This blog post is a co-report from our Bike/Walk Instructors who attended the Youth Bike Summit in St. Paul, MN on May 28th 2016. Through our Safe Routes to School program the past few years we have been looking at ways to engage and involve youth in Milwaukee in making a difference in their community through promoting bikes in creative ways. For some past work we’ve done relating to this check out this story from our magazine about an intersection mural project at Hopkins Lloyd Community School in Milwaukee!
From instructor Angela Livermore…
The 2016 Minneapolis Youth Bike Summit was a great experience. A broad demographic and geographic attendance created a vibrant atmosphere. I am thankful for the opportunity to meet and hear so many talented, bright youth. One thing I retained from the weekend was not to wait for someone or some group to organize ideas. I learned to embrace and be empowered to work towards the goal or intended change now! An idea I want to implement in Milwaukee is to create a youth action based bike club. This idea is inspired by two of the keynote speakers from the summit, Maribel Mateo and Tony Gatica. Maribel and Tony, who happen to be brother and sister, together created Bike It! Santa Ana. Through youth organization and planning, Bike It! made safer bike infrastructure in their community. I believe people should listen to children’s voices and concerns. I would like to bridge the gaps to help make them heard. School parents and volunteers can support the youth in their lives and encourage them to believe in their ideas. Adults can walk or bike with a child, ask them how it made them feel and ask them if they felt safe or not and why.
This following re cap from BWI Caressa Givens…
I could not have discovered the Youth Bike Summit at a better time in that I am presently working with a premier youth bike advocacy group in the city of Milwaukee. Myself and co-worker, Angie Livermore both serve as ambassadors and youth leaders in Milwaukee, WI representing the Wisconsin Bike Federation, and we had the opportunity to meet and workshop with youth leaders and mentors from all over the country. Youth Bike Summit’s mission is to transform local communities and strengthen the national movement by empowering bicycle leaders.
While attending YBS16 I was thoroughly impressed by youth leaders and organizations participating. For example we met siblings Maribel Mateo, a freshman at Cal State and her brother Tony Gatica a sophomore in high school, founder’s of Bike It! Santa Ana. They wanted safer infrastructure in their community, especially after the experience of almost losing their dad when a car crashed into him while he was walking in Santa Ana. Maribel and Mateo won a 2.3 million dollar grant to improve the bike and walkways in their community, which can be difficult even for the most seasoned advocates of safer streets.
What I’ve taken away from this experience at YBS16 is that youth can benefit from activities in cycling and active transport. Many of them struggle with issues outside of these passions. For instance those youth who live in under served communities and struggle with run-ins with law enforcement and peer-to-peer violence. Groups like Cyclists Against Mass Incarceration BOCA not only conduct weekly rides and provide maintenance programs but also take time for weekly counseling and crisis prevention.
Our time at YBS16 was comprised of daily workshops conducted by youth bike advocates. We were introduced to a youth bike council consisting of high school aged individuals. We were split into mock-youth councils solving similar issues that arise on a regular basis to the presenting youth council. Creating a committee to achieve goals is not a re-invention of the wheel, however I feel it is a vital facet missing in our organization’s forward mission.
Lastly, I want to bring attention to the families that support our youth bike advocates. Angie and I met families who have upwards of 3-6 children enrolled in various bike programs. One family in particular made the cross country journey to support their kids at the bike summit having left 10 others at home. If you are a parent you know that parenting trials and tribulations exist but ultimately being present and aware of positive engagement and how it builds character is priceless.