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Youth Bike Summit 2024: It’s Going To Take a Village To Get More Young People Cycling

Enrollment is open for the 2024 Youth Bike Summit (YBS) to be held June 14th to June 16th in Lehigh Valley, PA.

Photo via Joshua Funches|

Sign up here for the 2024 Youth Bike Summit in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.

Bike programs that serve young people have struggled since late 2020 to meet initial post-pandemic numbers of engagement. It’s more important than ever that we build upon the rich history of youth activism and educator support.

The 2024 Youth Bike Summit in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, will catalyze long overdue conversations concerning what we will do about the quality of life issues that bicycles can fix for young people. 

The National Youth Bike Council interacts with tons of organizations that serve young people. Due to the tough circumstances of the last few years, some organizations or programs closed down altogether. Such as Cycles For Change, a youth earn-a-bike program that incorporated health, youth development, and more into tHe Minneapolis Twin Cities’ community for over 10 years. Those that persevere share common traits — specifically long histories, consistent youth programming and adaptability. Many of these well-structured, community-funded organizations also serve on the Youth Bike Summit’s Steering Committee.

In 2016, the Summit celebrated a $2.3 million grant allocated to bikeways in Santa Ana as a part of the “Bike It! Santa Ana campaign,” which at the time included youth participation in the grant making process. Both Tony Gatica (sophomore in high school) and Maribel Mateo (freshman in college) were keynote speakers at the Summit due to their engagement and the success in the project. This, among other achievements by young people, furthered the purpose of highlighting  the potential of bicycling for positive outcomes for both young people and their communities.

Four youth participants at the 2019 Youth Bike Summit and, in the middle, Pio, a past Bike-to-School Coordinator at Bike New York.

Unfortunately, due to capacity restraints, that larger mission had to be put to rest to ensure the survival of the community organizations doing the work at home. Making sure the programs stayed afloat became the main priority for staff running youth-bike programming. More ambitious collaboration would need to come later. 

This seemed like a bad thing at first, but as a community and larger movement of parents, teachers and students passionate about how bicycles can improve our lives, we had two wins.

The first win was that organizations who improved programming by pivoting unlocked new ways to gain support, whether financial or community-driven. They did this through providing school credits, job opportunities or stipends to youth participants, which ended up being better incentives than those of other community programs. 

There also needed to be a shift in narrative from bicycle-based talk to how bicycles improve the quality of life for young individuals. Among our partners who pivoted, they continued to be — or found a way to be — stable members of their communities by making their spaces feel like a second home to participants. This was not done overnight. Instead, it was either already integrated into the culture of these organizations or became a part of their strategies during the last few years.

The second thing we gained from the pivot was an authentic opportunity for young leaders, a part of the National Youth Bike Council, to step up and make the decision to lead the Youth Bike Summit ourselves. Which is exactly what happened, signaling the movement's growth as the Summit found a new home.

The scene at a previous Youth Bike Summit.Photo courtesy Joshua Funches

In order for there to be a location for youth bike workers to gather, grow, and share great learnings, we are going to need a village. We will need the entire community to help nurture the next generation of youth leaders who will lead our advocacy initiatives, who will help fight for bills supporting bike lanes, who will lead bike buses and more. We have come full circle and young people now lead the Youth Bike Summit. That’s even more reason to unite at the Youth Bike Summit. Showing up and sharing your knowledge through workshops or helping another young person get to the summit is key.

That is what led to this year’s theme “Youth Lead The Way” — fueled by three days of workshops and rides, all designed to help youth lead through the power of the bicycle.

This year's Youth Bike Summit (YBS) will be held June 14th to June 16th in Lehigh Valley, PA and will kick off on Friday evening with a welcome reception.

Saturday will offer a full day of classroom-based and ride-based workshops, including opportunities for attendees to Try the Track at the Velodrome or participate in a Bikes & Boating adventure.

YBS will culminate on Sunday with the YBS Big Ride that will take attendees through downtown Allentown, along the historic D&L trail, and to Bethlehem’s iconic Steel Stacks.

Show up and share your knowledge through workshops or help another young person get to the summit.

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