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Archive for the ‘Safe Routes to School’ Category

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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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:

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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:

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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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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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This past week, my program Girls in Gear moved into Urban Design, something I am very passionate about.  Opening up people’s eyes at how our streets have been designed and how they can be so much more.

These girls, like the majority of our citizens have only viewed streets for one purpose – to get cars from point A to point B.  Next time you take a walk, be conscious of if you even have sidewalks to walk on.  So many of our neighborhoods especially the lower income neighborhoods, sidewalks have been eradicated to make more room for travel lanes.

Opening up these girls eyes and minds showing them how much more a street can be is critical.  They should know that they deserve simple infrastructure such as a sidewalk when walking to school.  They shouldn’t be ‘immune’ to gun-shells and used syringes in their playgrounds.  The design of a neighborhood creates the tone in how a community will use that neighborhood.  If you’re neighborhood is destroyed by four lane wide streets with cars moving at 4o mph, chances are there will be very little social interactions and enjoyment on these streets.

Aside from the aesthetics of a street, the people behind the scenes creating these streets are predominantly men.  I want these girls to know and believe that if they want to become planners, architects, or engineers when they grow up, they have just as good of a chance as men.  Have you ever stepped outside your house and taken a walk or a bike ride and stopped to collect the way that you ‘feel’ on a particular street?  Do you feel safe?  Intimidated?  Is the street pleasant to be on?  Is it soft with textures of trees, lights, benches, few travel lanes,gardens, etc.  or is cold and isolated with a slab of concrete serving one purpose – to get you to your destination?

The majority of our streets have been designed by men.  Imagine what our streets would look and feel like if the majority of them were designed by women?   The majority of our streets built today are not women and children friendly in my opinion.  This is one of the reasons I’m introducing Urban Design to these young girls.  When a street is designed with women and children in mind, everyone will feel safer experiencing that street.

Enjoy the pics.

Be safe and keep riding.

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Took the girls on a walk audit to score two streets.

 

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Group discussion as we wait to cross the street.

 

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The girls discussing what they saw and felt on the two streets we scored.

 

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Abby Downs discussing streets more than just places for cars.

 

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The girls beginning their designs of their ideal bikeable / walkable streets.

 

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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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