I was recently asked, "What do you appreciate about working at the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition?" With two seconds of thought and a million possible responses, my immediate response was, "I love how we are continually offered opportunities to learn and grow. I love that our leadership invests in our development."
That couldn't be any more true than recently. Believing in our need to continually grow and keep abreast of best practices and evolving trends, our Director sent me to the National Bike Summit in Washington, DC. As a membership based organization, it's important that our supporters know what they're supporting, where we are, and why we continue to send staff to conferences, symposiums, and perhaps most fun-- Capitol Hill.
So with that, here's a little Q&A snapshot of our most recent continuing education adventures.
Question: What were your hopes for the conference?
Jordyne: This conference coincided with my 13 month work anniversary with ABC. In 2016, the conference served as my introduction to bike advocacy. I was new to the arena, and wasn’t completely sure how my identity as a social worker would integrate with my new work -- but I knew it was needed. I got into transportation advocacy because the clients I served were consistently limited by lacking transportation options. Their ability to get to work, socialize with friends, get outdoor exercise, access healthcare, and seek economic and educational services depended on who had a car, money to load their MARTA card, or whether the bus arrived on time. As a newbie at the conference last year, I focused on learning the ropes (and the acronyms), and listening to the voices of experience.
This year, my hope was to find creative ways to integrate my identity as a social worker into my work. Specifically, I hoped to find outlets for my interest in mixed-methods research, and to have space to creatively re-think how a social justice framework can shape outreach and communication strategies.
Question: What surprised you most?
Jordyne: I was surprised by the demographics. I was really disappointed to find that most of the attendees this year were white. On a positive note, the attendees ranged significantly in age, and they announced a Youth Bike Summit planned for this October.
Question: Who was at the table, and who wasn't?
Jordyne: As noted above, I was hoping for more diversity. I think the lack of it speaks to many of our challenges. The table was filled mostly with people working in bike advocacy (state and city level.) Representation from the bike industry and public health/social work sectors was sparse.
Question: What’s the coolest thing you got/saw/did/discovered?
Jordyne: Relationships. Georgia represented well! We were joined by the amazing Timberley Jones of Relay Bike Share, Rachel Hollar of Bike Walk Macon, Neil Walker of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America,Tyler Dewey of Bike Athens, Elliot Caldwell and Nedra Deadwyler of Georgia Bikes, and Cheryl Burnette from the City of Decatur. It’s amazing how just a short time at a conference can create relationships that change not only our professional networks, but our personal lives. Those new relationships and the deepening of old ones has left me most grateful.
Question: What’s your biggest takeaway for Atlanta?
Jordyne: I was inspired by the many innovative ways that cities are tackling active transportation. While we at ABC focus heavily on open streets and policy change, some cities focus more strongly on education, safety, or enforcement. I think this is a huge strength. We know that so many pieces make up the whole pie, but we have to start somewhere. Where we start should be defined by our local communities, with best-practices shaping those programs. This is exactly what ABC is doing. Each region of this country has different needs, different norms, and different opportunities. In the south, where car culture is normalized and policy has a history rooted in segregation, it makes sense that our priorities would lie in dismantling the car narrative and pushing for equitable policy. All this to say--- my biggest takeaway for Atlanta is one of applause. We are moving the needle, in our own way, knowing that there are many areas needing change. That’s what makes me so proud to be engaged in this work.