Ensuring A Voice For Youth: The California Field School
In 2013, the League released “Engaging Youth In Bicycle Advocacy”, a case study on why youth bike and youth involvement in bicycle advocacy is so important as we build a future that is better for biking. A lot of the obstacles to youth engagement noted in the study, like a lack of bike accessibility and a disconnect between adults and youth when it comes to leadership, are still prevalent today. Many organizations, including the League itself, can better educate themselves on how to not only get more youth involved in biking but make sure young bicyclists feel recognized as an integral part of the bicycling movement.
As part of that work to listen, learn, and collaborate, we endeavored to hear from organizations made for youth and/or guided by youth to best answer the question of how to do this. In a continuing series, we’ll learn more about these groups and their answers. Today, meet the California Field School (CFS). Read our previous blogs here.
Tell Us About The California Field School (CFS)
“The California Field School’s mission is to take youth on adventure learning bikepacking tours exploring social and environmental justice. As we ride along the boundary between the land and the ocean, we explore the limits of our bodies, connect with the complexity that emerges on the edges of things and discern our own edges and boundaries. Exploring the biodiversity that explodes where two ecosystems converge, we learn about the interdependence of life and the ways that human impact has changed California and its waters. On all of our trips, we prioritize building relationships with the people native to the areas we pass through, by bicycle.
CFS continues riding through this mission by connecting California’s wilderness with underrepresented youths’ homes by mapping an impactful route between the two: mile by mile, pedal by pedal. This outdoor experience allows remote places to feel accessible and grounds them in the connectedness of all living things – eliminating barriers by uniting youth with nature. We organize these rides for Oakland public high schools who can earn academic credit for experiential learning bike tours and community partners who already work with specific groups of youth with the goal of creating a safe, supportive container for participants to challenge themselves, think about the world, and grow together.
CFS also organizes Freewheel – a free monthly bike ride we organize that is only open to young women and gender non-conforming young people who are in high school in Oakland and surrounding cities with an aim of building self-confidence and strength by challenging each other to ride in a supportive environment. Our rides explore and discover new exciting parts of the Bay Area and how to get around by bicycle with confidence! Each ride we visit a different historical or cultural site in the Bay Area, with the goal of learning about the people and communities who’ve created this incredible place we live in.”
Any New Projects Or Goals For 2022 You’d Like To Share?
“In 2022, we will continue to expand our programming thanks to the support of the community and a grant from the state Coastal Conservancy as part of their “Explore the Coast” program. This support will fund two seven-day bike tours during the summer of 2022 and the summer of 2023. We’re also working with Banteay Srei, an organization that works to empower SE Asian young people, to facilitate a bike ride for them in the summer of 2022 as well! Our aim, riding into 2022, is to make up for all of the adventure learning bike tours for youth exploring environmental & social justice lost during the pandemic.”
What Would You Like To See Other Groups, Especially National Organizations, Doing To Involve More Youth In Cycling?
“We partner with schools, groups and communities who otherwise wouldn’t have easy access to multi-day adventure bike tours and bike safety programming. Through this work, participants learn about our bike programming — it’s all been word of mouth from there! We would love to work together with other similar organizations and cast a larger net to make bike touring more accessible!”
For any other organizations that want to organize rides with high schools: “Get out to your local high schools and meet the youth! Start bike clubs and recruit within. Treat the youth as people with the abilities and capacity to do what most people think is impossible. Most of our participants have familiarity with the bicycle, however, 95% of the youth have zero experience riding more than to their corner store. Shared by a past participant: No matter who you are, you can do amazing things – you just need to put in the effort.”
Did you know the 2022 National Bike Summit will feature space for young cyclists and youth-serving organizations to meet? We also offer free attendance for youth through our youth scholarship. Learn more at bikeleague.org/summit!
If you’re a youth group or cycling organization interested in sharing your tips for involving more youth in cycling, reach out to us at [email protected]. We would love to hear from you!