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Posts Tagged ‘Safe Routes to School’

This past Wednesday, ten more girls graduated from my ‘Girls in Gear’ program.  To date, three ‘Girls in Gear’ program cycles have taken place and 20 girls have gone through the program.  The latest program was held at the Vaughn-Hairston YMCA in the village of Urbancrest outside of Grove City.  James Lewis and Becky Brown were such incredible hosts that I couldn’t have asked for a better facility.  I absolutely love being hosted by the YMCA.  The staff always treat me graciously and they have some of the best volunteers!  THANK YOU!

This cycle was the biggest group I’ve had which was a great learning lesson.  This cycle, the girls also worked in ‘Girls in Gear’ Workbooks I created.  After each session, not only do the girls fill out what they learned in their workbooks, I also ask them questions that get them to think about themselves in a positive manner as well each other.

‘Girls in Gear’ has changed my life.  I love seeing these girls on a weekly basis and them running up to me to give me a hug.  They have such simple needs that I feel so overly happy that I’m able to fullfill – at least for a small chunk of time.  No matter what socio-economic background you’re from, all young girls need to be empowered.  All young girls need to feel confident in themselves and have that sense of self-reliance.  Resources are limited in under-served neighborhoods.  And, it’s usually the under-served neighborhoods that have the wide, fast streets – disconnecting neighbors from one another and the pleasntry of enjoying one’s neighborhood.

In these neighborhoods, kids at the age of nine think it’s ‘normal’ to walk in litter-filled streets, see prostitutes on the corners, and gun casings on the ground.  It’s ‘normal’ for a school’s playground to close down because comdoms and used syringes were found.  It’s ‘NORMAL!’  Would this be ‘normal’ in Bexley?  A lot of these girls have gone through more than what a lot of adults have gone through.  They are resiliant.  They may be rough around the edges but once you’ve chipped away, they are smooshy and gracious and humble.  I remember over the summer when ‘Girls in Gear’ was held at the Gladden Community House, I brought in helmets for the girls for our road riding sessions.  Once our sessions were finished, I said, ‘keep them.’  I remember one girl saying, ‘really  we can keep these?’  They were thrilled at having these fun (and chic) helmets that during the other ‘skill-building’ sessions of the program, the girls would wear their helmets.  Simple pleasures.

I keep in touch with a handful of the girls through the ‘Girls in Gear’ facebook page.  I always want to know what they’re doing and how they’re doing.  I’m also working towards getting a handful of them to ride in 2014 Mayor’s Twilight Ride.  I think they would absolutely love it.  I want them to know that I have invested in them.

‘Girls in Gear’ Cycle 3 (c3) had a great addition.  Mike Foley of WCBE, Columbus’ local NPR Station heard me present at Pecha Kucha Columbus about ‘Girls in Gear.’  He reached out to do a story on the program.  This past Wednesday, it was aired on ‘Morning Edition.’  It was so incredible to hear how elegant and bright these young girls were, speaking to Mike.

I really look forward to watching ‘Girls in Gear’ blossom into a program that can take place anywhere.  Girls need to feel good about getting their hands dirty.  They need to feel good about their bodies and understand healthy decision-making through nutrtion.  Girls need to feel confident in hearing their voices and hearing their thoughts out loud.  Girls need to feel self-reliant when navigating their neighborhoods and streets and not feel the need to rely on anyone else.

I want to thank:  Mimi Webb (Trek Bicycle), Kelly Martyn (formerly of Green Bean Delivery), Anna Hanley (Roll), Emily Burnett (Paradise Garage), Amanda Golden-Blevins (ACP  Visioning + Planning), and Abby Kravitz (MKSK Design Firm).  ‘Girls in Gear’ wouldn’t be what it is without the trust of these professional women.  Thank you.

Enjoy some photos from GiG C3 at Vaugh-Hairston YMCA

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The ‘Girls in Gear’ Workbook
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Showing that they know hand-signals

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Workbook time!

GiG C3 22They LOVED their Road Riding Sessions!

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Kelly is teaching the girls basic Nutrition Education.  The girls got to sample all types of fruits and vegetables and if you can see the papers on the table, Kelly made vegetable-colored diagrams which explain the benefits of colors for fruits and vegetables!

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I.  Love.  This.
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Emily is teaching the ‘why’ behind gears and shifting

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Anna is assisting the girls as they change flat tires and learn how to properly inflate tires.

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Teamwork is beautiful!

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Constant smiles with teaching this rambunctious crew.

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Amanda is prepping the girls prior to the neighborhood walk-audit.

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Taking our neighborhood walk-audit.  The village of Urbancrest has no sidewalks.  Mike Foley of Columbus’ NPR joined and recorded this session.

GiG C3 6Everyone discussing what they observed during the walk-audit.  Elements that were positive, negative; what’s need improved, etc.

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A brand new neighborhood!  Schools, sidewalks, markets.  I’d live there!GiG C3 11

Abby is holding up one of the great examples from the ‘urban design’ neighborhood re-design.GiG C3 10

Sidewalks, and bike lanes, and tetherball, Oh, My!GiG C3 9Creativity + STEM-Based learning = SOLID GOLD

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The girls LOVED Mimi.  Who doesn’t.

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Ten more young leaders!  Hundreds more go!

 

 

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Yesterday was a bit bittersweet.  It was the last day for ‘Girls in Gear’ with this group of incredible girls.  They have just been the sweetest, most thoughtful and super enthusiased.  They have all been so kind to one another and have complimented and helped one another through the program.

The speaker / community leader that spoke with them yesterday is a dear friend of mine and life coach – Naila Chauncey Hughes.  Through the program and getting to know these girls, Naila was the one that kept repeating in my mind to meet and inspire these girls.  And, she did!  ‘The bike allows you to go at your own pace and that’s how you need live your life – at YOUR own pace and nobody elses.’  She engaged the girls in a way that they all could understand.  I was inspired.  I’ve only been in Nai’s presence a couple of times when she’s doing her thing and yesterday, she just reconfirmed how much she loves what she does and how good she is at it.  These girls are still sponges when it comes to opportunities and I want ‘Girls in Gear’ to be this eight-week tsunami of opportunities and experiences that they all soak in and hopefully use throughout their lives.  Thank you, Nai!

After, the girls received their bikes, we practiced the correct way to lock up your bike and then we took one last group ride together through the neighborhood.  We also rode on W. Broad St!  If any of you reading this are familiar with Broad St, it’s an inner-city highway that runs East and West.  I pulled the girls over before getting on Broad St. and asked them how they felt and they WERE READY TO CONQUER!  One of my graduates from the first round of ‘Girls in Gear’ Keagan took the very back of the group while I was in front.  She was fantastic at being the end leader :)

I’m currently recruiting for the next cycle and will be heading back to the Hilltop YMCA as they would love to have another round of ‘Girls in Gear.’  The girls from this round are all ready excited to come back and help mentor the upcoming round of young girl leaders.

Enjoy the pics.

Be safe and keep riding

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Yes, I know I’m overdue for a post.  Here it is:  ‘Girls in Gear’ round 2.  One of the summer program locations for the awesome ‘Girls in Gear’ is Gladden Community House.  I fell in love with this place a couple of years ago.  The kids that spend time here are full of love and big, huge smiles (most of them :)).

When I presented my program over there, they jumped at it and LOVED the idea.  So, since June 10th, I’ve been over there empowering five young girls and let me tell you, it’s been incredible.  These girls absolutely have fallen in love with ‘Girls in Gear.’  Thus far, we have taught the girls:  bicycle safety, basic bicycle mechanics, nutrition education, and they are currently working on the ‘community urband design’ portion of the program.  Monday, we performed a walk-audit of the neighborhood and they were extremely engaged.

I feel truly humbled to have created this program.  Not only is this a one of a kind program, I think what contributes to making ‘Girls in Gear’ so incredible are all of the female professionals helping me make it awesome.  They understand and believe that more young girls need the confidence and need to feel that they can pursue any career that they want.  These young girls need the motivation and positive reinforcement by adults that they can have engineer careers, that they can use their bikes as main modes of transportation, and that should something break on their bikes – they have full ability to fix it themselves.

“Girls in Gear’ is so much more than just a ‘bicycling program.’  It’s motivation.  It’s self-reliance building.  It’s self-esteem building.  It’s teaching them technical skills and healthy decision making at an early and cruical age where they can begin a pattern of lifelong decision making that’ll influence the rest of their lives.  ‘Girls in Gear’ is about mentorship and investment in these young leaders.

Here are a few photos of the current ‘Girls in Gear’ at Gladden Community House in the Franklinton neighborhood.

Be safe and keep riding!

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The girls decorated helmets and explained why it’s important to wear helmets when riding

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Kelly of ‘Green Bean Delivery’ taught two ‘Nutrition Education’ sessions to the girls.  Lots of yummy samples came along with learning!

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Anna of ROLL going over the parts of the bicycle.  In Session 2, the girls remembered and could recite 95% of the bicycle terminology

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Session 1 – the girls learned and changed multiple flat tires all by themselves.  Pretty awesome to watch

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Session 2 of bike mechanics.  The girls practicing release brakes and tires; both front and rear.

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Team work!!

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Emily of Paradise Garage

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Emily and Anna both showing the girls how to maintain and clean your bikes.

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Bicycle Safety / Group riding day!

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Aren’t they beauty’s!

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Mimi of Trek Bicycles came out and helped out.  We did a couple parking lot drills with signage and then rode as a group through Franklinton

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Seriously, how beautiful is this image!!!

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Session 1 of ‘Community Urban Design.’  The girls are comparing what makes a ‘friendly’ street and what makes an ‘un-friendly’ street

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The girls looking and planning out our ‘walkability’ study around the neighorhood.

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The incredible Amanda Golden (City & Regional Planner) came and taught the first session of ‘Community Urban Design’ to the girls.  P.S.  the girls LOVED their helmets I got them so much that they showed up on Monday wearing them.  They literally didn’t take them off.  Case and point above :)

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Standing and discussing the eye-sore and ‘uncomfortable’ feeling when passing in front of vacant homes.  Unfortunately, this is a common visual in the Franklinton neighborhood.

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Amanda and the girls rating their walk/neighborhood with a ‘walk audit’.

 

 

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I’ve heard Mayor Coleman speak dozens of times and there’s one sentence that has stuck with me for years.  Yes, years b/c I heard it years ago during one of his ‘Bikin’ Mike,’ ‘Bike to Work Week’ public appearances.  He said, ‘if we (as a city) remain status-quo, we’ll continue to get left behind.’  Obviously, this is in reference to bicycling within Columbus.

In 2009, Columbus received its first ‘Bronze Award’ for ‘Bike-Friendly Community.’  It’s an award given through the national bicycling organization – League of American Bicyclists.  You have to apply for it, give very detailed information regarding all the bicycle facilities that have been implemented and projects that are currently in progress.  In 2009, Columbus was awarded the Bronze.  It’s 2013, four years later and guess what…  we’re still a Bronze.  Bicycling Magazine named the Top 50 bike-friendly cities in the country and we have remained in the lower 1/3 on that list – 34.

The top cities as you can gather:  Minneapolis, Portland, San Francisco, D.C., Seattle, and Tucson to name a few.  These cities are designing their streets with ’8-80′ in mind.  This means their planners and engineers are designing and inviting EVERYONE to ride and feel safe while they’re riding.  They are installing protected bike lanes, bike boxes at intersections, dedicated bike signals, and painting their bike lanes green so that these lanes are clearly visible to all users on the road.  They are clearly making biking a priority and they are showing with these types of infrastructure projects that there’s more to the 21st century transportation mix than just cars.  These cities are at top of the list b/c they have the political will, they aren’t afraid to upset people b/c are noticing that many more ppl WANT alternatives to move around their city.  And when you give them well-designed infrastructure to ride, they are going to ride.

We ARE being left behind b/c our political will is….lack luster when it comes to REAL bicycle infrastructure and the most recent / perfect example is South High St.

Yesterday, I was biking home, using South High and noticed something new.  Sharrows placed north and south on S. High St. from Livingston Ave. to Thurman Ave.  I was upset.  If you all know S. High St. it is yet another inner-city freeway – CLEARLY in need of being slowed.  I layed in bed last night tossing and turning b/c I know that S. High is yet another street we’ve lost an opportunity to redesign in the CORRECT way and I’m about to break it down for you all.

This morning, I went to S. High and I did some work.  I took some chalk and photos and I’m going to show you that this street HAD every capability to have bike lanes in both direction and if the city really wanted to ‘WOW’ us, they could have created the city’s first protected bike lanes.

Let’s proceed.

I took measurements in three different intersections of S. High to see if this street’s width altered at all.  It didn’t.

S.High St. width- in all three intersection measurements that I did – spanning from Livingston Ave to just before Thurman Ave = 66ft wide (from curb to curb)

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This is initial shot (image above) I took of where the parked cars are and one of the sharrows in the right travel lane

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This is the intersection of S. High St and Frankfort St.  As you can see from my chalk markings – the parking lane is 8ft wide (average parking width) however, from the blue chalk line to the boundary of the white-dotted lines that separate the travel lanes, the right travel lane is 15 ft wide.  Completely UNACCEPTABLE that a lane is 15ft wide!  When you have a lane 15ft wide, you are INVITING cars to speed!  The left travel lane is 10ft wide.  The same measurements going in the opposite direction.

A bike lane is usually 5 ft wide.  Clearly, what SHOULD have been done was to reduce that 15ft travel lane to 10ft in both directions.  This frees up 10ft (5ft in each direction) to be used to create bike lanes.  Now, here’s where political will and being bold comes in, the city could have bumped the cars out from the curb 5ft creating a protected bike lane and slowing the traffic.  The protected bike lane would essentially be protected from moving traffic due to the parked cars.  And, this type of facility creates an even bigger buffer for the pedestrians.  ‘Dooring?’ well, that issue / concern would be drastically reduced b/c the bike rider is traveling on the side -the passenger door and over 80% of drivers these days are ‘Single-Occupancy Vehicles, SOV’ – meaning driver only.

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Just a shot of moving traffic.  But this also shows the extreme width of this street.  S. High St. has pockets of mixed-use buildings however,  development is not increasing on this street and hasn’t b/c of the design of this street.  It is clearly a street to move cars north and south at a minimum of 40mph.  Let me also state that if bike lanes were installed and / or the protected bike lanes installed – there would have been no removal of parking nor the removal of any travel lanes.

Then there’ s this and I’m sorry its so small.

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This image is our city’s ‘Bicentennial Bikeways Plan’ which was approved in 2008.  The bottom of this page shows what the colors mean. ‘Existing and Proposed Bicycle Network Downtown Columbus’ and if you can see the dotted blue key means ‘bike lane.’  Scroll up to the image of the city streets and if you can read, S. High St. it shows ‘proposed bike lane.’  So, what has changed from 2008 to now??  The street width sure hasn’t.  Now, S. High St. wasn’t an ‘automatic’ for getting bike lanes but clearly the individuals in charge thought in 2008 that S. High St was wide enough to get bike lanes and once again we’ve resulted in lack luster infrastructure i.e. sharrows.  Our ‘Bicentennial Bikeways Plan’ is slowly turning into the ‘Bicentennial Sharrows Plan.’  Sharrows do not slow down traffic and they do not invite the mother who wants to hop on her bike with a trailor in tow with her kid to bike on a street this fast and this wide.

Why does Columbus continually remain in the lower 1/3 list of ‘bike-friendly cities,’ this is the a perfect example.  We had an opportunity and took the easy way out.  We’re keeping drivers happy with not changing the design of our street and we’re not doing anything to invite new bike riders to explore our city.

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What new rider (man or woman) is going to feel ‘safer’ now that sharrows are placed on this street?  It doesn’t change the fact that the right lane is STILL 15ft wide.

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The speed limit on this street is 35mph however, due to the nature of this poorly designed street, the cars easily go 45mph.

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Both of the images above are of the only real area where folks walk from the downtown buildings.  This area is also the only cluster of businesses and half of these business turn over.  I can guarantee that one of the main reasons there’s high turnover with these businesses is b/c of the street design.  When you’re going 40mph, you’re clearly driving to your destination and nothing more.  This area has every opportunity to develop.  You have three neighborhoods that are walking distance yet you hardly see walkers on S. High St. and it’s b/c of this street design.

Question:  Do you prefer to stroll down High St. in the Shorth North or Gay St.?  Or would you want to walk down S. High St?  Aside from this cluster of ever-changing bars/restaurants, there’s NOTHING to draw you, nothing to invite you to walk down S. High St.  It’s not comfortable.  And this will remain until the street scape is changed with all users in mind.

This post is about accountability.  The tireless bike advocates can continue to teach safety and educate people on bikes but the fact remains that perceived safety and traffic speed are two of the biggest barriers that keep more people from riding.  Our streets need to be changed and redesigned with an ’8-80′ mentality.  Sharrows are ‘status-quo.’

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About eight months ago, I had my two friends Mimi Webb and Jeannie Martin join me for a beer so that I could present them with an idea.  I went to California the end of last summer for two separate Bicycle Conferences.  At both conferences, there were specific ‘women forums’ to continue to forward efforts of increasing women ridership here in the U.S.  Leaving California, I was both inspired and new what I had to do in Ohio.  Fast forward to the evening with Mimi and Jeannie.  I told them I planned to organize the first statewide ‘Ohio Women’s Bicycling Summit’ and would they be interested in joining me in this effort.  Immediately, they said ‘hell yes!”  So, for eight months, Jeannie, Mimi, and myself met and planned out this Summit.

Interest and excitement generated, immediately.  Our main sponsors, ROLL and Trek were absolutely incredible.  Then, Detroit’s ‘Autobike’ got in touch with us.  ARC Imaging donated printing costs for us.  And last but not least, food trucks!  OH! Burgers! and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams sponsored and killed it during lunch time :)  Green Bean Delivery covered all of the yummy fruits during the Summit.  Thank you to all the talented and incredible speakers:  Lisa Hinson, Tammy Krings, Marjorie Shavers, Lindsay Sherman, Lindsey Bower, Emily Burnett, Ohio’s First Lady Karen Kasich, Julie Walcoff, and Rep. Teresa Fedor.

72 women from around the state of Ohio and two women from Indiana.  The overwhelming positive responses from both the attendees and the presenters was absolutely amazing.  The Summit ran without any huge hiccups.  Women were learning, asking questions, laughing, meeting new women, and just enjoying themselves.

I’m grateful for such an amazing first Summit.  This will turn into an annual event.  My main focus is making our city inviting and safe to more modes of transportation.  Men, women, and children deserve ‘choice’ to be able to move about our cities and feel safe doing so.  Us advocates can provide the education; can organize bike rides to build confidence; but there are other components in making people feel that ‘choice,’ in moving around is priority:  political will and infrastructure.  Our wide, arterial streets need to be road dieted and designed with protected bike lanes.  The perception of safety is what I feel a lot of our engineers are missing.  I’ll say it until the light bulb goes off, ‘sharrows do not invite families to ride and feel safe on arterial streets that are four + lanes across and each lane 12+ wide.  Road diets, the narrowing of lanes, and an integrated bicycle network of green lanes, protected lanes, bike boxes, etc. will announce that our leaders are serious about inviting people of all ages to move around the city.  Our leaders making decisions need to be okay with hearing complaints instead of trying to please everyone.  When you create change, you’re gonna hear complaints but the only way to change behavior is to change the infrastructure.  You’re NOT changing the infrastructure when you lay down sharrows.

We have a long way to go and we’re doing better but…  we could be doing even MORE.  We can be building and piloting innovative and bold infrastructure that IS WORKING in other cities.  If we continue to remain status- quo as a city, we’ll continue to get left behind.

Some photos from the first ‘Ohio Women’s Bicycling Summit.’

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Be safe and keep riding!

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If you follow my blog or just have seen some of my recent blog posts, you can gauge that I’m passionate about empowering women and providing them with the tools to feel confident to ride their bikes more.  I’ve began this great monthly ladies ride ’2 Wheels & Heels’ which spun from the original up in Cleveland via Lindsey Bower.  There is a niche that’s been missing here in Columbus, Ohio and it’s this inclusive group that I’ve initiated and just with word of mouth and social media, seems to grow like wildfire.

Aside from bringing together all levels of women riders, I wanted to empower younger girls.  Over the summer, I read this amazing research paper by Elizabeth Jose discussing how there really weren’t any girls-specific youth empowerment programs through the bicycle.  The light bulb went off and I knew after reading that paper that I was the right woman for the job; hence – ‘Girls in Gear.’

It is an eight week program held once a week.  There are four areas of study that this program encompasses:

1.  Bicycle Safety.  Learning the basics of bicycle safety over a two week period (lighting at night, hand signals, proper helmet fitting, ABC quick check of bike, door zone, etc.

2.  Bicycle Mechanics.  Two women professionals will come in over a two week period and go over the anatomy of the bicycle, fixing a flat exercises, gear shifting, bike cleaning and maintenance, and brakes.

3.  Urban Design.  Two women professional will come in over a two week period and discuss the basics of urban design and planning.  We’ll be conducting an audit of two streets in which the girls will then have the opportunity to re-create these two streets into their ideal, ‘safe’ street for all.

4.  Public Speaking.  The girls will then discuss in the class how they came up with their street designs.

Upon full completion of their eight weeks, the girls will be awarded a bicycle along with the opportunity to meet Mayor Coleman.  The idea is to not only discuss ‘Girls in Gear’ but to also present their newly designed streets to the Mayor and talk to him about their creations.

I want this program to continue to flourish and expand as far as it can go.  Middle school age is very tough age.  Developmental changes, physical changes, peer pressure – all these components that over consume a young girl.  Girls in Gear empowers them to learn how to fix things, problem solve, communicate, design streets to which maybe one or two them will end up going to school for City Planning or Urban Landscape Architecture – all professions that are still heavily male dominated.  The four areas of focus in this program revolve around the bike however, these development tools can be manipulated to fit into any part of a young girls life and well into adulthood.

I’m just finished my fourth week yesterday and as each week progresses, the girls just impress me more and more.

Enjoy the photos.

Stay safe and keep riding

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Keegan created a ‘bike safety poster on ‘Sharing the Road.’

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Lindsey’s poster was on ‘reflective clothing.’

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Abigail’s was also on ‘Share the Road,’ the ‘do’s’ and ‘dont’s.’

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Anna from Roll and Emily from Paradise Garage were the two mechanics teaching the girls the basics.  They did fabulous!

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Showing the girls the ‘bare bones’ of the bicycle

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After Emily and Anna went through the steps of changing a flat, the four girls practice.  All four changed a flat by themselves.  It was fantastic!

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Abigail pumping up the tire she just changed.

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Alijah and Lindsey changing another flat.  These girls ARE impressive!

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Alijah and Lindsey both practicing releasing the brake, using the quick release and removing both front and rear tires.

 

 

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So yesterday was a good day to be on my bike.  Well, every day is a good day (unless its super cold and my toes and fingers go numb) but I captured random things happening on the bicycle as you’ll see below.  Hope you all enjoyed the BEAUTIFUL sunny day we had yesterday.  I finished my Safe Routes to School at Sullivant Elem. and then sun bathed over at Scioto Mile until my 5pm meeting.

This lady was commuting down Front:

Lockin up during the wind storm!

Enjoying the Mile:

Looking at these bike riders, I was going for getting the depth of the rider in the background as the two riders were resting in the foreground.

This rider was rockin’!  Talk about towin’ your bike…  while riding a bike!  AND he managed to give me a thumbs up!  Impressive to say the least! :)

How awesome is this photo below?  I was literally riding down Rich St. and I caught this guy proposing to his g/f.  I was meant to capture this b/c as you can see there is a ROCKIN’ tandem in the background.  Totally meant to be!  I hope they’re very happy.

Some good captured moments in the city via two-wheels.

Keep riding!

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I ‘unofficially’ helped out and biked my friend and her stylish daughter to school for the first time this morning.  It was super fun.  Daughter ‘A’ was a bit nervous riding in the road which is to be expected but she kicked butt.  My friend told me that her daughter was so excited this morning when she woke up.  Her daughter said, ‘mom, today we ride to school!’  That is awesome.    On days where I’m not in early morning meetings or doing Safe Routes on the west side, I’m going to gladly offer my help to my friend and her daughter.  Lots of kids were staring as we rode to school which is great b/c my hope is to have my friend and her daughter bicycle as much as possible and be the ‘trendsetters,’ heading to and from this particular school where maybe another parent will want to join.  That’s the whole point, showing everyone that it CAN be done.  You gotta start from a seed.

Keep riding.

..and yes, that is a Barbie on a bike – mounted on her handlebars :)

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