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!


ICYMI January

How is January already over?! Or as good as – didn’t we just celebrate New Years?!

I was busy this month, despite my best efforts, and felt like I should share some non-bloggy things. You already know about our trip to NYC and my American Girl Doll adventure, but that’s not all I did this month. Here’s a breakdown:

The Mechanic and I also visited the Library of Congress, to see Magna Carta (one never says the Magna Carta, only Magna Carta, apparently). Not only was the 1215 Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta on display, the exhibit followed the different ways Magna Carta, and its ideals, evolved over time – including popular culture! I’m really glad we made time to see that.

I love my Walnut Studiolo “Little Lifter” so much that I wrote a review of it for The Discerning Cyclist. Seriously, if you have to carry a bike up and down stairs on a regular basis, this might be just the thing you want. It makes a huge difference to me.

Staircase of Doom - thanks to my Lifter to make this easier!

Staircase of Doom – thanks to my Lifter for making this easier!

We had our first snowfall, but thankfully have dodged a major storm. I dislike biking in the snow, or more specifically, anything slippery, so I haven’t biked much with these little snowstorms. Snow 2

Our guppies had baby guppies. Lots of them. And they all seem to have survived. I wasn’t really expecting that, and as much as I’m enjoying watching them grow, my teeny 2.5 gallon tank can’t hold 16 guppies and a snail. And the possibility of more. So I’m on a fish tank redesign hunt.

Some of the baby guppies - about twice their original size now!

Some of the baby guppies – about twice their original size now!

Spectre Upside Down

Seriously, Spectre the Mystery Snail is the best pet ever – yes, he was climbing (?) down the leaf upside down!

We saw “Diner” at Signature Theatre in Shirlington, and really enjoyed it. An actor friend said she’s heard rumors that the production is Broadway bound. That would be a true triumph for the Signature! I’ll be watching for that. Diner Signature Theatre

The 2015 National Bike Summit is in March, and I’m hoping to be able to go again. This year, the first day is the women-focused day, which is nice to have it as part of the event, rather than the day before. Two of the sessions that interest me the most are “Powerbrokering for Women in Transportation and Advocacy” and “The Future of the Women’s Market.” I am also amused that one of the sessions is “How to Talk to an Engineer… and Be Persuasive.” I know it’s about bike infrastructure, but maybe it will have tips for me and The Mechanic! They’ve released an initial list of vendors for the women’s pop up shop, too. I am excited to see that Tandem NY will be there with their skirt weight, and I hope that Bikie Girl Bloomers will have her bloomers in a print I want. (For some reason, I can’t find the list of vendors on their website; I got the list in an email. Inconvenient to share.)

Bikie Girl Bloomers in Crazy Daisy (image from Bikie Girl Bloomers website)

Bikie Girl Bloomers in Crazy Daisy (image from Bikie Girl Bloomers website)


I was pretty happy to see that one of my blog posts inspired another bike blogger to try the reflective yarn: check out Red Riding’s projects! I hope her knee problems heal up before the nice weather arrives. (Don’t you just love her all-yellow bike?!)I’ve got a few sewing projects lined up, to keep me busy while I’m hoping for warmer, drier weather. I am ready to get out and get biking, but the cold temps and slick bike lanes/roads don’t inspire me to leave my cozy warm apartment. Maybe in February.

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