Living Streets Alliance is thrilled to be sponsoring a dynamic group of twelve community leaders from Tucson’s south side, a mix of both youth and adults with representatives from John Valenzuela Youth Center, Tierra y Libertad, Pueblo Gardens neighborhood, Cicli Noe Bike Shop , along with our partners at AZ Health Zone to attend the annual Youth Bike Summit (YBS) in New York City this February. The Youth Bike Summit is unique opportunity to bring together these passionate leaders to share their experiences of what biking means in their communities and to create a shared vision of safe and accessible streets for young people in Tucson.
While three of the group members were able to attend the Youth Bike Summit last year in Washington D.C., for the rest of the group members, this will be their first time attending this major conference, and they are excited to branch out and connect with peers from all over the country. YBS is an annual three-day national conference bringing together educators, activists, students, teens, and community leaders to network and learn from each other. During the workshops, many of the presentations are led by youth as they discuss how access to transportation and mobility through bicycles supports the health, development, and empowerment of young people.
As the group prepares for the trip, they are undoubtedly most excited to experience a major metropolis with an urban culture that is bustling with all types of transportation options. Gene Martinez, a young adult who helps lead the bike club at the John Valenzuela Youth Center and participated in the Complete Streets Task Force enthusiastically shares, “I’m so excited to experience the streets of New York! And just to see how the streets may function differently than those in Tucson.”
Other members of the group have also expressed that they see bikes as a way to improve their communities and are eager to learn how other young people use bicycling as a means for social change. Joselyn Macias, a student at Pima Community College and bike leader in Pueblo Gardens explains, “I want to be someone that can inspire and empower other youth to get involved in our community, and I see how bicycles can be one way to do that.”
Transportation is often a critical barrier for young people and what we have heard time and time again from these delegates is that lacking reliable transportation options can limit their ability to recreate, get after school jobs and participate in extracurricular activities. As one young lady in the group points out “I have to take two Sun Tran buses just to get to school, planning a commute of over one-hour, just one-way! And if I want to participate in after school activities, I have to constantly beg to get rides from friends or family.”
One of the goals of YBS is to inspire young leaders to create the change in shaping their own neighborhoods and communities, and we are looking forward to hearing how this experience may shape this group’s own perspectives of the types of solutions they want to see happen in their own backyard.