Tucson youth delegation wowed by D.C. and come home inspired

Oct. 17, 2017 – The Youth Bike Summit Tucson delegation returned home last week feeling both exhausted and energized after an action-packed weekend full of networking, learning, and exploring in Washington D.C.  The group is excited to share with their peers and community members their experiences, and in the meantime, read some highlights of their amazing trip:

Learning from other youth and connecting with inspiring mentors.

The group left the conference full of insights from other diverse communities and were inspired by the youth-led conversations and panel discussions. Whether it was getting tips on how to start a girls’ bike club, connecting bikes to advocacy, or seeing how public art creates stronger communities, there was a range of topics that appealed to everyone’s interest.  The group was all ears with some of their favorite keynote speakers: Mas Paz, a Colombian born street artist; the Bicycle Nomad, Panamanian-born bike touring extraordinaire who opened up a coffee-bike shop in Phoenix, AZ; and Lynn Salvo, the oldest woman to travel cross country by bicycle.

Experiencing the freedom of  a multi-modal city. 

On their first morning some of the delegation members woke up bright and early to get in a short bike ride before the start of the conference.  Using bike-share, the crew easily rode to the Pentagon building down a beautiful, tree-lined protected bike lane.  This began their love affair with D.C.’s bike-share system, renting bikes to tour the Mall at night, ride to the White House, and venture along the Mt. Vernon multi-use trail.  They were delighted at the accessibility of transportation options taking note of comfortable and pleasant bus shelters, wide protected bike lanes, the bustling metro and simply observing the diversity and volume of people enjoying the city on bike and on foot.  They commented that the accessibility of options gave them freedom to move very independently in the city and as one young person added, “I’ve never spent so many days not in a car!” While the city inspired many of the teens to dream about moving to a city like D.C., these observations started to evoke critical questions in their mind as to how can we make Tucson a better place for alternative forms of transportation.

Exploring and sightseeing in a major U.S. City for the first time.

For the young people on this trip, this was their first time in a major U.S. city.  They were blown away by the plethora of historical sites and loved strolling to visit the many memorials.  They were able to squeeze in tours of the Holocaust Museum, Ford Theater, and the National Archives.  A fun favorite was visiting Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum, spotting life-like replicas of celebrities. However, simply the amount of grass, lush trees, shrubs is what made D.C. feel so exotic to this group of desert dwellers! There was definitely no shortage of oohhing, ahhing, and selfie-taking on this trip.

 

Challenging what they thought of themselves and each other.

In preparation for the trip, the delegation spent a good amount of time setting personal and group goals for the experience. For all the teens, this was an opportunity to step outside their own comfort zone, and indeed, during the trip all of them did.  Whether it was rapping on the metro, shaking off nerves of first-time flying, singing acapella in front of a bunch of strangers, taking the lead, cracking jokes, or sharing stories, everyone’s unique character shined. It left the mentors of the trip feeling inspired by the courage, resiliency, and optimism of these young leaders. Sharing, laughing, and exploring together turned this group of acquaintances into friends and allies ready to make change in our world together.

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