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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.

owbs3

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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This is going to be my one and only blog written about helmets.  This topic, in my personal opinion is a waste of my time but I feel the need to balance current statements that have been made regarding a recent photo that was taken and published in the Dispatch:

owbs pic

As many of you know, the three of us just recently executed our first and very successful statewide ‘Ohio Women’s Bicycling Summit.’  This was the photo published  in the Dispatch and you can imagine the comments and judgments that took place once this photo was released.

Only in America does it seem like there’s this war regarding helmets so let’s stop and figure out why.  Why do we wear helmets?  We wear helmets for ‘protection,’ right?  Who are we protecting ourselves from:  drivers and our cities that have been built to solely accommodate the automobile.  If you wear a helmet – you’re a safe bike rider.  If you don’t – you’re reckless.   I’m as safe of a bike rider as they come.   I wear a helmet about 98% of the time I’m on my bike so when I make that CHOICE to not wear a helmet, why do you take it upon yourself to judge me and reduce my safe bike riding; because I don’t conform to your standards?  Just because I don’t wear a helmet, that doesn’t make me more reckless of a bike rider or less credible of a bicycling advocate.

The staunch opponents out there need not be so quick to judge and think about a few things:

  1. Helmets help save lives, however, they do NOT prevent crashes from happening.
  2. We need to stop wasting time on the ‘blame game’ of who is and who isn’t wearing helmets and move forward to trying to change our infrastructure and slow down our streets.   The only way to change behavior is to change the infrastructure.   When you slow down a street with traffic calming elements, road diets, bicycle infrastructure, and pedestrian infrastructure – it not only increases livability within the street, it increases more walkers and bikers which in result increases safety and decreases crashes.
  3. Steve Barbour, Michelle Kazlausky,  Dr. Deborah Ehrlich and William Crowley are just four folks that come to mind whom all except Dr. Ehrlich were fatally hit AND were wearing helmets.  Dr. Ehrlich barely survived.  She was right hooked by a semi.  Again, infrastructure.

The focus must be moved to redesigning and changing our infrastructure which slows down cars and safely allows all users to move about.  Are you going to stigmatize me and anyone else who hops certain lights b/c they don’t detect us?  Do you know that if an intersection goes through two cycles w/out detecting a bike rider, we are legally allowed to hop the light or are you going to immediately make the judgment like most ppl do that I am a reckless rider and not take into consideration that our infrastructure has been built solely for the auto?   If you’re unwilling to see that ‘we’ a car-centric country has created these dangerous cities in which people die and that it is the way our cities have been built and not whether someone is wearing a helmet or not then I’m happy to be your scapegoat.

I’d like to also insert that in 2008, 4,387 pedestrians were killed in traffic and nobody is suggesting for them to wear helmets.  Where is the outrage in pedestrians being killed by motor vehicles?  It’s an increasing epidemic and yet there has been no public outrage.   Bicycling needs to be seen as both safe and fun and that everyone can do without special clothing or gear or feeling the need to ‘armor’ up (perfect example here – a national bicycling webpage:  http://www.peopleforbikes.org/blog/entry/send_a_pro-bike_letter_to_your_local_newspaper).   Over the age of 18, we as adults have the ‘choice’ to either wear a helmet or not.  I don’t need to feel looked down upon or targeted should I choose on rare occasions to not wear my helmet.

Before you continue to waste both my time and yours judging me on the basis of my not wearing a helmet during a photo shoot, use that energy and write a letter to your local representatives advocating for safer bicycling infrastructure and enforcement of lowering our traffic speeds within our cities.

From 1997-2006, there have been 424, 840 motor traffic fatalities (NHTSA), maybe drivers should start wearing driving helmets:

driver helmet

This is in fact an actual helmet for driving.  When a bicyclist is fatally hit or seriously injured, the first question asked shouldn’t be, ‘was she/he wearing a helmet?’  It should be about the environment of where the accident took place.  Did you know that the majority of accidents happen in urban main arterials of cities? (NHTSA)  This leads me to once again acknowledge infrastructure.  Our inner- city streets are nothing short of inner-city freeways; five lanes across, no less than 12ft lane width, infinite sight distance, and let’s not forget the timed traffic lights working as an accomplice to speeding and safety concerns.

Our society has become fat and lazy when it comes to putting cars in their place.  Tailgating on freeways going 75mph is the new ‘black.’  Complete stops have become ‘rolling stops.’  ‘Stop bars’ aren’t paid attention to and if a crosswalk is more than six feet deep, that apparently gives a car permission to stop INSIDE the crosswalk and we continue to let this happen.

We need to move beyond whether a person on a bike was armored up with a helmet or not.  Once you understand that it’s not about the helmet – that it’s about our unsafe infrastructure then maybe you’ll put forth your efforts to creating a more ‘people-friendly’ city.  Hopefully soon, our cities’ infrastructure will be balanced enough to where you may walk out of your house, hop on your bike and in mid-riding say to yourself, ‘I forgot my helmet.’  We need to encourage, not discourage.  Our cities need the voices of people who ride bikes to unify and fight as allies, not judgmental enemies.  Again, this post is written based upon my personal opinion, on my personal blog and nothing more.

Be safe and keep riding.

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