Category Archives: Roll Models

Roll Models: Samantha of Ding Ding Let’s Ride

The Roll Models series is back!  Today’s roll model is my friend Samantha, cool woman and author of the blog Ding Ding Let’s Ride, which focuses on everyday family bicycling with Dutch bikes and adaptive bikes.

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Describe your bicycling style in three words.

Urban.
Everyday.
Dresses.
Cowboy boots.

(OK – so that’s 4 words, but I wanted to convey that I often wear dresses when I ride, but I’m
not a total cycle chic girly-girl and often wear pants and cowboy boots.  ;-) )

How long have you been riding a bike?

I’ve been riding a bike since I was a kid. I had a lime-green banana-seat kid’s bike, followed by
a 3-speed upright bike with a basket that I rode into my early teens. I didn’t ride much until grad
school when I started up again with a mountain bike. I haven’t stopped for the last 20+ years.

How does bicycling fit into and/or shape your life?

My bike is my primary form of transportation. I commute via bike to work year-round, run
errands and grocery shop on my bike, go on evenings out by bike, and ride to events and
activities with my family on my bike.

What inspires you to keep bicycling?

I love the city of Chicago, and riding a bike is the best way to experience it. I feel better
mentally and physically when I ride, even on cold, dreary, blustery days and I don’t ever want to
give up that feeling.

In your experience, does the general bicycling world – shops, outreach, group rides, etc. -
feel welcoming for you as a woman?

I think the overall attitude in the bicycling world these days is fairly welcoming to women. There
are certain shops or groups that feel a bit like a boys club sometime, but there are also so many
different kinds of bikes, riders, and events these days that I think you can find the place that is
right for you. I’ve never felt excluded from cycling businesses or events because I was a woman.

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What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get
more women to bicycle?

The way to get more women riding is to make cycling safer and it has to truly be perceived
as safer too. I’m not the first one to say that – but I’ll be glad to repeat it. And “Safer” to me
means more truly separated bike lanes with lights, and more education/public awareness of
how motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians should interact on public ways. I really do think that
the next thing the city of Chicago should do is develop a long-term bike awareness campaign
that demonstrates how one should approach an intersection with a cyclist on either side, make
a turn, handle protected bike lanes, door zones, etc. I’m happy about the bike infrastructure
improvements we’re seeing, but now we need to teach people how to use this new infrastructure
and how to walk/bike/drive in conjunction with it.

If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it
be?

I would make all the buffered or ‘protected’ bike lanes in this city into truly separated bike lanes
with real dividers – perhaps like the curbs and planters I’ve seen in Long Beach CA.

Do you feel optimistic about the future of bicycling?

I feel very optimistic about the future of bicycling. I see more people cycling all the time. Each
winter here in Chicago I see more people continue to ride through the cold months than the year
before. That’s a great thing.

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Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?

Start out in your comfort zone. If you haven’t been riding at all, you may want to start out riding
on recreational paths or side streets – don’t expect to ride in downtown traffic the first time you
get on a bike. If you’re looking for a bike, research a few different bike shops – find one that
carries the type of bike you think you’ll be interested in, and one with a staff that is welcoming
and helpful to you and not just trying to push you into any ole bike purchase.

Final words?

There are a lot of women who are biking in Chicago and writing about it so don’t be afraid to contact any of us and ask questions. We all ride for different reasons and with different styles, on different bikes, but we all share the same desire to get more cyclists out there and we are always willing to share our own experiences and knowledge to further that goal.

I certainly second that! Thanks so much to Samantha for sharing her experience, thoughts, and advice with us!  For more, visit Ding Ding Let’s Ride and follow her on Twitter.

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Roll Model: Lauren in Nashville

As part of the new LGRAB, every Tuesday we will profile an inspiring everyday cyclist—a weekly series called “Roll Models.”

This week’s Roll Model is Lauren T., who rides here in Nashville. If Lauren looks familiar to you, it’s because she’s been a loyal attendee of bike brunches and events here in Nashville since the very beginning (well, that, and she wrote a terrific guest review of the Lululemon crops).  The photos she chose here do a great job of illustrating her lively, adventurous personality and the fun she has riding her bike. Not shown: Her penchant for colorful language, apparently reserved for those of us who have the privilege of knowing her personally! Read on for Lauren’s take on the bike scene in Nashville.

Describe your bicycling style in three words.

colorful, fearless, inventive

How long have you been riding a bike?

I’ve been cycling for about 2 years. Of course, I had a bicycle when I was a kid, and I loved riding it everywhere, but I stopped when I got my driver’s license… and forgot everything. It is possible to forget how to ride a bike, I don’t care what anyone says! I had to re-learn in my back yard. I promptly rode straight into a bush and tipped over. Fortunately, it gets much easier after that :)

 

At bike to work day 2012

How does bicycling fit into and/or shape your life?

I do have a car, but I try to ride my bike at least a couple of times a week – for exercise, less gas consumption, a stress reliever, and also because it’s just fun. I only live about 5 miles from my office so this actually pretty feasible. A little less than a year ago, my truck died (like, needed a new engine died) during a long weekend… and I wasn’t nearly as bummed as I thought I would be, since I knew my bike would get me where I needed to go (and the public transit could pick up the slack!). I spent about a month getting around via bike and bus before I found a replacement truck… and the whole process was actually kind of fun! Not to mention I had the luxury of taking my sweet leisurely time in picking out something in my budget that wasn’t a piece of junk, instead of just grabbing the first deal that came my way. I’m not quite at the point where I’m willing to entirely give up my car, but I’m definitely heading in that direction!

What inspires you to keep bicycling?

As dorky as it sounds, the wonderful feeling I get from cycling is what keeps me going. I love the feeling of freedom, of propelling myself with the strength of my own two legs. And, you know, it feels pretty dang good to roll up at some giant festival downtown & lock my bike to the nearest rack – instead of paying $15 to park my car (and get stuck in traffic crawls when all is said and done!).

In your experience, does the general bicycling world—shops, outreach, group rides, etc.—feel welcoming for you as a woman?

In my city – absolutely! I think this city & all the little bike gangs around do their best to make sure everyone is included – both women and men. I’ve never felt stupid or looked down on for wandering into a bike shop & asking dumb questions. My commute has lots of interactions with male cyclists – the kind who are head to toe in colorful spandex on top of a really expensive bike – and we all chat each other up & offer words of encouragement. I may be rolling around on a spray painted Frankenbike, but I’ve never felt like I was inferior because of that, or because I am a lady cyclist.

Lauren in a cycling jacket she sewed

What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get more women to bicycle?

I don’t see much of a gender gap – maybe I’m just oblivious to it. Wouldn’t be the first time!

If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it be?

I think the single most important thing we need here is education – lots and lots of education. Education for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. We all need to learn how to share the roads – they are there for all vehicles, not just ones that use gasoline :) I’d say that the majority of my problems from cycling around in the city are from driver ignorance — whether they are passing too close because they don’t know better, or maybe they didn’t know they couldn’t park in the bike lane, and even a lot of the road rage toward cyclists. Nope, me cycling in the street is not illegal, sorry!

Lauren at the Tour de Fat

Do you feel optimistic about the future of bicycling?

Oh, yes! I really do think we are heading toward a more sustainable lifestyle – and bicycling is definitely a big part of that. Seeing all the progress that my city is pushing toward pedestrians & cyclists absolutely makes me feel optimistic about the future.

Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?

Starting out can be intimidating & scary, but it will get easier the more you ride! You don’t need something overly fancy/expensive to start, just make sure you have the seat at the right height & that you feel comfortable on your bike. I started out by riding in circles around my block (and tipping over every single time I tried to turn the bike, haha), and then working up to tiny ½ – 1 mile rides down the road – until I was at the point where I could comfortably ride all the way to my office. I was very timid when I started – I wouldn’t even bike around my neighborhood solo, too scared! – but now I’m kind of fearless. I’ll bike anywhere, for any distance, and I’ll even do it in a skirt! Yeah!

Final words?

My riding mantra is, “If I was in a hurry, I’d take my car.” Slow down and enjoy the ride! Otherwise – what’s the point? :)

Thanks Lauren! For more about Lauren, visit her sewing blog, Lladybird, and be wowed by her stitchery talent. She’s currently helping me sew a skirt.  In the three months I’ve been working on it off and on with her, she’s completed approximately a dozen outfits. 

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Roll Models: Sara of Full Hands

Every Tuesday we will profile an inspiring everyday cyclist—a weekly series called “Roll Models.”  

This week’s Roll Model is Sara Armstrong of Full Hands. Dottie and I have been following Sara’s blog since we first started writing our own, and her spirited accounts of life on two wheels with her husband and three sons in New Haven, Connecticut, are entertaining and inspiring. The Armstrongs are such dedicated cargo bike enthusiasts that they’ve even designed their own cargo-bike themed T-shirts (my favorite slogan: think inside the baks), and they recently participated in the Five Boro Bike Ride in New York City. Read on for Sara’s story in her own words.

Collecting the Christmas tree by bike

Describe your bicycling style in three words.
Style? Hard to describe anything about me as “style” as I am all about comfort, practicality and ease. Oh, that’s three words! Mama of three are my other three essential bike riding descriptors.

How long have you been riding a bike?
Outside of my suburban childhood bike jaunts, I did not ride much as adult until February 2009 when our first cargo bike, a Dutch bakfiets, joined our family. For the past three+ years, we have been committed family bicyclists and our bicycle stable has grown to include other cargo bikes: an Xtracycle Radish and a Yuba Mundo.

How does bicycling fit into and/or shape your life?
We ride. That’s just how we get around. Bicycling has enriched my family’s life immensely. On the practical side, it has allowed us to remain a one-car family. On the unexpected-benefits side, bicycling has made us much more in-touch, involved and aware community members. When out on our bikes, we notice so much more than we did when we were always in the car. We engage with more people, some of whom we likely would not have had much contact with if we were not bicycling throughout our city. We can stop easily when something catches our eye, investigate what suddenly interests us, and never need to worry about parking! Bicycling is fun and freeing.

At the Five Boro ride


What inspires you to keep bicycling?
Much of the time, it is just as easy to bicycle locally than to drive, often more so. One point of inspiration is certainly my children. I like that they see bicycling as a valid, and even normal, form of transportation. Perhaps they will not grow up to be bicycle commuters themselves, but they will always know that a bike can take you where you need to go.

In your experience, does the general bicycling world—shops, outreach, group rides, etc.—feel welcoming for you as a woman?
I feel extremely lucky as the bicycling world here in New Haven has been very welcoming. Our local bike advocacy group, Elm City Cycling, has a number of very active women. Our local bike shop has a female bike mechanic. In fact this shop, The Devil’s Gear, has been incredible cheerleaders and champions of our family bicycling adventures. Even though I still cannot always talk the ‘technical’ bikey stuff, the folks there have treated me with respect and helped out whenever I needed it. And truthfully, our local bike shop is one of the few stores that it is easy to go into with three boys with me! The Devil’s Gear people put up with my guys’ high energy, innumerable questions, and unquenchable desire to test out every bike horn, numerous times. However, the truth is that I don’t attend Elm City Cycling meetings or most monthly Critical Mass Rides, but not because I don’t feel welcome as a woman. The timing of these events just does not work out with my life as a parent of younger children.

What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get more women to bicycle?
I honestly am not sure what to make of the gender gap. I do know a number of women who as mothers are responsible for much of their kids’ transport, getting them to school, activities, birthday parties, etc. Many of them cannot even begin to imagine that is doable by bike. Cargo bikes have allowed my family to do many of these same things, but I have three children and if my husband were not willing to be out there hauling the boys by bike too, and I had to be solely responsible for getting my sons to all the places they need to be, we would be in the car. Of course, this is more of a parenting issue than solely a gender one. Fathers who take on much of the activity/school running would face the same car vs. bike dilemma, especially with multiple children.

Biking to the first day of school

I hesitate to make any sort of statement about perceived dangers of bicycling and risk aversion and linking that to one gender or the other. My mom was an incredibly tough woman (seven children in 10 years!) and my five sisters are extremely strong and brave. I have, however, heard from multiple female friends that they would be more apt to bike commute if our city had bicycling infrastructure that made them feel more comfortable out there on their bikes instead of having to ride always on the streets with car traffic. I have no doubt though that there are men who feel the same.

If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it be?
While I am thankful for my city’s investment in painting sharrows on many local roads, I must admit that I do lust after those protected bike lanes that are in some other cities. Then I would feel more comfortable with my older sons riding for transportation, not just for recreation. My nine-year-olds are quite capable bicyclists, but our city’s infrastructure does not allow them to ride themselves easily to school as our route takes us right through downtown. We have been working on street riding on the weekends when the car traffic is lighter, but during the week we are still mostly hauling them on our cargo bikes.

And while I know this question asks for just “one thing,” I must mention that I would also magically like to change many drivers’ attitudes about driving a car. I would love to see all drivers recognize what a big deal it is to drive a car—that it is a primary activity that requires vigilance and concentration, not a secondary activity to talking on the phone, texting, doing one’s hair, whatever. This would improve all of our lives: drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists alike. And to be clear, I, too, drive a car, so I try to live up to this standard.

Do you feel optimistic about the future of bicycling?
I do feel quite optimistic about the future of bicycling. In the past three years since we became family bike commuters, we’ve seen quite a noticeable increase in bike riding in New Haven and a very active family bicycling community grow on the Internet. The more of us out riding, I know it prompts others to think, “Hey, maybe I could do that, too.” We are no longer the nutty family out there on our cargo bikes (OK, maybe we still are) as there is a real cargo bike presence in town here. Sure, some folks still react in amazement and ask tons of questions when they see us hauling our kids on these cool bikes, but now we get hear more of, “Hey, nice Xtracycle!” or “Wow, you have a Yuba!”

Bicycle towing


Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?
Two basics for me: Find a bicycling buddy and start small.

When figuring out riding, reach out to another bicyclist. Perhaps you can go for a ride together before you strike out on your own or before you add kids to the mix if you are a family bicyclist. Maybe this bikey friend can help plan a good route to get to the library that doesn’t take you on streets too busy with auto traffic. Ask to try out another’s cargo bike. Ride together to camp or school drop-off.  Even if you cannot find a cyclist right down the street, go ahead and reach out to others via the web. When we first started family bike commuting, the folks we met through the Internet were invaluable. We asked their advice and looked to them for inspiration. We have found fellow bike folks, both local and virtual, to be extremely generous and open to our many questions.

To quote from the U.S. Secretary of Transportation’s blog, Fast Lanes,

“High gas prices are hitting American families in their wallets and pockets pretty hard these days.  But did you know that more than 40 percent of urban trips in the United States are less than two miles, yet 90 percent of those short trip are taken by car?”

Go ahead and plan to take a bike ride once a week to start. Think about one of those less-than-two-mile trips when you normally might take a car. Find a route on streets where you are comfortable riding. The more you are out there on your bike, the more you’ll feel comfortable doing on your bike. Likewise, the more bicyclists out there on the road, the safer it is for all.  So take that one trip to start. Make sure your gear is in good working order and you have all those provisions you need, kids’ snacks, sippy cups, etc. including a U-Lock (really, make this a part of your investment).  However, it doesn’t matter how long you ride for or how far you go, just give it a try.

Final words?
Just have fun! While many can point to the numerous benefits—financial, health-wise, environmental, etc.—of bicycling, when I am out there on my bike, I am often just having fun. Riding is a joyous experience.

{ Thanks Sara! For more on biking as a family of five, check out Full Hands. }

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Roll Model: Martha Williams of Bike Fancy

I am very excited to share this week’s Roll Model: Martha Williams of the fabulous blog Bike Fancy, showing “people looking good on bikes.”  Martha, a professional photographer for Time Out Chicago magazine, has created a unique website that goes far beyond simply posting snapshots of bicyclists on the street.  She flags each person down, introduces herself, makes an intentional portrait, and follows up with an email interview.  There is no wonder how Martha earns the trust of strangers on the street: she is one of the sweetest and most welcoming people I know.  If anyone can put you at ease while taking your picture to share on the internet, it’s Martha.  She is also an experienced transportation bicyclist.  Read on to learn more about Martha, biking fancy, and the importance of Vitamin D and divided bike lanes.

Martha and her bike

Describe your bicycling style in three words.

Surprisingly stylish schleper

How long have you been riding a bike?

Well, I’ve been riding a bike in Chicago over ten years. I learned to ride a bike in third grade, which was shamefully late for a suburban kid. Our neighbor (who was the same age) taught me and my twin sister when she found out we didn’t know how to ride. I have a big family and buying two bikes and teaching two kids to ride a bike was too much at the time. After that, we borrowed our older sisters bike, and then went straight to ten speeds, no kiddie bikes.

How does bicycling fit into and/or shape your life?

I’ve modified my job to be doable by bike. I commute most days, in all weather. I also ride my bike to most of my photo shoots for work. I feel much more efficient when I can ride. I can get from my office, to the North Loop, then Taylor St, and end in Wicker Park in half the time it would take to ride public transportation or drive.

Martha and her bike

What inspires you to keep bicycling?

I don’t know if it is mental, experiential, physiological, physical, or church-of-the-wheel-spiritual, but biking makes me indescribably happy. So the selfish pursuit of happiness is my inspiration. Also, less pollution, great light that changes everyday, not getting a Vitamin D deficiency, saving money to travel!

Tell us about Bike Fancy - how it came to be, your goals for the site, and what you’ve learned about the Chicago bicycling community through the process.

When I started Bike Fancy I was full-on in love with riding my bike in the city, and I wanted to find a way to share those feelings. At first I thought that I might write a first person account of riding in the city, but I realized there were people already doing that really well (Dottie and Trisha among others!), I’m not a great writer, and I am really not interested in my own perspective, at least not in a way that could sustain a blog. I was familiar with the Copenhagen Cycle Chic blog, and was completely obsessed with the Sartorialist. I had also photographed for Time Out Chicago’s public eye article (where I am a photo editor) on occasion. I realized that because I was riding around the city most days that I was uniquely positioned to document cyclists. I really wanted to address the cycling gender gap in a positive way, and show that anyone can ride a bike in the city. No need to be an athletic person, wear special clothes, or be a dude.

Fancy Cyclist Anne

I have loved getting to know the Chicago bicycling community through this blog. I have met lots of interesting people, learned about inspiring organizations, and built lots of relationships. That said, I randomly stop strangers so that I can include people that don’t consider themselves part of the cycling community. In Amsterdam and Copenhagen there is no “bicycling community,” because everyone rides a bike. I love that in the span of a few weeks I could stop a brand new rider, an experienced rider from a local racing team, and everyone in between.

Fancy Cyclist Sojourner

I have lots of goals for the site, but firstly I’d love to make a sleeker design for the site with a few more bells and whistles. Secondly, I feel constantly challenged to show a diverse range of women: age, race, neighborhood, body type, social group, etc. My goal is always to find a diverse range of fashionable women, but I’m only one person. Also, I love to travel, so photographing as many places as possible is up there.

In your experience, does the general bicycling world – shops, outreach, group rides, etc. – feel welcoming for you as a woman?

I think the general bicycling world feels very welcoming.

Fancy Winter Cyclist Cheyenne

What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get more women to bicycle?

Well I think those statistics are a few years old and if they were done now you would see the gap narrowing. That said– I do see a lot more men out there, and I am looking! I think women, generally speaking, are more risk adverse and cycling in a city with limited infrastructure can be really terrifying. I think most people want a stress-free commute and getting buzzed by a giant truck, or left-hooked by someone talking on their cell phone is not “stress-free.”

If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it be?

Divided bike lanes! I ride State St. a lot and there is a perfect amount of space for a 2-way bike lane right down the middle of it. It could go all the way from 95th to North Ave, but I’d be happy with a lane from Roosevelt to Kinzie.

Fancy Cyclist Tracy

Do you feel optimistic about the future of bicycling?

For sure. I think it is a no-brainer, especially with rising gas prices, the obesity epidemic, and increased urbanization. Also, I’ll share a little secret— a lot of people find it addictive.

Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?

Start slow, know where you are going so you can feel confident and calm.

Final words?

I think I wrote too much already : ) Okay I take that back. I am in the market for a new bike. Under $800, a fast lady frame, upright handlebars, a rack that matches the frame. I’m looking at the Linus but might just do a vintage custom build. Taking recommendations!

Martha at work

Thanks for sharing your perspective, Martha!

Visit Martha at Bike Fancy to see new portraits several times a week. 

Roll Models: Sarah W. of Nashville

As part of the new LGRAB, every Tuesday we will profile an inspiring everyday cyclist—a weekly series called “Roll Models.”  

This week’s roll model is my friend Sarah W. Despite being a relatively new cyclist, Sarah is unafraid to plunge into group rides and is a loyal attendee of our monthly bike brunches. I admire her positive attitude, her adventurous spirit and her incredible knitting skills. Read on for Sarah’s take on Nashville cycling.

Sarah and her Raleigh

Describe your bicycling style in three words.
Slow, upright, regal (last one according to my husband, Paul).

How long have you been riding a bike?
I rode a bit as a kid and teenager, took a long hiatus, and then started again in November 2011. I feel like a new cyclist!

How does bicycling fit into and/or shape your life?
Biking is something I look forward to in the short-term, what I’m doing in the new few weeks, and also in the long-term, because I plan on pursuing it wherever I live in the future. I currently ride mostly on weekends and to my Tuesday night knitting group, which consists primarily of me and Lauren, who also rides. I live in an older part of Nashville that has quiet residential streets and some bike lanes. My husband saw how much fun I was having, and we got him a bike about a month after I started. He loves riding too!

Sarah cycling in Venice Beach last month

What inspires you to keep bicycling?
I ride for enjoyment, but I do have some loose goals: to better my handling and endurance, for example. I am inspired by the many Nashville biking women I know, and I enjoy bike blogs, like Let’s Go Ride a Bike and Lovely Bicycle. I love soaking in my surroundings at a leisurely pace and feeling the wind as I ride–that seems pretty universal!

In your experience, does the general bicycling world—shops, outreach, group rides, etc.—feel welcoming for you as a woman?
So far, so good. I know a lot of women who ride. The shop I frequent most often makes me feel welcome and like I can pull up a stool and chat.

What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get more women to bicycle?
I’m not sure I have a great answer to the “woman problem.” I do think more women would ride if they felt safe on the roads and there was adequate bike parking where they wanted to go.

Sarah's Raleigh parked at the Frist Center in Nashville

If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it be?
I’d make drivers alert and cautious around bikers. Also, I’d like slightly elevated bike lanes everywhere like in Copenhagen, and separate intersection lights for bikes. And flat streets. Magic!

Do you feel optimistic about the future of bicycling?
Yes! I think it’s growing so much and even if biking is not for everyone, I know my friends who do not bike now have cyclists on their minds: one friend told me she now checks the bike lane before making turns so she doesn’t accidentally turn in front of a cyclist. Yay!

Sarah and her beach cruiser at the start of the Rhinestone Cowboy Ride

Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?
Here’s what worked for me: I bought an inexpensive used bike and took baby steps. First, I walked the bike to an empty church parking lot down the street and rode around. Then I rode down a little street and back one day—wow. Soon I had found a short neighborhood route, which I still like. I use Google Maps’s biking directions sometimes. They are pretty good. I’ve also read many books about biking, which were educational and inspiring.

Final words?
I started biking because I saw a gorgeous bike on craigslist that I had to have—all other bikes left me cold. I also was feeling like a big couch potato. I do a lot of crafting, but my hands began to hurt. When I stopped crafting altogether, I felt like I was doing nothing on the weekends. I needed to get out of the house, but driving to and shopping at the mall wasn’t the answer. I’d been reading a fitness/weight loss blog whose writer bikes everywhere around Brooklyn and Manhattan—she looked so cool and like she was having fun. If you’re thinking about biking, go for it!

{Thanks, Sarah! See you at the next bike brunch. }

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Roll Model: Sam of Brown Girl in the Lane

As part of the new LGRAB, every Tuesday we will profile an inspiring everyday cyclist—a weekly series called “Roll Models.”

This week’s Roll Model is Sam (also known as Beany) from Brown Girl in the Lane. Dottie and I have had the pleasure of meeting Sam in persontwice!—during visits to San Diego. If you’re wondering if she’s as idiosyncratic and charmingly acerbic in person as she is on her blog, the answer is emphatically YES! Sam is the only person I know who has moved cross-country by bike, and she always emphasizes how empowering and enjoyable riding a bike can be. We’re honored to share more about her with you. (For those of you who don’t know her blog, Sam doesn’t post photos of herself—but all photos in this post were taken by her.)

 

A rare bird—female cyclist in San Diego

Describe your bicycling style in three words.
Comfortable, fun and quirky

How long have you been riding a bike?
Since I was 5. I’m 31 now. So about 26 years.

Describe where you live and cycle.
In neighborhoods with a lot of human activity (people walking, riding) and along the coast with the view of the ocean constantly at my side.

What inspires you to keep bicycling?
Every day I ride, I feel indescribably happy. The experiences I have on the saddle allow me to be truly in touch on a very visceral level with the city around me. It is a sort of attachment that I cannot shed. And one that I don’t want to.

In your experience, does the general bicycling world—shops, outreach, group rides, etc.—feel welcoming for you as a woman?
No. I found one bike shop that did, and then they up and moved to Portland (Velo Cult). Intentionally or unintentionally, I always feel stupid when I walk into bikes shops. And I don’t know a whole lot but the condescending attitude seriously ticks me off. So I revert back to how I’ve always done things: watching youtube videos and buying my supplies online.

A family ride

What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get more women to bicycle?
I believe that the infrastructure issue is huge as it has been highlighted often. But women are constantly put down by not just the media (who tend to take their cues from leaders in the movement), but by men in general and that can be very demoralizing. I experience that on a near daily basis and since I’m fairly thick skinned I don’t notice it unless I take the time to really analyze it. I guess I’m a bit dead on the inside to really take stock of it. I think bike blogs written by strong women (like yourself and Trish) really serve to inspire. You look normal, and many women can relate to you and your interests. Between where we are now, and before we turn the U.S. into The Netherlands or Denmark, we’ve got to support one another.  I think I should write about this in more detail. [ed: in between submitting this post and us posting it, she has! Check it out.]

Although you seem to enjoy life in San Diego, you often express frustration with its dominant car-culture and poor infrastructure. If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it be?
Have a car-free day once a month. Have people ride, walk or transit everywhere. My frustration stems from the lack of empathy from the drivers. If everyone knew how annoying it is to get buzzed or honked at, I think people would be more considerate. [ed: WORD.]

Standard Tap: one of Beany's favorite watering holes

Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?
It is scary, intimidating and annoying. Especially at first. My motivation is financial—I hate spending money. But the after effects have been tremendous. Riding gives such a wonderful feeling of independence—you can go anywhere you want to, on your own power. That is such a powerful feeling. Being outside on a bike—I feel so powerful, so happy, so inspired (I get some of my best ideas when I’m out on long rides). I’m very shy, so I tend to do things alone. So if you’re like me, I’d urge you to just try it out. Give riding a shot in a safe, protective environment and see how you feel. Don’t do something you’re uncomfortable doing. If you have a friend or a partner you trust—try riding with them. Ride with someone who is patient with you and your limitations. Be stubborn, and keep trying. If you have concerns about your body or your lack of fitness, try a little bit at a time. Although I ride every day, my body is not a svelte, lean, muscular machine. Like many women, I have my own body image issues, but I ignore them because the joy I derive from riding trumps all the negative thoughts in my head.

Final words?
I dream of a day when the number of people riding are split 50/50 between men and women. I want to be lost in the crowd of women.

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Thanks to Beany! Everyone should check out Brown Girl in the Lane for more San Diego cycling stories.

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Roll Model: Jools of Lady Velo

As part of the new LGRAB, every Tuesday we will profile an inspiring everyday cyclist—a weekly series called “Roll Models.”

This week’s Roll Model is Jools, aka “LadyVelo,” who blogs about her adventures on two wheels in East London at Vélo-City-Girl. Jools sets the bar pretty high when it comes to cycling in style—and she’s only been at it two years! Read on for a glimpse of the London cycling life.

Jools and her Pashley!

Describe your bicycling style in three words.
Stylish, leisurely, fun!

How long have you been riding a bike?
I’ve been riding my Pashley for just over two years (two years and two months to be exact!)

Describe where you live and cycle.
I live in Newham in East London, which is now famous for hosting the 2012 Olympic Games! As I cycle to work (also in East London) I do ride around the area a lot. Improvements are being made around here for cyclists, but there is still a lot of work to be done on the cycling infrastructure around here. When I’m out with The Boy on our bikes, we often cycle across London for our Coffee & Cake Saturday rides, which is ace! Getting around London by bike is the best way to really see and appreciate the City!

How does bicycling fit into and/or shape your life?
Bicycling has had a huge effect on my life: It’s been a fantastic way to meet new and likeminded people who enjoy the freedom of cycling… and who also enjoy mixing fashion with two wheels! My levels of fitness have also improved since getting my Pashley and starting to ride again… it’s been amazing.

In your experience, does the general bicycling world—shops, outreach, group rides, etc.—feel welcoming for you as a woman?
In my honest opinion, I find that the smaller / independent bike shops are always more welcoming to women riders. Some of the larger chain bicycle shops seem to be heavily geared towards men, which is a pity as there is a huge female cycling demographic out there. When it comes to group rides, women are being catered for with rides organised by the likes of Breeze Network, who are reaching out to female cyclists wanting to get back on the saddle—encouragement is key.

What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get more women to bicycle?
I really hope to see the day when there isn’t a “Gander Gap” in cycling when it comes to media attention / getting more women cycling….

If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it be?
The current CS Cycle Highways we have. I’d make them wider and adopt a similar style to those in Berlin

Do you feel optimistic about the future of bicycling?
I do feel optimistic about the future of cycling in London. Although it may feel like a tough battle at the moment, so many people / organisations / bloggers and such are campaigning for improvements here . . . voices will be heard and changes will be made.

Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?
Go for it! Do some research and look into getting a bike suited to your needs, and go at your own pace. Between me taking up cycling again in March 2010, there was a 10-year gap—it’s NEVER too late to start riding! It’s also very likely that there will be women-only cycle groups in your area—check them out and go on group rides or rides with friends to build up your confidence if needed…

Final words?
Be safe, be happy & enjoy being on your bike! x

 


 

Thanks for sharing your story, Jools! For more, visit her at Vélo-City-Girl or on FB or twitter.

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Roll Model: Karen of She Rides a Bike

As part of the new LGRAB, every Tuesday we will profile an inspiring everyday cyclist – a weekly series called “Roll Models.”

This week’s Roll Model is Karen from She Rides a Bike.  In 2008, Karen began bicycling for transportation in Flagstaff, Arizona and now blogs about her move toward a simpler and more satisfying lifestyle.

Describe your bicycling style in three words. In 3 words, my bicycling style would be responsible, assertive and well-organized. I wish I could say stylish but it’s more of an aspiration. [ed: way stylish!]

How long have you been riding a bike? I’ve been a committed transportation cyclist for 4 years.

How does bicycling fit into and shape your life? I’ve worked bicycling into most aspects of my life. If I can’t get someplace on my bike (with the exception of necessary air travel) I start questioning whether or not it’s even someplace I need to go. I still use a car from time to time but I’m more deliberate about when, where and why. I think bicycling has inspired me to reassess my relationship with “stuff” and motivated me to pursue simpler living that places value on experiences over possessions. I still like nice things but prefer quality over quantity.

What inspires you to keep bicycling? I’m inspired to keep bicycling by the way I feel (and sometimes don’t feel) when I’m pedaling. I love the feeling of strength, liberation, and openness that I experience moving in space. Bicycling is something I can do so why would I stop? Why give up my power? I’m also inspired by the other women cycling bloggers that I follow and their choice to also do something that is still a bit outside the mainstream.

As women, we are often rewarded for accommodating the expectations of the larger culture regardless of whether or not doing so is in our best interests. I love seeing women (and men for that matter) challenging expectations that serve no other purpose than to perpetuate a not always helpful status quo.

In your experience, does the general bicycling world – shops, outreach, group rides, etc. – feel welcoming for you as a woman? I think that I’ve been pretty lucky that the LBS in Flagstaff are super helpful and supportive of women cyclists regardless of what kind of cycling they do. A few of them sponsor clinics on bike maintenance and offer group rides. Flagstaff has a great urban trail system and many bike lanes so I can get around almost anywhere by bike. Flagstaff Bicycling Organization does a whole week of Bike to Work Week activities, as well as trail repair days and safety clinics. Women cyclists are viewed as important. The downtown bars and restaurants have also welcomed Tweed Rides since they bring people downtown who will spend money without taking up parking.

What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get more women to bicycle? I don’t see that big a gender gap in Flagstaff. It’s an outdoorsy community so women are doing all sorts of activities once considered daring. If there is a gap it might be more between moms and not-moms. I’m not a mom so I have considerable time and freedom that moms don’t necessarily have since I don’t have to worry about balancing a work schedule and a child schedule. Moms might have more safety concerns than I have. Flagstaff is bike friendly but some of its residents and visitors view the road as meant for cars and trucks only. Few cities enjoy the kind of bike culture as Portland.

I see an ongoing debate in the media about the cycle chic movement that strikes me as rather odd. There’s nothing prurient, in my opinion, about the cycle chic movement. I like to look nice at all times, including when I’m on my bike. As a new cyclist I appreciated cycle chic blogs that showed me how it was done. I’m 49 and have no desire to be confused as a bike-riding Hooters girl, and I don’t think cycle chic promotes that anyway. I just want to dress to please myself. If I had to wear gender neutral, asexual bike apparel or lycra, I wouldn’t have given bike commuting a shot.

If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it be? I think bicycling is still viewed by the movers and shakers as a recreational activity not as a serious transportation option. The town motto seems to be “Poverty with a view.” People joke about it but the high cost of car ownership is not funny. We sold one car and started bike commuting to help economize and it’s made a big difference in making ends meet and being able to save for retirement. Flag is small enough for bike commuting to be a very workable option for most residents but some still view investments in bike paths and other bike infrastructure as frivilous. Luckily, the bike community is pretty vocal.

Do you feel optimistic about the future of bicycling? I’m not by nature an optimist but I think the cycle chic movement has mainstreamed transportation cycling just a little bit. Framing bikes as sexy and fashionable might be the honey that makes the bitter medicine of changing how we get around go down a little easier. Ten years ago nobody could have told me I would be biking to work or the doctor or my hair stylist! It was a decision I made out of necessity. Nationally, times are changing. I think the days of mega houses and cars for every member of the household are coming an end. And that’s not such a bad thing.

Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling? Give yourself permission to start slow and learn. Being a newbie at anything requires a learning curve and a period of clumsiness. With time, it all becomes second nature. Visit plenty of bikes shops, ride lots of bikes, and check out all the biking blogs out there because they are packed with experiences, ideas, images and real people who can give you lots of wisdom. Whatever your barrier to bike riding, someone has come up with a way to overcome it.

Final words? I just appreciate being asked to particiapate in this post. I think most bloggers do so because they have something in their lives that they want to share. I’m always amazed when I meet someone who tells me I helped motivate them to try bike commuting but if I hadn’t stumbled upon LGRAB and other lady-biker oriented blogs, I wouldn’t have had the courage to get started myself.

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Thanks so much to Karen for sharing her story and insight with us!  So many good points!

Visit Karen at She Rides a Bike and follow her on Twitter.

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