California Bicycle Summit 2015 Recap

The 2015 California Bicycle Summit: Equity in Motion, held October 25-28 in San Diego brought together more than 250 people who care about bicycling, and gave them an opportunity to learn, reflect, and forge connections with one another. “I took away a renewed commitment to work on equity in our city, I was inspired by many of the efforts going on all over the state, and I felt like there is a community of people who care about the same things I do and that resources are out there to help me address problems,” said Blair Miller, a volunteer bicycle advocate from Pasadena. 

Favorite aspects of the event for Janine Rood, executive director of Chico Velo, were “networking with those from other areas in California, with similar circumstances; as well as building relationships with people from our own area. We got tons of new ideas about programs and funding, legislation, etc.”

Another participant was glad the “conference was replete with sessions on what to do and how to do” many kinds of bike advocacy, and that “the focus on equity was uncomfortable but extremely correct. We are talking about resolving many decades of institutional racism and white and class power and privilege to make things just.  I’m glad we recognized that as a whole group.  It will take time and effort.”

The diverse group of participants included bicycle advocates, planners, bicycle industry representatives, elected officials, and activists for racial, gender, and economic equity. Over three and a half days, they participated in 37 workshops, 9 plenary speeches, 3 bike rides, and 3 great parties. Activists from around the state—and around the world!—shared their successes and challenges in promoting equity and community building through bicycling; planners and policymakers shared exciting changes afoot in the private and public sectors; and all of us participated in challenging discussions on how the bicycle advocacy movement can better include and benefit California’s diverse communities.

The summit was inspiring and informative, raising as many questions as it answered. In the evaluation form, several commenters noted that the theme of equity wasn’t reflected in the expensive location that kept too many people away—despite the 73 scholarships provided by CalBike and its sponsors. Participants were variously energized by the theme, annoyed by it, or felt it could have gone further. The sessions were widely loved.

“We hope that one impact of the summit is that it should be easier for our local bicycle advocacy partners to prioritize equity in their work,” says Dave Snyder, CalBike’s Executive Director. “Here at CalBike, we are embarking on an exciting shift to emphasize equity within our organization and in our priorities.” CalBike is continuing to push Caltrans and other state agencies to prioritize disadvantaged communities as they allocate transportation funding and will be considering other next steps in the coming year. “California needs to do better helping disadvantaged communities take advantage of the great two-wheeled community-building tool, the bicycle,” Snyder said. Stay tuned!