Throughout my work as the SF Bicycle Coalition’s Youth and Families Program Coordinator, I have heard inspiring stories of families commuting to school and parents learning to ride because of their children. One special story comes from a group of current SFUSD high school students from Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of The Arts. I was introduced to this awesome 8-person crew — Emmet, Julian, Grace, Alejandro, Nadja, Maya, and Dasha — after they reached out to share the amazing journey they are preparing for this upcoming summer: to bike across America!
These students and their upcoming adventures reflect both the joy of biking and a commitment to sustainability (two of our organizational Core Values), through their efforts to raise awareness about our current climate crisis and advocating for the bike as a way to explore the world without depending on fossil fuels.
I sat down with Emmet, the trip leader, to talk about their upcoming journey, what a sustainable future looks like and what it means for youth to choose biking as a form of transportation.
Dave: Tell me what your project is about.
Emmet: We’re trying to encourage other youth to get themselves outside of their comfort zone and take a step towards shaping a brighter future. We want to show SF that a couple of kids with a mission can take on a big challenge, share a message, and really take charge of our lives moving into the future.
D: What would that future look like for all of you?
E: Right now, we’re working towards a future that is brighter, safer, and healthier for young people. We’ve grown up knowing our futures will be shaped by the effects of climate change and we want to see efforts made to mitigate that damage. We are working towards a future where our health and access to a safe and livable future is valued above fossil fuel interests. We also know how important it is for the health and development of young people to get outside and be physically active, and we want to see a future where the importance of that is recognized.
D: What impact do you want your efforts to have on students around San Francisco or the United States?
E: We believe that a youth-organized and led cross-country bike trip can grab a lot of attention on a global issue by taking on a major challenge with an important message behind it. Additionally, we are seeking to expand our world view by seeing parts of the county we wouldn’t be likely to see otherwise, which we know can help to inform our own activism and help push efforts to understand each other in an increasingly divided nation.
D: Your materials mention that “this isn’t just a bike trip.” How do you see your youth-led trip as part of the larger movement to combat climate change in the US? What role do you see young people playing in the fight for climate justice?
E: In California, transportation is a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants, and we see the effects in our friends and family members who suffer from respiratory issues, and in our state’s consistently poor air quality ratings. We want to be a part of the change towards more sustainable transportation options while seeing how other parts of the country are affected by climate change and how people are coming up with green solutions. We know that young people have been at the forefront of this fight and we want to be a part of a shift towards systems that protect a healthy planet for us to live on.
D: Where can people follow your journey?
E: Follow us on Instagram: @youthbikeamerica, and check out their fundraiser video!