Supporting Bike-Friendly Ballston

Saturday morning, The Mechanic and I forced ourselves out of bed earlier than we would prefer. The reason? Supporting a protected bike lane for a bike-friendly Ballston. WABA (Washington Area Bicyclists Association) was making the case to the Arlington County Board at the 8:30am Board meeting, and we were going to show support.

The Mechanic and I live close to Quincy Street, and use it on a regular basis. The Mechanic bikes on it to work on a regular basis. We both use it to get to the Ballston Metro station, our favorite restaurants (Kapnos Taverna, yum!), I bike it depending from which direction I return home, not to mention the fact that it’s the street on which the central public library and Washington-Lee High School are located. It’s also the street that offers direct access to the Custis Trail, the multi-use trail that extends between the W&OD Trail and Washington, DC. Quincy Street MapCurrently there is a bike lane painted and faded along most of Quincy. There is a permanent dumpster in the middle of the lane just south of Fairfax Drive, and just south of Wilson Blvd is a new hotel, which means taxis, shuttles and cars of every kind poorly park in the bike lane to pick up or drop off visitors. The bike lane vanishes at Washington Blvd., making for awkward (at best) and uncomfortable traffic mingling. A heavily-used road, drivers along N. Quincy have little patience for anything in their way. Don’t even get me started on pedestrian safety along here! On the BikeArlington Comfort Map, N. Quincy is yellow, or “medium” comfort, with that awkward intersection orange or “difficult.”

Comfort Map Quincy

Snippet from BikeArlington Comfort Map

Comfort Map Suggested Ease

BikeArlington Comfort Map Legend

This stretch is also heavily used by people on bicycles, all kinds of people on bicycles. We’ve seen everything from roadies (well, Freshbikes is located right here) to lower-income people on rickety, beat-up bikes, to families, to an older couple we occasionally see on an odd two-seater tricycle (not a tandem; they sit side by side). These people are headed through Ballston on Quincy to all sorts of destinations: not just the library, but any number of shops and restaurants, Quincy Park for recreation and exercise, the high school for school and events, to visit friends, family, and anything else imaginable to which people travel. It’s a vibrant area, and has the potential to be more so.

Luckily, we aren’t the only ones who think so. The proposal met with positive support, both from the two dozen or so of us who were there, and from the Board members themselves. I’m glad we went – it is nice, for once, to be part of the community building process, and to see something so important to public safety being called a “no-brainer” by County staff. Of course, we’ll be watching to see what happens next. I’m not getting up so early on a Saturday to see my efforts go to waste! If we have to return to another hearing, we will. But for now, I am enjoying the positive vibes.

Bicycle advocacy at work!

Bicycle advocacy at work!

 

Reflecting at and on the Women & Bikes Forum

I was fortunate enough to attend the National Forum on Women & Bicycling, a day before the 2015 National Bike Summit. This was the fourth year in a row for the women & bikes day, and the third year I attended. As promised, I wore my new reflective bomber jacket and my Ligne 8 jeans, and I risked the rain to wear my Dansko Nevin Mary Jane heels. Although the temperatures are no longer flirting with the freezing mark, I still opted for a wool overcoat. But no, I did not bike to the National Forum on Women & Bicycling. I couldn’t get up early enough….  Women Bikes Forum 1

Numbers. Martha Roskowski, the VP of Local Innovation at PeopleforBikes shared some statistics from a recent participation study. Some of the points include the fact that only one-third of people in the US rode a bike last year, 30% of those people rode five days or fewer, and 70% of those people riding for transportation rode to a “leisure time activity,” rather than to work. Martha also said that 39% of women respondents still worry about their personal safety on a bike, that is, they worry getting attacked while they are riding their bikes, and that only 14% of women feel safer than they did five years ago. That’s pretty sad. Elysa Walk of Giant Bicycles said that almost 90% of both men and women have ridden a bike at some point in their lives, but only 44% of women have ridden in the last year, and of those, only 42% rode frequently (sorry, I don’t remember her source). Basically, women ride less as the years go by. I assume this is as their lives get more complicated, and they have children and hobbies and business clothes and meetings or more than one job, or any number of other barriers that keep women from biking. Or maybe they are concerned about their safety, both lack of safe infrastructure and personal safety, and lose confidence and interest. Regardless of the reasons, women are not biking as much as they could be.

"With increasing bicycle infrastructure, there will be more & more women like me."

“With increasing bicycle infrastructure, there will be more & more women like me.”

Speakers. The opening plenary, “A Case Study in Leadership,” featured Ren Barger, the CEO of Tulsa Hub, and her mentor and Tulsa Hub Past Board President Barbara Bannon. Barbara Bannon seems like the kind of woman we should all want in our lives – honest, upfront, intelligent, perceptive, strong, driven, caring funny. The two of them shared how Barbara help Ren grow into a stronger, more skilled CEO while developing Tulsa Hub into a functional organization. I found their partnership inspiring and encouraging. Rue Mapp, CEO and Founder of Outdoor Afro,  was the closing plenary speaker, and also funny and engaging and motivating. Her organization focuses on getting African-Americans in nature, hiking, camping, biking, fishing, and so on, and because I have a strong belief in the need for nature, I really support her mission.

Barbara Bannon, left, and Ren Barger, right

Barbara Bannon, left, and Ren Barger, right

Marketing. Once again, presenters talked about how women are not and have not been represented in marketing, and talked about what they are doing to fix that. Representatives from SRAM, Specialized and Liv Giant are all doing basically the same thing, focusing on building community networks, having “ambassadors” lead events, clinics and rides for women, and focus on the fact that women like social networks. Maria Boustead of Po Campo was the fourth presenter, and the most interesting to me, because she admitted that she started making a product then realized she needed a marketing campaign. Some of the stuff she did was really creative, like hosting a “Braid Bar,” where women could get their hair braided and talk about biking. I liked hearing about Po Campo events because her market is only urban riding, whereas the other three still are geared more towards road and/or mountain biking. Less “bikes as transportation” conversations happening there. Women Bikes Forum 2

Shopping! I don’t only go to the Women & Bikes Forum for the women-owned bike product pop-up shops, but it is a huge plus! I planned on buying “bloomers” from Bikie Girl Bloomers, and she had the turquoise and red polka dots pair that I wanted, yay! Owner Karen and I chatted a bit; she’s only been doing this for two years! I think she has a fabulous product, and I can’t wait to wear mine. I also loved the black pair with the red flames print. I chatted with Susi Wunsch of VeloJoy, Susan Mocarski of Cleverhood, Lara Neece of Forest and Fin and the upcoming Bicycle Wrap Skirt, Robin Bylenga of Pedal Chic, Lani Tarozzi of TandemNYC Skirtweights, and many other creative and talented women who are developing useful and stylish products to help women feel more comfortable while biking. We all have different definitions of comfort, but there are enough options out there that we can find what suits us best. The important thing is to have those options!

My takeaway this year was less inspiration and more thought-provoking. The statistics really make me think about the need for more “comfortable” bike accessibility. I admit that I’m a chicken cyclist – I like my bike lanes and buffered lanes and separated bike lanes, and quiet neighborhood streets. I prefer to ride on streets that have lanes, rather than sharrows or of course nothing at all. I’m not brave like The Mechanic and numerous other men and women I know who bike regularly, although I try to be! I think I am not alone in this. Maybe I need to do more to speak up about my safety concerns, so that planners and developers and city officials and whomever else know that A) I ride my bike B) I shop, pay taxes, and vote C) I dislike being treated as a second class citizen because I don’t drive a car everywhere. Make my city (okay, county) safe for me! And then it will become safer for the children, older people, people with physical challenges, and everyone else in my community. Even those who own cars.

It's not all serious at the #womenbike #NBS15 National Forum on Women & Bicycling!

It’s not all serious at the National Forum on Women & Bicycling!

 

Prepping for the National Forum on Women & Biking

The National Bike Summit is less than three weeks away, and the National Forum on Women & Bicycling before that. I am excited that I am allowed to attend the Women & Bikes Forum again, and intrigued by the League of American Bicyclists’ theme of “Bikes + Women Leaders = Big Ideas.” Always hoping to encourage more women to take leadership roles in the world of bike advocacy, they are showcasing different women and organizations that have taken on these roles in their communities. I am always inspired by hearing these stories, even if I am myself a reluctant advocate.

At the 2014 Forum

At the 2014 Forum

One of the things I have come to value about this event is knowing that so many of the women in the industry will be in one room at one time! The newsmakers, the stylemakers, those who push the envelope and lead the way – all there. Of course, most of them I only know through social media, so I could be rubbing elbows with someone and not necessarily know it. I wish our Twitter handles were on our name tags as well! That would help identify people, and make Tweeting about the event easier. I’ve studied the agenda, and I am looking forward to hearing from representatives from all over, such as Tulsa Hub, Nuu Muu, and Multicultural Communities for Mobility, among others.

At the 2014 Forum

At the 2014 Forum

Of course, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to the pop up shops, too…. Discovering new artists and vendors is just as important to me as hearing about the amazing bicycle work being done around the country. And I’ve already started making a new garment to wear. I just realized I don’t have much time left to finish it, and since I don’t really understand the pattern instructions, I’m a bit nervous now. I’m sure it will make sense when I start moving pieces around, though. I just hope it doesn’t snow – last year’s blizzard on the day of the forum was not ideal.

Excited to see how this turns out with that black reflective fabric!

Excited to see how this turns out with that black reflective fabric!

 

Artcrank!

The Mechanic and I spent the weekend in Washington, DC, dog-sitting for some friends. This is always a fun stay-cation, since we usually end up running around doing things we don’t normally do, and making sure we hang out with our DC friends on their turf. We had several things on the agenda for this weekend – an electronica concert at the Howard Theatre, the 8th Annual Parade of Trabants, and Artcrank, a bike art show benefiting WABA. All this, plus checking out new restaurants and bakeries and seeing friends, oh, and walking the dog, left us a bit exhausted!

The electronica concert (The Polish Ambassador headlining a permaculture weekend event) was The Mechanic’s thing, but I enjoyed the music, although I enjoyed the crowd event more; people-watching is an endlessly fascinating past time.

The Trabant parade, hosted by the International Spy Museum, was fun; The Mechanic had never heard of Trabis, and was unsurprisingly fascinated with the spartan designs. I think they are adorable, but the owners we spoke with said they don’t drive them much, and the cars can’t really handle much more than 50mph. These East German cars are getting a bit more attention these days, especially since Sunday was the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

(Side note: I was in Berlin the following summer of 1990, and witnessed people madly chipping off pieces of the Wall – sort of surreal to be that part of history)

Artcrank is a sort of tour that pairs bikes with posters, and has taken place in other cities around the US. This event benefited our local Washington Area Bicyclists Association, and not surprisingly, I ran into several old bike friends, and met some new ones. Everyone knows at least three other people, so it was a great way to mix and mingle. The posters were great, I wish we had the wall space to put one up. Alas, the beer ran out half-way through the event (oh, and it’s a good thing we rode Capital Bikeshare bikes, because there was no bike parking. Every street sign and railing within blocks was mobbed with bikes), so the crowd thinned out after that, but we both enjoyed chatting and admiring art.

Shinola was there with a bike and some accessories, and rumor has it that they are opening a store in DC. I didn’t talk to anyone from Shinola, but I find the idea very exciting. I like the lines of their bikes, and can see them doing well in DC. Not so much in Arlington, which can’t seem to get over it’s road bike-ness. The Mechanic and I enjoyed admiring all the practical bicycles we saw, with racks and baskets and fenders, and many clearly customized and well used. We also really loved all the protected bike lanes we got to use. And since we were staying near Right Proper Brewing Company, we got to walk past their extra long, always crowded bike racks several times. It brought a tear to my eye. I tell you, this alone is the one thing that might make me consider living in DC.

Artcrank, and staying in DC, made me realize that I need to spend more time in the DC bike culture, checking out the shops, learning all the bike lanes, getting to know more of the movers and shakers of the region. I guess I’ll add that to my 2015 resolutions – yes, it’s time to start thinking about those!

So excited to discover this raised bus stop to the left of the protected bike lane on M Street! I hadn't biked on M Street in a long time, and was so happy about it, that the cop car in the bike lane didn't even upset me.

So excited to discover this raised bus stop to the left of the protected bike lane on M Street! I hadn’t biked on M Street in a long time, and was so happy about it, that the cop car in the bike lane didn’t even upset me.

Yes, I need to spend more time in DC. Hopefully our friends will go out of town more often next year!

Selfie with my doggie charge! Puppy love <3

Selfie with my doggie charge! Puppy love ❤

Talking with a Bike Clothing Designer – Part 1

Lauren Steinhardt came to my attention when she commented on my review of the REI Novara Whittier Dress – she was the designer! How cool to get feedback! I looked her up on LinkedIn (I’m such an internet stalker) and her background sounded really interesting – she has a Master’s Degree in Apparel Design from Oregon State University, and her thesis was on Women’s Commuter Cycling Apparel!  So I took a chance and asked if I could ask her some questions about her background and experiences with bikes and designing clothing. Luckily for us all, she agreed!

This part of the interview lets Lauren explain a bit about herself and her experiences and influences. The second part, to come next week, focuses on the retail and sports clothing industry, and how it relates to what we wear on our bikes.

Which came first? Bikes or fashion?

Well, I don’t really consider myself a “fashion” designer. I design clothing, but it isn’t always fashionable, depending on its end use and the needs of the company. In fact, I can’t say I endorse the “fashion industry” in regards to fast fashion and stuff, but it is important to make a nice looking product that makes people feel good when they wear it or engage with it.

Novara Whittier Bike Dress

Novara Whittier Bike Dress

Starting from about age five, I always knew that my future vocation would be to design clothing. I had bikes growing up and as an adult, but my relationship with them has always been a utilitarian one – how can I use this device to get me from point A to point B, and why is my clothing not made for bike riding when it seems like guys’ clothing is? I didn’t start riding recreationally until I moved to Portland in 2002, mostly because there is such amazing bike infrastructure here and it’s so easy to get around.

What is your favorite type of biking?

My favorite type of biking is everyday biking. I commute by bike and use it to get around town. This is mostly my personal area of interest for designing bike-friendly clothing too. I think it would help more women get out there on their bikes. I’d like to try some bike camping or bike-packing – sounds like it would be fun!

Me wearing Lauren's dress (on a Capital Bikeshare bike, of course)!

Me wearing Lauren’s dress!

How many bikes do you own?

Just one, it’s an 80s Nishiki road bike frame that has commuter rack and fenders. My favorite bike ever was a vintage Roadmaster Cape Cod 3-speed that I got at the thrift store in Olympia 🙂

What is your favorite biking destination?

I like to ride my bike around the city; I never take my car downtown so that is a frequent bike destination for me. Some of my other favorite spots are Mount Tabor, Sellwood Park, and Blue Lake.

What would your dream vacation be?

Probably a long backpacking trip – maybe into the Olympic rainforest? I want to be Mick Dodge when I grow up.

Mick Dodge - I didn't realize he was a National Geographic star! (Image taken from National Geographic website)

Mick Dodge – I didn’t realize he was a National Geographic star! (Image taken from National Geographic website)

What are your favorite bike accessories and fashion companies? What do you use and why?

I don’t do a lot of clothing shopping myself, and when I do I tend to stick to the basics. But there are a few companies that have been making really exciting products that I want to give a shout out to. Iva Jean started out making rain capes and now they have expanded their line with some really cute pieces. And BetaBrand is a fantastically inventive company that accepts design submissions from the public.

The Iva Jean Reveal Skirt (Image taken from Iva Jean website) - I really want to try this skirt

The Iva Jean Reveal Skirt (Image taken from Iva Jean website) – I really want to try this skirt

Where do you look for inspiration?

My #1 source of inspiration is my own experience. What feels good, what’s easy to use, what do I feel comfortable in? Ultimately, wearing clothing is about the way we experience the world. We might spend a few minutes looking in the mirror, but we spend all day in our clothing. So it’s got to work and it can’t impede us from living our lives. How can clothing help us live our lives more gracefully? That’s my main inspiration.

Thank you, Lauren, for sharing your story with us!

Next week, I will post the second half of her interview, in which Lauren gives some insights into the industry that makes cycling (and all sports) clothing. Stay tuned! 

 

2014 National Bike Summit Women’s Forum

On March 3, I attended the National Bike Summit’s Women’s Forum. Most of the area, including my office, was shut down because of the snow storm, but I threw my reflective Cleverhood over my purple blizzard coat, and braved the oddly empty streets – DC at 7:30am during a snow storm is quite otherworldly.

I need to blog about my love for my Cleverhood - great in the snow, too! (as are my $4 safety glasses I mean bike glasses)

I need to blog about my love for my Cleverhood – great in the snow, too! (as are my $4 safety glasses bike glasses)

Of course the streets were empty - everything was shut down for the storm.

Of course the streets were empty – everything was shut down for the storm.

I’ve been struggling all week with my thoughts about the forum. Like last year, I experienced a mix of excitement and disappointment, then disappointment that I wasn’t more excited. I feel as if I should have been inspired, fired up, ready to change the world, and yet… I wasn’t. I feel guilty about that, because I’m sure (I hope) that for many attendees, it inspired and motivated them. I hope that most of the attendees were able to attend the following days’ summit and lobbying days, to truly get the best experience, but I was only able to attend the first day. It’s possible that my feelings would be different if I could have attended the entire 2014 National Bike Summit.

I opted to take Metro to the forum, rather than bike, but the snow made me feel less lame...

I opted to take Metro to the forum, rather than bike, but the snow made me feel less lame…

The things I enjoyed about it:

  1. I loved seeing all the vendors, all the women-specific products. It was fun to play with the new bikeshare Po Campo bag, see the new tan GiveLoveCycle bags in person (love the matching hardware!), discover (and purchase) NatrilGear, see Susan of Cleverhood again and admire her new reflective fabric (I will review mine soon, I promise!), envy the pretty blue bike jersey by Velocio Cycling Gear, and so on.
  2. I was so impressed to hear the speakers. All were amazing women, but some stood out to me in particular – Shannon Galpin of Mountain2Mountain spoke about her experiences bicycling in Afghanistan, where it is illegal for women to ride bikes. Kristin Gavin moved me as she spoke about starting Gearing Up, a program in Philadelphia that helps “women in transition” gain confidence through biking.
  3. My favorite of all the speakers was Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization of Women. She talked about women and biking from a slightly different angle – she said, rather than think about how to get women into biking, think about what women need, and how bikes fit those needs. I thought that was powerful because it came from a very normalizing point of view. And I’m mostly interested in making biking normal. I don’t know how much impact bicycling can have on the larger population of women, but we did hear stories that proves biking does make a positive difference is many women’s lives. Hopefully, all the attendees were inspired by her.

    Suzi Wunsch, of VeloJoy; Tanya Quick of CycloFemme; Susan Mocarski of Cleverhood; and Kristy Scrymgeour of Velocio (not the best picture, I realize...)

    Suzi Wunsch, of VeloJoy; Tanya Quick of CycloFemme; Susan Mocarski of Cleverhood; and Kristy Scrymgeour of Velocio discussing lifestyle branding, bikes, and women. (not the best picture, I realize…)

The things I didn’t enjoy:

  1. I suppose I shouldn’t complain. I should be grateful that there even is a women’s forum. But I was disappointed again at how segregated I felt this event was from the Bike Summit. No breakfast (not even coffee) on Monday, but apparently on Tuesday. The only vendors were the women’s products. I didn’t see any New Belgium beer at the women’s day, but they were proudly announced as a sponsor at the Monday night dinner and evening plenary! It was almost as if the women’s day was an afterthought, with no budget. I know, those are very small issues, and yet, they stand out to me. I also read on Twitter many comments about the lack of diversity on Tuesday, once the women’s forum was over – I guess that’s why I continually want to say “the women’s day” and “the men’s day.” Oops.
  2. With only one day, there were few breakout session options. Between the opening plenary and the lunch plenary, there was only time for one set of sessions (three topics), then an afternoon session, then the closing keynote. True, I couldn’t have been in more than one place at a time, but just as I felt things were getting rolling, the event was over, and they were setting up for the dinner event. I think we need more days!
  3. According to my program, most of the sessions at the Bike Summit focused on advocacy, policy, and lobbying. I would have liked to have heard about “Next Level Lobbying and Election Strategies” or “The Role of Enforcement in a Vision Zero Strategy.” Instead, I attended “Power of Storytelling to Engage Women in Bicycling” and “Gearing Up, Climbing to the Top.” I always enjoy storytelling, and eagerly listen to anyone talking about leadership, but somehow these topics seemed a bit “soft” compared to what followed the next day.
    Conference + snowstorm = overwhelmed coat rack!

    Conference + snowstorm = overwhelmed coat rack!

    So what would inspire me instead? Let me attend one Bike Summit, not two, and hear some of those women speak to everyone, alongside Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Pittsburg mayor Bill Peduto, and Phillip Darnton, Executive Director of the Bicycle Association of Great Britain. Let me pick out a new bike-friendly purse, and then examine some new, high tech bike counters. Let me hear about how to better involve my community, then learn about how to impact regional laws and influence politicians. Yes, I love biking in fashionable, bike-friendly clothing, but I also want to know more about laws that impact my route to work. I want hard facts AND touchy-feely stories. Yes, I want it all!  (oh, and by the way – boss, can I go to both days next year?!)

Pledging to find a way to work with Girl Scouts and biking, after my wedding

Pledging to find a way to work with Girl Scouts and biking, after my wedding