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Archive for the ‘Safety’ Category

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:

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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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Last week, I returned from a week long trip to Los Angeles.  I was awarded by the wonderful Alliance for Biking & Walking, a seat at their National ‘Open Streets’ Conference.  If any of you reading this don’t know what Open Streets is its an initiative where you temporarily close streets down to autos and open them up for the people.  During this time which is between 4-8hrs of street closure and usually on a Sunday, car traffic is replaced with people traffic.  People can bike, walk, skateboard, do yoga, dance, sit, and many other activities. Open Streets is an initiative I’ve been obsessed about for well over three years.  The first time I had heard about it and saw pictures, I immediately knew the benefits that a movement like this could produce for cities.

There have been well over 90 documented Open Streets here in the U.S. alone and global cities such Cape Town, Bogota, and Wellington hold ‘Open Streets’ initiatives of their own.  In Bogota, its such a way of life that ‘Ciclovia’ happens every Sunday.  What’ s so appealing about Open Streets?  Well, when we, as adults think of ‘playing’ in the streets, we think of only childhood memories.  We’ve become so engrained with streets ‘belonging’ to cars and that’s it.  WRONG.  Streets are under utilized.  They are so much more than parking and traffic.

How is an initiative like Open Streets different than say a festival or block party?   I’m glad you asked.  The core objectives are fundamentally different. Indeed, Open Streets are typically part of a broader city or organizational effort to encourage sustained physical activity, increase community engagement, and build support for the provision of broader transportation choices.

The National Open Streets Conference I attended brought experts from cities all over the U.S., Africa, and New Zealand to share experiences and best practices about their planning process of Open Streets.  Substanial data has been collected that shows how transformational holding an Open Streets in your city can be (feast yourself on delicious data here:  www.openstreetsproject.com)

I remember last week, Jeff Miller of the Alliance asked aloud, ‘raise your hand if this will be your first CicLAvia.’  A few of us (including myself) raised our hands.  Immediately, you heard the crowd make an ‘oooooooooooh’ remark meaning, you’re mind’s going to be blown.  My spunky response was, ‘no shit.’  I knew what I was prepared for.  CicLAvia is Los Angeles’ ‘Open Streets.’  The demand for CicLAvia is so high that L.A. now holds CicLAvia three times a year.  Their most recent route was six miles of street closure…. on the iconic Wilshire Blvd.  Let me repeat myself SIX MILES OF STREET CLOSURE… for six hours.

Los Angeles aka ‘Carmageddon’ / traffic sewer city of the U.S. has one of the most successful Open Streets movements in the world.  Over 100,000 people come and enjoy miles upon miles of car-free streets.  Being able to experience L.A.s CicLAvia was a dream for me.  My pictures didn’t do justice for the sights that I saw.  I think my favorite visions were of ALL of the families.  So many families out enjoying their city at a slow pace.   Nobody got angry.  No aggressive horns.  No cars intimidating you.  Strangers smiling and talking to one another.  Businesses along the route bolstering with people hopping off their bikes and supporting.  Music on corners, art being painted, and streets being alive.  

One of the most powerful acknowledgements happened.  My friend Marc said, ‘look around at all these families.  It’s not that there’s a deficiency of families not being able to afford bikes, its the fact that they don’t feel like there’s a safe place to ride.’  When he said that aloud, it slapped me in the face.  I saw families with four and five kids; all of them had bikes.  It was so true.  And I wonder, how that relates to here in Columbus.  There’s also a huge health undertone to this initiative.  Not only are these initiatives reimaging streets where people walk and bike as a form of transportation, but, there’s such an appeal to this ‘urban playground’ where people are out for hours being physically active.  I remember I thought I would be at CicLAvia for only 3-4 hours.  Nopers.  I was there from 830am -4p!  You take your time and stop along the route and engage in activities.  You talk to people.  You stop in the middle of the street and let the sun shine on your face, why?  Because you can!  

After my conference, I came back here and have been more dedicated than ever before of making Columbus Open Streets a reality in 2014.  I have the best momentum that I’ve had in all 2 1/2 years I’ve been trying to put this thing together.  I know that once Columbus gets a taste of the first Open Streets, the demand will be created and there WILL be more.  The beautiful thing about Open Streets is that it attracts such a wide variety of audiences coming from numerous neighborhoods where just like San Francisco’s ‘Sunday Streets’ this initiative can move from one community to another, showcasing the uniqueness of each neighborood.  This movement connects people.  

The city of Columbus has approved 1.4 miles of downtown street closure for the first Open Streets.  The tentative date; Sunday September 28th from 10a-2p.  While it’s not six miles, it’s a great first ‘Open Streets’ route.  Again, this first Open Streets will introduce both the people of this city and city staff to how effective and beneficial Open Streets are, and the subsequent ones to follow will be that much easier to organize.   I’ll keep y’all updated on Columbus’ progress.  Also, if any of you reading this have businessses that would be interested in supporting financially, message me.    

Enjoy the pics.

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Woman just cruisin’ down Wilshire.

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From left:  Erika, Misty, and Ryan.  My CicLAvia peepsphoto 3 (3)

 

Of course, dogs have a place in these kinds of initiatives!
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Walking herephoto 4 (10)

This was the cutest!  Father and daughter time.  My heart filled up seeing this sight time and time again.photo 3 (12)

 

So of course, I spoke to this dude.  He was awesome.  He comes to CicLAvia every time it happens.  He loves it and thinks it’s wonderful for the all the people.photo 4 (12)

One of the businesses filled up with people supporting local businessphoto 4 (18)

Right when CicLAvia started in the morning.  I caught this little guy.  photo 1 (12)

 

One of the many wonderful volunteers keeping order during the mandatory dismount zone.  photo 3 (9)

Just a bunch of people, waiting at the red light.  Wouldn’t you rather this than lines of cars?  Can’t get any more human than this!
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The dismount zone / pedestrian zone.  
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There’s me!  I was just so swoonie seeing all the kids having so much fun!  Growing up and being a part of this movement!photo 2 (7)

This image captures the essence of what streets can look like when you replace car traffic with beautiful people traffic.  photo 1 (6)

 

As far as the eye can see……  PEOPLE bringing the streets to life.

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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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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.

halloween ride 1 halloween ride 2 halloween ride 3 halloween ride 4 halloween ride 5 halloween ride 7 halloween ride 8 halloween ride 9 halloween ride 10 halloween ride 11 halloween ride 12 halloween ride 13 halloween ride 14 halloween ride 15

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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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