Maybe I’ll Give Up Biking

Yes, Dear Readers, I had this thought – maybe I should give up biking.

I am normally a pretty patient person but I was really OVER the whole bike commuting thing last week. One (or three) too many drivers cutting in front of me to get to the parallel parking on the right side of the bike lane; one (or two) too many buses speeding past me to zoom into bus stops at the right of the bike lane; and one too many pedestrians running across the road *not* in the crosswalks, then saying “watch for crazy cyclists!” Seriously?!? The selfish, unthinking, clueless, uncaring attitude is what is driving me nuts – is it really THAT HARD to look out for others?!?!?!

The next day, I saw a Tweet from Nelle Pierson, deputy director for WABA (Washington Area Bicyclists Association), saying that she knows 60 people who have been hit by drivers in cars. Sixty! I’m trying to imagine ALL of my friends having been hit by drivers, not just the few who actually have been, including The Mechanic. That same day, Rootchopper blogged and tweeted about the fact that he’s actually Number 66, since he had just been hit by a driver not paying attention. And here is my colleague’s experience after she was half-doored by a driver: Why You Should Care About Other Modes Now.

All of this was clearly the straw that broke my back – I’m so sick of having to prove to the world that biking is a perfectly reasonable, healthy, safe, green transportation option, not crazy, stupid, dangerous, or MAMIL-dominated. They do it in other countries, in quite high numbers, and without helmets! Why is it so impossible to do it here?!*

It would be just as easy to not bike, and probably easier. My alternative commute is a super easy bus route. In the morning, my bus stop is a block from our apartment, and the bus drops me a few blocks from my office. In the evening, the bus stop is in front of my office, and drops me in front of my apartment building. The bus ride takes about the same amount of time as it takes me to bike, with the added bonus of the super nice bus driver who calls me “Supermodel.” It’s nice to start the day with his friendly face and cheerful words.

Not only does the bus offer a super easy route, riding the bus means I don’t have to deal with a helmet, lock, lights, panniers, gloves, pants strap and whatever else I might need. It means that on rainy days, I get to the office comfortable, instead of mostly dry. It means I can read the news or Twitter or catch up on Instagram friends’ sewing projects. It also means I walk right past three different breakfast place options, rather than detour as I normally do, if I want to buy breakfast that day. It means not having to jockey for a spot on the bike rack, either. So there are many reasons why riding the bus to work would be SO MUCH EASIER than biking to work.

Rainy day bus stop selfie

But would I really give up biking?

I don’t know.

At least it did me some good to do some bike errands this weekend – The Mechanic and I biked to Westover where we purchased art from local artists at the Handmade Arlington craft show, then purchased potting soil and some planter boxes, so we can grow lettuce for Gaston. It was a leisurely day with minimal traffic interaction, and made me feel a bit better.

Easily transportation bags of potting soil on a Workcycles bike

Maybe I just need a break from it.

 

*I know all the reasons, but I’m tired of the excuses. Please don’t try to excuse away the behaviors, put the blame elsewhere, or whatever. I’m perfectly entitled to feel how I do.

 

 

Riding for Change on Bike to Work Day

Happy Bike to Work Day!

I hope you all got a chance to get out and ride somewhere! Here in the DC Metro area, the weather is somehow miraculously absolutely perfect. After weeks of rain and gloom, we have blue skies and warm temperatures. Ballston SkyAfter spending the morning greeting people on their bikes to one of the Arlington Bike to Work Day pit stops, I took advantage of the fact that I not only had the day off, that I was awake, dressed, and desperate to get a bike ride in during the lovely weather. So off I went – a short loop on local trails where I enjoyed the large green trees, clear blue skies, and the occasional wild rabbit on the side of the road. One tiny baby bunny was so focused on its breakfast that it barely blinked when I pulled over to take it’s picture. I was tempted to scoop it up and bring it home, but I know better.

Baby bunny don't care...

Baby bunny don’t care…

On my way home, I took a selfie – Bikingand then Tweeted it to the US Department of Transportation. I don’t actually know anyone there. The purpose of this Tweet was in response to reading an email from Transportation 4 America, which asked people to Tweet photos of themselves biking today, urging US DOT to count people, not cars, in their new proposal for evaluating traffic congestion. Absolutely I want them to #MakeMeCount – I am traffic, and I want safe streets to get around, regardless of what mode of transportation I use (which is mostly walking and biking). At the same time, the Department of Transportation blog, Fast Lane, supports bike lanes and connections to help people safely and easily get to where they are going on continuous bikeways. Here here!

Safety is the current buzz word in biking and in transportation, it seems. While our Metrorail system takes steps to avoid a complete meltdown, and thousands of commuters will need to find alternatives to their daily Metro ride, biking could be a good option for many. But safety and comfort are top of the list of reasons why they won’t try it. If people don’t feel safe and comfortable biking, because their routes don’t connect, because they are on roads that are not remotely bike-friendly, because their work sites don’t have showers, because they don’t have safe places to leave their bikes once they get there – they simply won’t do it.

Safety and comfort were key points all of the presenters made at the National Museum of Women in the Arts “Women on Wheels: Can a Bicycle Be an Agent of Change?” Fresh Talk last weekend. Author Sue Macy, author of Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (with a few flat tires along the way), talked about the challenges women faced in the late 1800s, as they discovered the freedom of bicycles. Lyne Sniege, director of the arts and culture program at the Middle East Institute, echoed many of the same challenges that women in the Middle East face when it comes to bicycling – but their challenges are so much more complex. Not just cultural challenges, but physical challenges of living in areas where *everything* is built for cars. Then the other panels brought the topic to our area: Renee Moore, founder of Bicycling and the City; Lia Seremetis, founder of DC Bike Party; Nelle Pierson, deputy director of WABA and the founder of WABA’s Women & Bicycles; and Najeema Davis Washington, co-founder of Black Women Bike. All of them talked about the need to have safe, comfortable spaces, both physically and emotionally, that will encourage and support women while they become comfortable (or learn to) riding bikes.

I know I’m preaching to the choir here, so I don’t feel that I really need to go on and on about bicycling, safety and comfort. I feel like today is a good day to sit back and look at some of the things that are going on to make us feel safer on our bikes. We have government officials supporting community designs that support bicycling, we have advocacy groups working with local governments to create safer spaces for us (Yes to protected bike lanes on N. Quincy Street!); and we have national advocacy groups working for us at the federal government level. It’s not us versus them anymore (well, depending on which street you are on…) – it’s a movement that is gaining some traction.

You know me, I’m a reluctant advocate, but seeing some steps in the right direction is empowering. I hope that you, like me, will find some time to speak up for bicycling. Even if you don’t bike yourself, I bet you know someone who does. And really, would you want to put anyone in a dangerous situation? Because that’s what happens to many when they hop on their bike.

 

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!

 

The Merry Month of May – Bike Tips

May is a wonderful month! It’s full of many wonderful things – my birthday (May 2), Mother’s Day, Memorial Day (aka a long weekend), lilies of the valley, warm weather, and this year, a baby princess was born on my birthday! I’m sure that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will name Princess Cambridge after me. Princess Cambridge

But May is also <drumroll please> National Bike Month! And the start of the National Bike Challenge! And Bike to Work Day is May 15th! And Bike to School Day is May 6! So many bike things to celebrate this month, so dust off those bikes and get out there!

But before you get too excited, I’d like to share some thoughts about how to make it a better experience for all of us. I’ve observed some things in my days, weeks and years of biking around that are unsafe, illegal, or discourteous, and it concerns me, because I spend a good deal of my outreach time listening to people ranting about how “those bicyclists” are putting drivers and pedestrians in danger by their careless behavior. I know there are people out there who follow the rules and are careful and are victims of careless, discourteous and unsafe drivers nevertheless. But I think it is important to try to do the right thing. I’d like to see a day when drivers have nothing to rant about – maybe then they would realize that car drivers are worse than bicyclists and pedestrians!

So let’s talk about some things I’ve observed.

Helmets – a bike helmet is meant to be worn on the top of your head, right above your eyebrows, parallel to the ground, not on the back of your head, the side of your head, or backwards. The helmet should fit TWO finger widths above your eyebrows. Tighten those straps under your chin, if it won’t stay on properly; that’s what they are there for. Check out this really great article from KVAL.com – an oldie but a goodie. This is especially important for children – please please please make sure their helmets not only fit properly, but check them frequently if you are biking with them to make sure they stay like that.

Hand Signals -Using your hands to indicate which way you are planning on turning is no different than using turn signals in a car (you do signal before you plan on turning, right?). But it’s important to make sure that others actually see your hand signal. I specifically am referring to the practice I frequently see (if I see a cyclist signaling a left turn, that is) where the person on the bike flicks their hand out around their waist area. If I didn’t know what it meant, I would have NO idea that it indicates a desire to move to the left. Stick your arm straight out! It’s not hard! Consider it a good time to stretch your shoulder. Make it obvious to the people behind you that you intend to do something. You won’t win cool points if you flip your hand and someone fails to realize what you are doing.

Check out these awesome examples from Bikeable Dallas! This is a great post, too, so check it out.

Check out these awesome examples from Bikeable Dallas! This is a great post, too, so check it out.

Bike Correctly in the Bike Lane – In the last week or two, I have come across people biking towards me in the bike lane. No! Not only is this incorrect, it’s scary – geez, we don’t have enough threats to worry about without other cyclists making it worse! If you are riding in a bike lane, you need to go the same direction as the traffic, unless of course you are in a two-way bike lane. Those, however, are few and far between outside of Pennsylvania Ave in DC, so chances are good that you are not. Seriously, it is bad enough that runners think they can run the wrong direction in a bike lane, please, please, if you are on a bike, find the proper place to be.

Biking in the direction of traffic on South Eads Street

Biking in the direction of traffic on South Eads Street (Photo from Arlington County DES Project webpage)

Stay Out of the Way If Stopped – If you need to stop for some reason, do not stop in the middle of the lane. Move to the side, so that you are not creating a potential traffic jam. If your car suddenly dies in the middle of a lane, what do you do? You try to move it out of the way of other cars. Same with a bicycle. I’ve seen kids do this and I’ve seen roadies do this. It’s unsafe.

Red Traffic Lights – Technically, bicyclists are supposed to stop at red lights. Legally, bicyclists are supposed to obey all traffic signs, signals, lights, and markings. I make an effort to stop at red lights, so at least once a week (sometimes daily), I will see someone bike past me, then swerve into the pedestrian crosswalk to continue biking through the red light. This does not make it okay! This is still going through a red light! The pedestrians have a “don’t walk” signal too! Swerving back and forth between the road and crosswalks/sidewalks confuses me, confuses drivers and confuses pedestrians. Also, when stopping at a red light, don’t stop in the middle of the intersection and start up as soon as the opposite light turns yellow.

Whether you are new to biking, starting up again after time away, or think you know it all, brushing up on rules and etiquette during National Bike Month is a good idea, sort of like changing smoke detector batteries when the Daylight Savings ends and begins. Just get into a habit of occasionally reviewing a few websites. I’ve linked to a few of my favorites here:

“New to Biking?” by BikeArlington

“Learn Bike Etiquette From Your Legos,” WABA’s Women & Bicycles Tip

Bike Laws, summarized by WABA

Lastly, I encourage you to sign up for the National Bike Challenge, if you haven’t already. The five-month challenge rewards you for just getting on your bike, so regardless of where you go, how far you ride, and what type of bicycle you prefer, this challenge is for you! I hope to see you in the bike lanes (modeling good behavior, of course)!

See you on the trail!

See you on the trail!

Denim, Blueberry Soup and Bucket Bags

It’s been a busy weekend! Whew, I’m tired – when is my weekend?!

First of all, I am so excited to have received my Levi’s Commuter Jeans for Women, woo hoo! There has been a lot of buzz about them lately, and I have been anxious to get mine. I’m sort of on a bike jeans binge right now, as I also got the REI Novara bike jeans the week prior. The jeans came in a big fancy box along with some other swag, as part of a special “kit,” since I was selected as a local blogger to, well, blog about them! It was an exciting moment to get a huge box in the mail during the day on Friday, and discover all the goodies in it – a pin, bag with reflective design, and some stickers. But check out the fancy packaging! Clearly I am sucker for the packaging.

Initial thoughts – I really like the high waist, since it holds my the 5lbs I have been too lazy to lose this winter, but man, the legs are super skinny! I can barely get them on over my calves, and I don’t think my calves are abnormally bulky! I wore them this morning to volunteer at the WABA Vasa Ride (see below), and they seemed fine, no major problems, just really skinny in the lower leg.

The Levi's Commute Jeans for Women are so skinny that they make my shoes look huge!

The Levi’s Commute Jeans for Women are so skinny that they make my shoes look huge!

Stay tuned for more details on the jeans!

I volunteered for the Washington Area Bicyclists Association‘s Vasa Ride this morning. The Vasa Ride is held in partnership with the Swedish Embassy in Georgetown, in tribute to the traditional Swedish vasaloppet ski race (check out the crazy history of the race!). The biggest draw, I think, is the warm blueberry soup in the embassy after the ride. I did the morning shift, checking in riders, so no blueberry soup for me, alas. It was nice to meet some social media friends (Hey Mary!), and a special shout-out to Jennifer, a reader of my blog. We met for the first time and chatted knitting. Thanks for saying hi! Of course, Rootchopper was there – I feel like I’ve seen him a lot lately… is he beginning to stalk me?!? About 500 riders braved what turned into a very blustery morning for the first ride of the season. I managed to get a few pictures.

I then spent the rest of the day trying to finish up a gift for a friend. Since bucket bags are really “in” for Spring, I thought I’d make one, and decided to use some of my orange reflective material in combination with some camouflage print. I just made up the pattern and directions in my head, with more or less success. I am pretty happy with the way it came out, and can’t wait to give it to my friend – then start my own! I also bought some printed metallic snakeskin fabric. I have no idea what I’ll do with a half-yard each of gold and silver, but I love it! And I have a bit of silver and gold reflective material left. My thinking cap is definitely on…

I hope this week is a bit calmer than the lat few weeks have been. I’m gearing up for a trip on Easter Weekend to Palm Springs, CA, for a friend’s wedding. I still want to finish altering my wedding dress into a skirt to take, but a bit worried that it won’t happen. Too much other stuff in my head!

So much to make, so little time, as they say!

So much to make, so little time, as they say!

Making Plans for 2015

My mother swears I was born with a notepad and pencil in hand, making lists from the beginning. The Mechanic will tell you that he’s demanding I only plan 50% of all our trips from now on. Basically, I love to plan. I’m happiest making lists, buying a brand new notebook, and turning over a new page to start a new list. Nothing like a fresh start!

So it is with great joy that I sit down to make my New Year’s goals. A whole new year, twelve months of exciting possibilities! What will 2015 bring?! 2014 was definitely momentous, but I think The Mechanic and I are agreed about this year being much calmer and quieter. This, then, is my list, things I want to accomplish in 2015.

Blogging

  • Biggest blog goal for 2015 is to improve my photos! I especially want to try to get better photos of the clothing I make, and me wearing them whilst biking, but I also need to set up a better “studio” at home to take pictures of products.
  • I want to do more product reviews, and find good options for women like me who are interested in functional bike fashion, clothing they can wear in the office as well as on the bike.
  • I’d like to write more about the women in bike fashion who inspire me. I think listening to their stories can teach us all about the industry.

    I love this cork from Irony Wine

    “What’s your story?” from Irony Wine

Sewing

  • First and foremost, I need to get my equipment cleaned up. Maybe I’ll finally get my machines serviced, and my scissors sharpened. And I need a new invisible zipper foot, and I lost my regular zipper foot.
  • Then I think it is time to do what my sewing instructors always told me to do, and focus on my technique. Maybe I’ll take some Craftsy classes. I’d like to learn more about stitching knits and fine fabrics like chiffon. Well, maybe not chiffon.
  • I want to take my wedding dress apart and turn the chiffon and satin layers into a midi skirt. I love the print and want to rewear it, maybe to a friend’s wedding this spring. Stay tuned for that adventure! Ulp.
  • I need to find a new source for reflective fabric.

Biking

  • I can’t believe 2014 slipped by and I never once touched my road bike! That’s embarrassing. I want to do two half centuries this year, one in the spring and one in the fall. (I’m not interested in training for a full century; I have other things to do with my weekends, too.) Definitely the CASA River Ride in Shepherdstown in May, but what in the fall? The Shenandoah Fall Foliage Bike Festival always looks fun, while the RABA Heart of Virginia ride is a section of VA I’ve never explored. Then again, there is always the Great Pumpkin Ride, and I do love pumpkin. Any other ideas?
  • I want to try more mountain biking. The one time I tried it this fall I was a nervous wreck, and I’d like more experience to get more comfortable. I like the idea of biking in nature, so I really want to like this!
  • I’d like to do some local events as well, even though I had claustrophobia attacks the last few I did a few years back. Still, everyone seems to have a good time, and I want to support local biking, so I’ll see which ones I can add to my list. Or be talked into. And I should also attend a few Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee meetings, especially now that it’s headed by a woman, woot!

In Addition…

  • I want to take classes at the TechShop in Crystal City. They have the coolest equipment! I am kind of obsessed with their 3-D printer. Who wants to take an injection molding class with me?!
  • I also need to get back into my German language skills. I’m so rusty, yikes! Our trip this summer proved that. Luckily, The Mechanic wants to learn, so helping him will help me out as well.
  • I want to get more serious about the ballet classes at Adagio Ballet Studio, and get more serious about yoga (ie, find a class to replace the one at my gym).
  • And I really want to visit Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg!

So basically all of 2015 could be spent in classes. Even sewing will involve classes! Luckily, learning is what I love to do most, so this should be a good year.

Whether or not you make goals and set resolutions, or avoid the whole song and dance, I hope you will join me on my adventures as I attempt to achieve some of the things I’ve outlined here! I look forward to another year of story telling and story swapping, and hearing about your adventures as well. Here’s to 2015!

Happy New Year's from Edgar!

Happy New Year’s from Edgar!

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 ❤

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

 

Trying to Share the (Bike) Love

It’s been a weekend of sharing the bike love, or at least trying to. We found unexpected love in Denmark, and didn’t find love during the Bike DC event.

Yesterday was the EU Open House Day in Washington, DC, a day when all the embassies invite the public to visit their grounds, and learn about their countries and the work each one does in the United States.  I went last year, and the year before that I worked in the German Embassy for the German-American Heritage Museum. This year my goal was to hit embassies I hadn’t been to, and we prioritized the British, Belgian, Danish, Croatian, and Dutch embassies. We made it to all of them, plus an International Women’s Day festival at the Islamic Center of Washington! Given the amount of time we spent standing in line, this is actually pretty impressive.

In front of the Belgian Embassy

We were quite happy to eat our way through the British and Belgian embassies – bangers and free whiskey at the first, chocolate, beer, and waffles at the second! The Danish embassy had some lovely cheeses as well, but it had the best exhibits of all of them – bikes!

There was an entire wall full of photos of people on bicycles around Copenhagen (not from Copenhagen CycleChic, however), plus some information about how Denmark has become one of the leading green nations. Imagine this – 90% of all waste is recycled or used as fuel in “combined heating and electricity plants.” And 36% of the population of Copenhagen bikes to work!

The Greening of Denmark

The best part, however, was the “Share the (Bike) Love” photo shoot!

Photo Shoot!

It’s a promotion, of course, and a contest, to win a trip to Copenhagen, but I love that I ended up with a Share the Bike Love profile picture for Facebook and Twitter! It’s perfect.

Today, however, there was a bit less bike love going around. The Mechanic and I had signed up for the WABA Bike DC bike event, which was a 24-mile loop through DC and Arlington. Seemed like a good idea, except that it wasn’t…

I had heard that 7,000 people signed up for the event, and I don’t doubt the figures after seeing the crowds. There were the roadies, of course, and I was on Donner in my Bike Arlington jersey, so I too looked like a roadie. But it seemed like there were more recreational bikers out on the route, enjoying the beautiful weather, and having fun.

BikeDC

Here’s where the problem lay – there were so many people on bikes who were not paying attention, wobbling all over the roads, and doing clueless moves, that it made us more stressed to be around them. And there was no where to go! I was trying to be generous – after all, I WANT people to bike more, and this seems like a good way to encourage getting out on bikes. Tons of kids, even a mom and two daughters on a three-person bike (tri-dem?), and I think that is great, get kids riding at a young age. But when we got to the Iwo Jima part and had to get off and walk into a tight bottle neck (thanks to some unscheduled road work that cut off half the road, I heard), I gave up. My patience had worn thin, I wasn’t having fun, and the claustrophobia was setting in. We were happy to turn around and head back the way we saw other riders heading back.

Yep, even dogs were out for the event.

It turns out that by turning back we not only ended up in a bigger, undirected mess, but we also missed the 4 miles up to and around the Air Force Memorial, which would have been nice. We ended up losing the route, and were on surface streets, with a dozen or so other riders, I might add, with cars, directed I don’t know where by a “helpful” DC cop, and found the finish line only by looking up the address on the map. I would have been disappointed if I’d been having more fun, but it was sadly just frustrating. We both were cranky afterwards, especially The Mechanic. An unplanned trip to my new local farmers market and a long nap when we got back helped. But there wasn’t much bike love going around this afternoon! It’s unfortunate, since there was so much love going on yesterday.

This week, however, is Bike to Work Week, culminating in Bike to Work Day, then The Mechanic and I are headed to West Virginia for the CASA River half-century! I’m excited but anxious that I’m not in good enough shape for it. Guess we’ll find out soon enough!

Sharing the Bike Love, Danish Style

Ride for Responsibility

Washington Area Bike Association‘s 2012 New Year’s Resolution was to ride more responsibly, and they encouraged everyone else (well, everyone in the DC area) to join them in this resolution.  In addition to signing up on a pledge on the WABA website, they planned a group ride through DC to show off how responsible riders we all are.  All I could think when I signed up was, “Please let it not be snowing or 30*F on the day we do this ride!”

Naturally, this winter has been so mild that the weather turned out great! It was nice and sunny in the morning, although it seemed to cool down a bit the longer we were out.  The Mechanic and I ran into a few other cyclists on our way into DC, and easily found the large group collected at the starting point (after we stopped so I could run into CVS and buy cold medicine….).

Deep in Conversation

The high point of the ride was stopping in front of the White House for a group photo of everyone, complete with “I ride responsibly” signs.  We made quite the tourist attraction for a group of Asian tourists, who were busy taking our pictures.  I’m not sure what part of our group interested them – the group of 60-some odd cyclists (and it was an odd assortment), or the signs, or they just take pictures of everything…

"We Ride Responsibly"

If you are interested in more information about WABA’s Resolution to Ride Responsibily, click here, and be sure to check out all the photos!