I’d like to introduce our newest roll model, Laurie Harris. She studied at cycling mecca UC-Davis, where she earned a degree in design with an emphasis on textiles. Very cool! She now has her own small brand of eco-friendly jewelry, Lalipouri Designs, and blogs about her inspirations, including lots of bicycle beauty. Read on to hear how she first learned to ride a bike in college, the freedom provided by Davis’ cycling infrastructure and the ways bicycling can influence fashion design.
Tell us about your history with cycling. When and why did you start, and how do you use cycling now in your life?
At age 5 my parents got me a two wheeler to graduate from my tricycle. My new bike was cute and it was pink with tassels! I was going to be like all the bigger girls in my neighborhood. So my dad took me to the local university parking lot to have my first try! I was rearing to go! I was going great but for safety (of course) I screamed “Papa! Don’t let go!” Of course he did because I was riding just fine, but I freaked out and ran into a bush. I was traumatized! I cried, I screamed and swore I would NEVER ride a bicycle again.
You attended UC Davis, one of the most famous US cycling havens. How did this experience contribute to your cycling life?
When I applied to UC Davis I thought it was sooooooo nifty that everyone rides bicycles, there are recycling bins all over, downtown was super close and full of cute shops and boutiques and it was close to my home town. Plus they are the only UC that offers a degree in Design. So I was super excited to call this bicycle haven my home for 4 years!
Only problem was, I didn’t know how to ride a bicycle!
It was something that was pretty embarrassing to admit and luckily with the support of two of my oldest best friends, I learned how to ride…sort of. I was pretty bad and I fell down a lot! But I was not about to go to Davis and NOT ride a bike.
During the summer before I started at Davis, I had a few more practice tries at the shoreline with my best friend (bless her heart for having so much patience) and a few times during a trip to Europe with my big sister. Holland is crazy and there are so many bikes! I was so struck by their fearlessness! Riders would go along side our huge tourist bus just inches away and not even flinch! Part of the trip included a bike ride around the country side. I was still supper wobbly on a bike. A not-so-nice-Australian boy on our tour thought it was funny to ride close to me, despite me freaking out, and I ran into a wall and fell down. He realized just how inexperienced I was, apologized and rode slowly with me the rest of the way. It’s kind of funny now, but it was pretty awkward at the time.
When I got to Davis, I was slightly more confident about my bicycle skills, but was paranoid about riding – only in sneakers and always with a helmet. It was scary at first since bike traffic could get intense but I rode to class, work and around town just about every day for the next four years! It became a really important part of my day and eventually I lost the helmet and would ride in any shoes or clothing I wanted. I was even so “hardcore” that I’d ride my bike in the rain, with a giant art portfolio or huge bag of design supplies and even while chatting on the cell (on campus where there are no cars and I could go slow).
I always felt really safe riding in Davis. There are so many people who ride bikes all the time and all over the place, so mostly cars are extremely respectful. Most of my riding was done on campus between classes where there are no cars anyway, so that is why with time I ditched the helmet. UC Davis is a huge campus and some building are really quite far and really riding was a necessity if I wanted to arrive on time.
I’m definitely not as knowledgeable about bikes or have as much experience as many others who went to school in Davis. I felt like a novice most of the time living in Davis. Everyone knows all sorts of stuff about bikes and how to fix them and would go on long rides to different places. I cannot ride without hands and never ride very fast, but I love my bicycle just the same. I think I love biking so much because I never rode as a kid and so it felt especially fun to me. Eventually, it felt so natural and I loved the fact that I had so much freedom! I’ve never owned my own car and, though UCD offers a great free bus systems to students, I often chose to ride my bike!
Tell us about your bike.
The first bike I owned when I went to UCD was my best friend’s bike as a kid that had been abandoned and left to rust (dear Sammy). My best friend’s dad was nice enough to take him out of the rubble and fix him up for me. When I got Sammy, he was a little rough around the edges, but he got me around school and around town for two years.
After taking Sammy to the Bike Barn to get fixed several times, I decided it was time to find a new bike. My dad bought my new bike, a Schwinn, from Target. That day there was also a cute little kid’s Finding Nemo bike basket on clearance. I decided I could add that to my metal bike basket for more storage. I rode Nemo for the following two years without any problem! He was much more comfortable to ride and I still love him so. Sadly, he’s in my parents’ garage right now, but I am hoping to spruce him up while I visit home in June and take him out for a few rides!
How does your style conflict with or contribute to your cycling? Do you have any guidelines you apply to yourself when dressing to go somewhere on your bike, or do you ride in any outfit without giving it a second thought?
Despite a brief period of time when I started riding my bike – when I would only wear certain clothes because I was paranoid that certain shoes or clothes would interfere with riding – I pretty much wear what I want! I usually wear comfortable clothes and shoes, so I never changed my style for cycling. Sometimes it’s just a question of using flip flops while riding and then putting on heels when you get to your location. I find most skirts are fine. I don’t wear anything too tight or short anyway. Plus, I always have a big purse and the basket covers most important areas, anyway!
What advice to you have for new city cyclists, especially women?
Don’t be intimidated and just go for it.
I learned quite late, but riding a bike is actually easy and if you fall down, get back up and try again. Riding a bike doesn’t have to be a big deal or a dramatic change, if you don’t make it to be. It is something you can easily make work in your routine. There are so many advantages to riding a bike! It’s practically free and it helps you to stay in shape. Finding parking isn’t nearly as big of a headache, making quick errands and strolls around town easier!
Getting the hang of it and getting comfortable with riding is just a matter of trial and error. I would suggest being safe by wearing proper gear if you bike in an area with heavy traffic, following basic rules of traffic and just being alert. Riding a bike isn’t any less serious than driving in a car and you are much more vulnerable. If you take necessary precautions, then riding a bike can be the best alternative!
You have a fabulous blog and inspiring craftiness – tell us about that part of your life.
I started blogging in September of 2008 because I started reading design and style blogs on a regular basis and thought it would be a cool way to document what inspires me and to share some of my own work as a designer. It’s been quite an adventure and I love all that I’ve learned along the way. It’s also become part of my life and something I really enjoy. I love that with time I’m making connections and even making friends that write other blogs (such as the lovely girls of LGRAB!).
Being a textile and clothing designer by profession, my blog mostly focuses on fashion and style but I often venture out into other things I enjoy such as travel, cooking and riding bicycles! There are a lot of inspiring people out there and I noticed a trend of bicycles showing up in lookbooks, catalogs and advertisements in the fashion world. I often love sharing these images because I think this is a trend that could have many positive repercussions! Instead of a lot of negative images of sickly thin models looking like drug addicts to sell style, it’s a positive image of stylish women doing something very healthy! With that maybe more would ride bicycles on a regular basis or at least as an occasional alternate means of transportation.
I have created collages with inspirational images of stylish girls on bikes and even created a fashion illustration of a bicycle related clothing collection! Sustainable design and lifestyle topics are always an interest of mine. I always keep all this in mind when it comes to my own designs. I have have a small brand called Lalipourie Designs where I sell mostly eco-friendly jewelry and accessories mixing materials such as telephone wire, vintage beads, used or vintage textiles, among other things. Sustainable design is a passion of mine and I try my best to create things that aren’t wasteful or going to have a negative impact on the environment.
Are you still biking?
In June 2007, I moved to Panama City, Panama to explore my roots, improve my Spanish all while continuing to work in the field of fashion and design. Since then I have not been biking regularly. It was a very sad reality of living here. If you know anything about Panama City, it is that drivers are nuts. There is almost (or appears to be) no rules and most definitely no bike lanes! Mostly the buses, which they call Diablos Rojos (Red Devils) and crazy taxi drivers. That’s probably another reason I put so many bike related posts up on my blog! I miss riding my bike daily! I’m sure there are people who do ride there bikes in the city but in the last three years I’ve only seen a handful. That said, I usually do walk most places, take public transportation and look for venues for bicycling as often as possible.
There are several key places to experience cycling in Panama. First off, the city Amador Causeway is one of the best places for a bike ride! There are several places to rent bikes starting from $3 an hour and each place has several options to choose from. If you go in a groups it’s super fun to try a tandem or funcycle! It’s an easy ride since it’s so flat with great views of the ocean, the city and a lovely breeze to cool you off. Also, if you had your own bike, Casco Viejo or the Cinta Costera would be great places to take a leisurely stroll. Just two hours away from the city is El Valle de Anton, which is a great stop for lots of trails with views of natural plant life and waterfalls, as well as a hot spring that costs $1 to get in. I notice locals bike a lot and I bet you could rustle up a bike to rent to take you around. On the islands of Bocas del Torro, you’ll also find a few places to rent bicycles and funcyles at a cheap hourly rate. It’s a great afternoon activity and since there are hardly any cars it’s very safe. So that’s how I incorporate bicycles in to my life since leaving Davis. I suggest while traveling look for ways to enjoy cycling! It’s a great way to see a place and get some exercise too!
Thank you, Laurie! You are in inspiration and I’m sure a lot of people will identify with your story.