As I registered this week for the National Bike Summit in Washington, DC in March, I was thinking about some of the moments that stayed with me from the recent Youth Bike Summit here in New York City sponsored by the community-based shop Recycle-A-Bicycle.

As Pasqualina Azzarello, RAB executive director, has said of youth engagement in promoting bike-friendly communities, “The desire to connect around this issue is potent,” a fact reflected in the voices of the youth summit participants.

(Above) Leaders and members of the Girls Bike Club of Chicago’s West Town Bikes, a program that encourages empowerment and self-sufficiency through cycling, gave a spirited presentation (claps and cheers!) to a packed room. Men still outnumber women three to one in bicycle commuting in the U.S. Efforts to engage young women in cycling, and to develop leadership around sustainable transportation — early — is one path toward changing that calculus. Among shared advice for launching similar efforts to encourage young women to participate in cycling in local communities: focus on activities that young women enjoy, hold regular weekly meetings and recruit dedicated adult leadership.

Recycle-A-Bicycle Youth Summit

photo: Angela Jimenez

(Above) The audience at the Youth Bike Summit’s keynote was wowed by Alpha Barry, a Brooklyn high school student who immigrated from Guinea, West Africa and now serves as a youth leader for Recycle-A-Bicycle. In his eloquent words:

When I was a child, I had no idea that the new-found feeling of freedom that comes with learning to ride a bike would become a feeling I could return to forever. Now I understand that riding a bike is like visiting an old friend — a friend who will never ask where you’ve been, but will always tell you ‘I’m glad you’re here.’

Azzarello notes that attendance was up by approximately 30 percent over the inaugural youth summit — which evolved from RAB youth participation in the 2010 National Bike Summit — with attendees from 20 states and three countries meeting over Martin Luther King Weekend. RAB recently became a membership organization, so you can help support their efforts on behalf of youth education and advocacy by joining here.

For a broader overview of the Summit, view this new Streetfilms wrap-up video by Robin Urban Smith.

Top photo: Back row, from left: Tania, Girls Bike Club leaders Kayla Story and Coralee Montes, Ladijah, Jo-Jo and leader Zorida Ortiz. Front row, from left: Shacora and Naomi. photo: velojoy

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