Cultivating Conversations at BikeBike 2013: A Recap
By: Krista Carlson
More than 300 individuals representing 80 organizations gathered in New Orleans for the 10th anniversary of BikeBike, revisiting the city where volunteers and organizers gathered at the first BikeBike, setting the wheels in motion for a cross-cultural exchange with biking at its center.
An opportunity to share ideas, stories, and support, the 4-day conference brought together a wide range of people and projects that represented the efforts of a collective bike community from across North America and reaching as far as Austria.
The topics addressed at BikeBike each year reflect the current goals and challenges of the various community bike projects that take on different forms in different environments. Accordingly, the focus has grown from solving internal organizational issues to building a network that can leverage shared knowledge and resources between groups.
“Global cross pollination is one of our long term goals,” said Victor Pizarro, executive director the New Orleans-based community bike project Plan B, the host organization for this year’s event. This theme reappeared in workshops throughout BikeBike, and built upon mutual shop-collective support, collaboration among projects, comparing notes on different cultural settings and facilitating national and cross-border exchange.
“There’s nothing better than face to engagement,” said Momoko Saunders of Portland, Oregon’s Bike Farm. “Particularly around some of the more touchy subjects of privilege, of sexism, creating safe spaces.”
“A lot of coops are just setting up and they want the info from coops that are 10 years old, sometimes older that that, and all the experience that they’re learned and all the mistakes that they’ve made and try to make a better version of that internationally,” said JD Fairman. Before attending BikeBike for the first time this year, and signing on to see that attendees were provided with housing and loaner bikes, Fairman attended the Congreso Nacional de Ciclismo Urbano in Oaxaca in 2012, where he first met Pizarro as part of a group presenting on coops in the U.S.
“The fact that all these different aspects can meet and talk and go on bike rides—it’s pretty amazing,” said Pizarro. “It’s the in-the-flesh kind of organizing that doesn’t happen online. “
“I wanted to find my peers who were struggling with the same things at the same point,” said Nona Varnado, “ and I also wanted to be able to share my knowledge so that people can get to where I am faster, and we create more of a peer group of people who are trying to, from the bottom up, create this sort of social change.”
While it was her first time attending BikeBike, Varnado, a key organizer of ArtCrank, L.A. Bike Trains and the Red5Yellow7 bike-art gallery in L.A., is no stranger to community bike projects, and facilitated seven workshops throughout the weekend. “It’s BikeBike—If you don’t do it, it might not happen,” she said.
Long involved with integrating bikes are art to elevate one another, Varnado presented on guerilla bike art to a packed house, sharing ideas and examples of ways to use art to advance goals within the community. This workshop was one of seven that she hosted or co-facilitated throughout the weekend.
By comparing models and sharing ideas, the trial-by-fire experiences of one organization becomes a learning tool for other groups. Coming out of BikeBike a few years ago, an online think tank of more than 600 contributors provides a forum for information sharing and discourse between annual events.
“A lot of progress comes in the time between two BikeBikes. It all starts off from an idea being shared and getting folks really excited,” said Loconte. “One of the most surprising things is always how that problem your organization is experiencing and battling over and having a lot of issues with and not finding a way to resolve – most other shops will have very straightforward solutions that you never thought of.”
BikeBike 2014 will be in Columbus, Ohio. For more information and resources visit www.bikebike.org