Donovan Caputo, second from the left and Ashley Batchelor, far right, spent this weekend at the first Youth Bicycle Summit in New York City.

Two Tucson youth cyclists attended the country’s first Youth Bike Summit this weekend.

Below are Donovan Caputo and Ashley Batchelor’s final reactions to the Youth Bike Summit.

They were accompanied by BICAS’ Kylie Walkzak and Ignacio Rivera de Rosales.

1. The part of the summit I liked best was

Ashley: I think the best part of the summit was meeting people who have organizations with goals similar to BICAS’. It is really comforting to know that there isn’t just one group of people out there who loves bikes, and is working to get other people interested in bikes. However, I didn’t feel like I learned as much as I’d hoped. I went to this summit thinking that I was going to learn about how to get youth active and into cycling, but I didn’t hear a thing about that. I heard about sustainability problems, and how to make green maps. I heard about problems with excess of trash and NYC’s infrastructure, but all were things I had known about or known as much as I cared to know about. I didn’t hear one presentation about HOW to get youth to advocate for bikes. Most of all though, I didn’t really see as much advocating TO youth about bikes, and this was something I had really hoped for.

Donovan: The part of the summit I liked best was the third day because we really got a chance to swap stories and ideas about how infrastructure could be improved. The roller races were also great.

Two youth leaders from Bike Splorations present on their summer bike ride program.

2. I found out about these 3 organizations, in these communities, and this is what they do…

Ashley: I didn’t know what Recycle a Bicycle was, and it was interesting finding out that essentially this bike organization is the sister to BICAS. They are based somewhere in N.Y., and essentially they have interns from high schools whom they teach to build bikes.

Donovan: I met these three people, Kenny G, Jonathan, and Clark and they were from the Bronx. They were involved in different organization; Kenny G and Jonathan didn’t even know how to ride a bike and attended because they were very curious learning the ins and outs of what cycling is about. And Clark is part of Recycle a Bicycle.

3. I like New York City because…

Ashley: New York is beautiful city to visit. The buildings are wonderful, the food is pretty good, and the subways are exciting. There was too much going on for my taste though. It is a really busy town where it seems like everyone is moving too fast and talking too fast, which I hated. There is no reason we need to put our lives into fast forward just to make them more productive, because otherwise you miss everything that was worth noticing. I liked New York, it was a trip compared to Tucson with its accentuated commercialism and eccentric buildings, but it’s not a place I would want to be longer than maybe a week.

Donovan: I like New York City because it was just so new; everything was big and full of capitalism and consumerism. It was very interesting to see a large city in its prime.

A sign in Times Square

4. However, I didn’t like…

Donovan: I didn’t like how big and full of capitalism and consumerism it was. I don’t think that I would live in New York. Plus I think it would be very difficult to go on a training ride if you lived in the city.

5. Sunday was the conclusion of the summit and the organizers had us write down one issue we are most passionate about. My issue was…

Ashley: My issue for the summit’s Sunday conclusion session was the Tucson bicycle infrastructure. I want there to be a better way for me to get from the far eastside to the far westside. I want something that’s pretty accessible to anyone, and extremely biker friendly.

Donovan: Sunday was the conclusion of the summit and the organizers had us write down one issue we are most passionate about. My issue was the education of motorists. I think that if there were a higher level of motorist education than the demographic of people that want to ride their bikes more, but are to afraid of traffic — would be persuaded to ride their bikes. I think that because, if motorists could be cautious and compassionate toward cyclists and acknowledge cycling-specific aspects of the road than bicyclists would feel much safer with riding where they need to go.

Participants were put into groups with other folks who had listed a similar issue. In the groups they came up with five action items the attendees can take into their communities.

6. Then the organizers put us into groups according to the similarity of our issues. In the group we brainstormed five action items that we can take to address those issues. Those five items were…

Ashley: Our first action my group decided on was getting a piece of legislation that required biker and pedestrian-friendly routes on all roadways. The second goal was to galvanize the local media. Frankly I can’t remember the last three, because I was no longer addressed in my group, even when I spoke after we settled on the first goal.

Donovan: In the group we brainstormed five action items that we can take to address those issues. Those five items were, to gather support, create partnerships, lobby.

7. When I get back to Tucson I plan on acting on those action items. And that action will involve…

Ashley: If I had the time when I got to Tucson I would try to create a proposal to be put into legislation concerning the current bicycle and pedestrian laws. I would rally some friends to attend council meetings and try to push for a bicycle and pedestrian-friendly legislation that would make it illegal for politicians to deny our rights to safe roads. Maybe the reason nothing ever gets done even when people care, is that there is too many other personal things that always seem to take priority. I wish that wasn’t so, I wish I could have time for school, work, and activism, but I don’t. I barely have time for those things.

Donovan: When I return to Tucson I will start attending BAC and PBAA meetings and others to try and bring this issue to the table. Motorists in Arizona don’t have to renew their drivers license but every 25 years or something ridiculous.  Increasing frequency of needing to renew licenses should be 3 or 5 years. The next step would to implement a more critical motorist safety towards bicyclists portion to the drivers test.

8. What changes would I make to the summit for Tucson? What things would I keep?

Ashley: I would present to kids who may not know much about bikes instead of a bunch of kids who already care about bikes. I want to get as many kids ready and willing to ride bikes as possible, and get them totally excited for it. The summit we went to this weekend was just a bunch of people who already cared, talking about how much they care. Its nice to know that there are other people out there who care about bikes, but I think it’s more important to get more people to care about bikes, than to be aware that someone else cares about bikes. If that makes sense. Recycle a Bicycle planned their event well in regards to how everything was set up and the amount of attendees. That is a piece I would mimic. But if I get a say in how a Tucson summit is run, I would like a bunch of speakers encouraging a bunch of kids to ride their bikes, and giving them reasons to care about why bikes are important.

Donovan: In Tucson I think we would get a larger amount of attendees from the northwest. And I think it was just a little unorganized just because it was the first one, they will continue to get better and better. Also bigger rooms just to be safe. What things would I keep? The friendliness of the whole event was definitely something that made the conference easy and less stressful.

A separated bike path in Times Square.

9. Would I ride my bike in New York City? How would I ride differently in the city and what kind of bike would I ride?

Ashley: No I wouldn’t. The cars are too crazy, I’d probably die.

Donovan: I would definitely still ride everywhere.  Riding in New York City I imagine would be quite different, I have never had to negotiate snow and ice or as much traffic. How would I ride differently in the city and what kind of bike would I ride? I would ride very defensively but lawfully toward cars and I think I would ride a fixed cross bike with a touring 28c tire.

Thanks to Donovan and Ashley for taking the time to write this post about their experiences and submit all the images in the gallery below.Check back tomorrow for Kylie’s thoughts on the summit.

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