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The first ever Youth Bike Summit brought bicycle advocates of all ages together last weekend in New York City. Organizations from Tucson to Boston participated in the three day summit, attending workshops, presentations, and finding inspiration in their peers. Event organizer and Executive Director of Recycle-A-Bicycle, Pasqualina Azzarello, said that she hopes this summit will be the first of many.

Pasqualina and organizer Helen Ho send the following report from the proceedings:

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More than 200 participants from 14 states and two countries came to New York this past weekend to swap ideas, learn bicycle advocacy best practices and build nationwide momentum in the country’s first-ever Youth Bike Summit, sponsored by Recycle-A-Bicycle.  The youth spent three days learning everything from map-making techniques to political organizing strategies, participating in roller races and developing an action plan to advance biking in NYC and places beyond.

To kick things off, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan acknowledged the event’s female leaders by evoking Susan B. Anthony’s 1896 quote, "I think the bicycle has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world."  She then introduced Kimberly White, an 18 year old intern at Recycle-A-Bicycle as the Summit’s keynote speaker.

Kimberly related her personal transformation from a 16-year-old couch potato watching 36 hours of television a week, whose 4-year-old sister had superior bike handling skills, to a comfortable cyclist who had built her very own bicycle. This led to an opportunity to attend the 2010 National Bike Summit, where Kimberly and other NYC delegates asked legislators to make biking and walking safer for kids.  She now seeks to empower other youth by urging legislators to keep streets safe for all young people in New York City.

In one workshop, Dr. Edward Fishkin, the director of medical services at Woodhull Hospital, spoke about his creation of a Kids Ride Club 15 years ago. From spring through fall, Dr. Fishkin leads weekly rides ford kids ages 7-19 with fun destinations and healthy lunches.  Their motto is “Have fun and ride safe.” Fishkin calculated that in the 2010 season the Kids Ride Club burned a collective total of 1.5 million calories on the rides. After a Health Department official shared somber information about rapidly increasing nationwide obesity and Type II Diabetes rates i.

On day three of the conference, all of the participants formulated a plan from the collected knowledge of the weekend: education and advocacy campaigns, infrastructure designs and diversity-boosting strategies.  They vowed to band together to research the issues, publicize their findings, and create change.  Clearly, this is a young group with a lot of energy.  Legislators and decision-makers, watch out!

To follow the progress of the youth bike advocacy movement, go to www.recycleabicycle.org, and for more information on how to get involved contact Pasqualina Azzarello, Executive Director of Recycle-A-Bicycle, at director[at]recycleabicycle[dot]org.

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