of tomorrow. Every year RAB brings together key stakeholders in our communities and government to discuss how we can collectively raise bike literacy and safety in our city. The Youth Bike Summit (YBS), a three-day national conference held on February 14-16th, grew from discussion with RAB interns that wanted to provide workshops and activities to help local youth connect with NYC bike culture. Now drawing nearly 500 attendees from 25 states and 3 counties, the workshops range from artistic activities like screen printing and bike fashions, to ways one can use bicycles to engage homeless youth or help map air quality in our city.
One particular workshop, Who’s Who of City Bike Education, included organizations Bike New York, Star Track Cycling, Trips for Kids, Recycle-A-Bicycle, and the Department of Transportation. This workshop helped introduce attendees to the impressive collection of programs these organizations offer to help NYC youth learn bike safety, the health benefits of cycling, and the positive byproducts (team building, problem solving, leadership) that come along with participating in these programs. One such initiative, offered by Bike New York, offers free bike riding lessons throughout the five boroughs to young and old alike.
When I participated in the Q&A portion, my question regarding cycling and driver awareness education was answered by Omar Barrios, the Safety Education and Outreach Coordinator with the Department of Transportation. Along with a general update of driver educational materials, he pointed to a collection of organizations working together on LOOK, a media campaign aimed at drivers, cyclists and pedestrians with the simple message, “Staying alert and being aware of your surroundings will help save lives.”
Workshops were led by teens as well, such as the session on how to Make a Bike Lane in Your Neighborhood Into A Career! Youth organizers from the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance opened up the workshop with a touching original song that highlighted the transportation struggles in their neighborhood before and after Hurricane Sandy. The presentation that followed outlined their collective efforts to create walkable and bikeable multi-use paths underneath the Rockaway freeway, and discussed how the YBS attendees could create similar projects in their own neighborhoods.
Event organizer Recycle-A-Bicycle (originally an offshoot of Transportation Alternatives) is a community-based bike shop and non-profit organization that started out organizing youth workshops that taught bike restoration. Today they manage two retail stores, facilitate educational workshops for riders of all ages, administer seven school-based programs throughout the five boroughs, as well as host the three-day conference featured here. Their efforts demonstrate how something as simple as riding your bicycle can be a means of establishing resilient, resourceful, and forward-thinking communities.