During Memorial Day weekend, RTC’s Youth Leaders in the Philadelphia/Camden area attended the Youth Bike Summit at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. Jaymere Copeland, Paul Jewell and Allen Williams joined young people from across the country to learn and share ideas focused on using cycling as a tool to improve communities.
The Youth Leaders also presented a workshop titled “Biking and Watersheds,” which focused on how RTC uses trails as outdoor classrooms to teach youth about watershed science and the role they play in protecting our environment. The workshop included watershed challenge games that can be replicated trailside, illustrating that watershed education can be fun and interactive!
The summit was a success, and I had a great time meeting new people and presenting with my teammates. I gained some skills that'll help me progress in life. I observed our partner Cadence Youth Cycling’s advisory committee presentation. They described how one should network and meet new people. I also observed PEAC’s (Programs to Educate All Cyclists) presentation on how they assist youth with disabilities to get on bikes. They make an impact in their community! - Paul Jewell
A recurring theme of the summit was that young people are not just our future, but our present. We heard from many youth who are not only training to be the leaders of tomorrow, but are making tangible changes in their communities today. For example, Maribel Mateo and Tony Gatica, a brother and sister duo from California, successfully identified where a bike lane was needed in their neighborhood—and secured funding to get it installed. We also learned from a group of elected officials from Minnesota that when young people advocate for a policy, the officials are much more likely to listen.
As seen by the example set by RTC’s Youth Leaders and those at the Youth Bike Summit, young people are a powerful force for promoting active transportation!
There was such an abundance of ideas and a significant exchange of cycling experiences. A big takeaway for me involved being exposed to such a variety of ways that cycling is perceived across the country. My primary use for my bike is transportation. However, I learned that in other parts of the country, cycling may only be a form of exercise or recreation. This made me feel more appreciative for being a cyclist in such an urban environment like Philadelphia. - Allen Williams
The keynote speaker, Gil Penalosa of 8-80 Cities and World Urban Parks, underscored the importance of young people advocating for trails and greenspace, sharing the adage: “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” 8-80 Cities’ vision is to create safe and happy cities with public space available for people of all ages—from 8 to 80.
This concept made us think about the Circuit Trails—an in-progress 750-mile trail network in the Greater Philadelphia region, and the location for many of our youth-led program rides. Currently, there are many trips in Philadelphia and Camden that necessitate on-road riding—trips we wouldn’t want a child to do on his or her own. Once the Circuit Trails network is complete, it will be much easier and safer for young people to get to and from school, or to a friend’s house—without having to get a ride from their parents. Our youth programming prepares kids for that day!
The bike youth summit was great. I had a good time getting to know people from different states and countries.
I also learned so much about the impact that youth can have. Something that opened my eyes: One of the speakers was talking about how when youth want change, they can make it [happen] as long as they are fighting to get it! [This is] something that I will bring to Philly … kids have the power to make change! - Jaymere Copeland
On our last day in Minnesota, the Youth Leaders had the opportunity to explore some of Minneapolis’ excellent trail system that would definitely pass the 8-80 test. We rode on the renowned Midtown Greenway to the Chain of Lakes and stopped by Lake Calhoun for some water ice and a free ride in a sailboat! The hustle and bustle by the lake and along the trail underscored the focus of the Youth Leaders’ presentation: Trails are an indispensable way communities interact with their local waterways. And with the ability to safely and conveniently access our waterways, we can build communities that respect—and wish to protect—these cherished natural resources.
Thanks to their rich experience at the Youth Bike Summit, our Youth Leaders returned home with newfound confidence and excitement to get our summer youth programming underway. This summer Paul, Allen and Jaymere will share their enthusiasm for trails and watershed protection with more than 350 students in Philadelphia and Camden. And no doubt—with a greater understanding of why these issues are crucial to the well-being of our communities!