Lessons Learned in Coalition Building
Among the newbies and the veterans, there is a consensus among members of the team who attended the 2022 California Bike Summit that overall, it was a positive experience. Summits, conferences and other large gatherings provide the perfect opportunity to meet advocates and organizations doing the same work. We gain so much from commiserating with and inspiring each other, feeding off one another’s energy.
Eli Akira Kaufman (Executive Director, LACBC): The most important takeaway for me was the importance of cultivating relationships with the bicycle advocacy community across the state and learning what is possible when we work together.
And, of course, there’s the added benefit of bonding with the team over a shared experience.
Andrea Aponte (Middle School Bike Club Coordinator): I was able to reflect on summit sessions and the bike community with my coworkers and get inspired for our own ideas.
As residents of LA County, it was special to have the opportunity to travel to another area of the state and be inspired by the progress regarding infrastructure.
Kevin Shin (Deputy Director, LACBC): It’s been a while since I’ve spent any extended time in the Bay Area and seeing how much Oakland has changed left me awestruck. It is really impressive to see the transformation towards a much more bikeable community with a willingness to adapt to transportation choices that are more sustainable and beneficial to the community at large. The presence of large numbers of bike lanes, dedicated bus lanes, and other infrastructure improvements shows that it is possible for cities to invest in real change if political leaders have the fortitude to try things that are uncomfortable.
Eli: Oakland was fabulous to ride and specifically the new bike lanes on Telegraph and the transformative impact they are having were inspiring to experience first hand.
Andrea: Another highlight was the open street we had right on Telegraph Ave. for lunch and breakfast. The space was full of people, bikes, and tables with food. It was a vibrant and safe space for everyone. Movie shorts night at the New Parkway Theater was also fun.
As for the programming itself, there were pros to the experience
Andrea: One of my favorite sessions was “Reimagining Public Safety”- where I learned about the work the Advancement Project is doing to remove armed officers from traffic stops. I think it was useful to learn about organizations that exist outside of the cycling community in order to broaden our coalitions.
Alejandra Alvarez (Project Manager, LACBC): I found it challenging to sit through multiple panels. I would have enjoyed more engaging workshops, pieces of training, and activities in between panel sessions. I couldn't attend either of the community walks or bikes because they occurred during most of the panels (and even lunch for some folks).
Brenda Yancor (Senior Community Engagement Manager, LACBC): I wish the summit had more opportunities within each session for people to talk to each other in depth and share information, skills and lessons learned. I would love to see gatherings like this take on more of an interactive approach to learning.
There was also a matter of diversity, equity and inclusion that appeared to be missing this year. For a summit taking place in Oakland, where were the Oakland-based organizations and leaders?
Brenda: My first time going to CA Bike Summit was in 2015 when Tamika Butler gave a speech (similar to this one) touching on what it means to plan for people who often don’t look or live like the people doing the planning. This time around, I got to experience CalBike’s efforts to diversify their sessions and while I don’t want to knock them for trying, I left the summit feeling less like I want to be a part of spaces where the main leadership and decision-making isn’t being done by the people representative of the community.
Eli: A key area that needs to be addressed for future Summits is doing a better job of including the voice and lived experience of local community members.
Alejandra: I would have loved to see more Oakland-based organizations present at the summit and even leading some of the bike rides.
As we continue work in this space it is so important to be more judicious about stepping into spaces where “diversity and inclusion” are part of a checklist instead of an overall strategic movement. If we’re not making sure to fight on behalf of our most vulnerable communities and neighbors, are we truly making progress?