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A few weeks ago, my friend and Editor-in-Chief of FIT Columbus Magazine (Chelsea Castle) reached out and asked if I wanted to write a piece on bicycling for the magazine and while I did, I took the opportunity in a different direction that I feel is a necessary direction;  beginning to dissect driving behavior and why we drive the way we do.  I’ve been borderline obsessed with driving behaviors and the disruption of routines; anonymity and assumed entitlement when it comes to the driving culture to where I feel if I can construct this topic in the right way, this could make for a thought-provoking TED Talk which I plan on trying.

Anyways…  here’s the beginning:

614 mag

When was the last time you were caught in a light, misty summer rain and loved every minute of it?  How about one of those Southwest-style sunsets that burst hues of orange, purple and pink, making it physically impossible to do anything but stop and be in it? Those are just two personal experiences I’ve had when riding my bike. The particular summer night when I was caught in the light rain, I smiled the whole time and never felt more alive. Those sunsets I’ve experienced, I literally lost my breath and had to pull my bike over because I couldn’t not appreciate what was happening.

Riding a bike has changed my life. From a health perspective, incorporating my bike as an everyday mode of transport, exercise has become as routine as brushing my teeth. The best thing is that it’s become so integrated, I don’t see it as exercise but as a vehicle to get me to my destination. We think we need high-intensity workouts to keep us in shape, when studies have shown that incorporating bicycle commuting into your daily life improves mental health, lowers risk for cardiovascular disease and can actually increase physical performance as much as specific training programs What if you switched out two errands per month using your bike instead of your car?  Try it.   

I was asked to write a guest piece on bicycle etiquette and safety, but I feel compelled to begin a bigger story; I advocate and fight like hell for safer streets in Columbus. But what does that mean? It’s simple: we need to design cities for people, not cars. For decades, the scales have been tipped in favor of car culture; five-lane-wide streets, one-way roads and very little urban beautification. When you have wide streets with nothing of interest to look at, you get in and get out as quickly as possible.  We drive based upon the design of our streets. Think about how fast you can drive on Broad Street then think about how fast you can drive on Gay Street.

When we combine streets designed for speeding cars with human beings going three to four times slower by way of walking or biking, the clash begins. Why? Why is there such hostility to the point of violence? Bikes are legally considered vehicles; bikers should be following the same rules. Most of us do. Some of us don’t, and as a bicycle advocate constantly fighting for safer streets, it pisses me off when I see unsafe behavior. But there’s a flip side to that coin; drivers are just as unlawful, sometimes more. Driving has become so commonplace and such a “thoughtless” task that we’ve become lazy and fat behind the wheel; corners are cut because we consider ourselves better than average drivers. 

What’s it going to take for us all to play nice in the sandbox? I wish I had the answer, but no matter which way you slice it, you’re always going to have the haters who can’t, or won’t, get along. What I want everyone who reads this to know is that when you see me riding my bike, I’m a twin sister and a daughter, a breathing human being and NOT a “cyclist” or a “pedestrian.” Maybe when we start to see each other as human beings instead of these polarizing, sterile identities, the curtain of animosity will be lifted away—forcing us to reintroduce empathy and acknowledge the individual trying to get to her destination safely, instead of just an object slowing us down.

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This Saturday,  the 2nd Annual ‘OWBS’ will take place at the awesome Strongwater Food & Spirits event space.  Two years ago, I was at a bike advocate conference in Long Beach.  At this conference we held a ‘Women’s Forum’ discussing ways in which we can engage more women in the U.S. and Canada to ride bikes.  Currently, women commuting on bikes only make up just over 25%.  Some women feel intimidated b/c they rarely see others ‘like them’ riding.  Some may want to ride but they aren’t sure where or how to begin.  Some want to be educated more.  Some fear of being harrassed.  This list can go on.  So, during this ‘Women’s Forum’ in Long Beach, we all started to shout out our goals once we’d return to our home base.  My pledge, ‘I will organize the first statewide ‘Ohio Women’s Bicycling Summit’ in 2013!’  With some help from co-organizers Jeannie and Mimi, we made this happen.  Over 70 women from around Ohio (and two from Indiana) and nine presenters attended and presented at the ‘Ohio Women’s Bicycling Summit.’

In my opinion, it was very well received.  We got great feedback to where this Saturdays’ Summit, all of the topics are based upon what the attendees wanted to hear more about or become more educated in.  I worked extremely hard of the financial sponsors for this years Summit.  We have over 14 sponsors who believe in our mission and understand that when more women ride, the ripple effect of kids, families as a whole, happens.  This Summit does not exclude men.  Men are more than welcome to join us (we have a gentleman speaker) this Saturday, however, it is women-specific.  Why?  Because there is still a disparity out there.  There are still many women who better identify when hearing similar experiences…from a woman instead of a man.  You don’t hear very often men being sexually harrassed while riding their bike or that some women have unfortunately been the victim of men actually driving by and touching them and slapping them.  These are two examples I’ve just recentlly heard.

This past Saturday, myself and fellow bicycle enthusiast Marjorie Shavers were asked to speak at Bike Indy’s Summit.  Our topic:  Engaging Women.  We had a wonderful discussion and what I really appreciated was how many men stayed and were actively involved in this particular topic.  Men from the bike shop world to engineers to husbands and fathers.  They understand the importance of having more women be seen riding bikes and what that says about your city.

Do I want more people to ride, collectively?  Heck yes!  I know what riding a bike does to one’s life.  Do I want a platform for women to come together to hear about best practices, hear stories, meet others with similar situations – absolutely.  Women empower one another.  There’s a ripple effect that happens when women build upon each other’s strengths and experiences.  If you’re interested in joining us at the 2nd Annual ‘Ohio Women’s Bicycling Summit,’ you can register here: http://bikecleveland.memberlodge.org/events.  Consider biking has partnered with BikeCleveland this year for our registration so don’t get confused with the link 🙂  Thank you, BikeCleveland!

Quick details:  2nd Annual ‘OWBS’ Saturday, May 3; on-sitre registration and mingle 8am-9am.  Summit begins 9a-5p with post-celebratory libations to be had.

Location:  Strongwater Food & Spirits event space.  401 W. Town St. Columbus, Ohio  Find us on Facebook at:  facebook.com/ohiowomensbicyclingsummit

Summit details on topics and speaker bios can be found on the Facebook page as well as: http://www.considerbiking.org

Here a couple pics from last year’s Summit:

lisa and tammyThese two ladies:  Lisa Hinson and Tammy Krings are the Webster definition of ‘badass.’  Two incredible business women whom have taken a leading role in creating a female groundswell for one of the nations biggest Cancer Rides: Pelatonia.

summit attendees

A great shot from behind as the first two speakers, Lisa and Tammy set the stage.

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I was thrilled when Marjorie accepted a speaker position for our first ‘OWBS.’  She was very nervous since she had just become re-aquainted with bicycling however, I felt that Marjorie embodies what the future face of bicycling should look like.  Now, she’s a beast to help engage more women to ride!  SO PROUD!

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An ariel shot of most of the folks from the Summit.  Some were still eating, some had to leave back to their jobs, but this is a pretty great shot!

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Lindsay Sherman of Trek will be giving a much more indepth and hands-on workshop that you can choose from at this year’s Summit.  We thought she had enough time last year.  We were definitely wrong.  Trial and error, right?  The attendees loved it.  She’ll have a great session this year and we’re excited she’s coming back!

Lastly, I wanted to post a snippet of all of our sponsors.  I’m so grateful at how excited and supportive ALL of these businesses have been.

2014 sponsors

 

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The weather for our ride was perfect, the evening of our Halloween Ride.  And to make it complete, my pals from Paradise Garage let me use their awesome Surly to which we strapped a wireless amp to the front and we jammed to music through the streets of Columbus.  Below are just a few of the incredible images that the amazing Jennifer Grimm took of our evening.  Our costume theme was simple:  black skirts and fun, crazy tights!  The girls had a blast and now I’m hooked on having music on every ride 🙂

Keep riding and be safe.

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A handful of months ago, I was on the bus and my phone rings.  It’s my friend Ruth.  Here’s a summary of that convo:

Ruth:  Hey, what are you doing Oct.11th?

Me:   Volunteering for you, for Tedx.

Ruth:  How would like to be on the other side – speaking?

Me:  Don’t tease me.

Ruth:  I’m not.

Long story short, I spoke at this year’s 5 year anniversary TEDx Columbus on Oct. 11th.  My talk was exactly the subject line of this post.  Women and families are going to be the determining factor in how cities can really gauge if they are thriving bike-friendly cities.  If cities really want to know how bike-friendly they, they need to quit with the surveys and get out onto the corners and start counting how many women are riding bikes.  

Thank you, Ruth for believing in me to speak about my passion.  TEDx has been successfully accomplished.  Next:  TED Talk 🙂

Be safe and keep riding

Enjoy.

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I’m late but I have a good excuse:  grant writing, presentation building for public speaking engagements and…. naps 🙂

July’s ride was super duper fantastic.  This month’s ride supported the one and only – Grass Skirt Tiki Room.  Easily 40+ women showed up on a glorious evening for our ride.  We slow biked from Grass Skirt and explored the Bexley neighborhood and it was one of the prettiest rides we went on.  The evening temperature was perfect and the Bexley streets were so quiet and filled with beautiful landscapes and extroardinary homes.  We made our way back by biking through Franklin Park Conservatory, Olde Towne, East, Downtown, and ending at Grass Skirt.

This random route was some of the ladies favorite thus far.  Among the wonderful comments of the evening, I received one that really stuck out.  One woman said she loved my rides b/c she gets to see neighborhoods she’s never been to nor biked through.  She loves seeing all the personalities of the neighborhoods on bike.  I loved hearing that b/c I always wonder if the ladies are enjoying the routes 🙂  The bicycle is so awesome in so many ways.  Bringing diverse women together, building women’s confidence to ride more frequently.  Creating friendships.  Exploring neighborhoods and getting a taste of local businesses they may never have heard of and now would go back and support 🙂

This is a good transition into another reason why my ride always supports 1-2 local businesses.  We still live in the mind frame where a car parked out front of a business means economic impact.  I want these businesses to have that light bulb go off and see that 16 bike riders parked in a parking spot brings a business more money and from a visual perspective, it adds life in front of that business and it peaks spectators interest who are driving past as well.  We need to let go of this idea that parking is ‘end all be all’ of businesses succeeding.  It can also help ease concerns from business owners should a nearby street be redesigned with bicycle facilities.  Any interest in joining this incredibile and diverse group of women on bikes, shoot me an email 🙂

Enjoy the beautiful pics taken by the lovely and awesome Jennifer Grimm

Be safe and keep riding

ally desiree laura marjorie rebeka reda

ride 22 wheels & heels july ride ride 3

 

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We had a fantastic evening ride last night.  We began at Camelot Cellars (thanks, Janine) for our ‘meet & greet.’  As we rounded up, I walk outside and look to both my left and right and bikes were locked up to meters, trees, you name up; up and down the entire block.  It was a beautiful sight!

We rode about 9 miles and through a variety of neighborhoods.  As we were biking east on Long St. I stopped and counted 51 women riders.  I’m really excited to watch the ride continue to grow throughout the summer and beyond.

Enjoy!

Be safe and keep riding

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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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