Tag Archives: Interview

Interview: why Sheena does not bike

I met Sheena last fall and was interested to learn that she is an LGRAB reader but does not ride a bike.  While she was an avid bicyclist as a teen, she transitioned to driving – like most teens – once she got her license.  Now practical considerations (safety, storage, commuting distance) keep her off the bike.

I think Sheena is a great example of the type of person planners and advocates should keep mind: she would like to ride a bike and is attracted to the idea of transportation cycling, at least for short trips, but will only do so if she views it as safe, convenient, and practical.  I am interested in exploring this more, so I asked Sheena if she would answer some questions and she graciously agreed.

First, tell us a little about yourself and your commute.

Hi!  My name is Sheena.  I recently received my MA in advertising and now work as an Interactive Project Manager .  I live in the Western Suburbs, about 10 miles outside of Chicago.  I currently work downtown and I commute via Metra train on most days.

What is your history with bicycling?

Biking was my main mode of transportation when I was a teen.  I grew up a bit further out and lived near quite a few biking trails, so that was a popular activity when I was younger.  We’d compete with one another by racing up steep hills without trying to fall.   We’d also set records for each other to see who could bike the furthest in a day—without getting in trouble for leaving town.

When did you stop bicycling  and why?

Pretty much the moment I got my first car at 16.  I was the first in my group of friends to get a car, but everyone else did soon after.  Biking to the local mall was less attractive when you had a car and we were able to go further distances.  Basically, biking was no longer convenient for us anymore and unfortunately we did not retain biking as a hobby.

What keeps you from bicycling now?

I’d say the lack of being able to use it as a commuting vehicle.  I think that if I lived in the city, it’d be much easier for me to bicycle and get around.  Biking into the city from the suburbs would obviously be difficult.  When I’m not taking the train to work, I mostly drive if I’m around in the suburbs or walk around my own neighborhood.   Couple the lack of opportunities to ride a bike with lack of place to store a bike, and it’s been hard for me to justify buying a bike.

When I do have the inkling to ride, I always look into renting a bike for a daytrip along the lakefront, which makes me nostalgic for my earlier biking days.  It’s still an activity that I enjoy and it brings me to a different place.

What are the top two things the city could do to help make bicycling more viable to you?

1.    I’d say safety.  Yes, I understand the city has come a long way, but I’ve seen more bike riders hit by cars than I’d care to.  I look to blogs (like Let’s Go Ride a Bike) for tips and to learn more about advocacy, but I think the city can do a bit more to ensure safety for bikers.

2.    More advocacy.   This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the safety issue, but this is a huge driving city or public transportation city.  While both of those options are fine, I think the city could do more to encourage the more reluctant population to bike to work by naming incentives and the benefits of doing so.

Earlier you mentioned that lack of bicycle storage is a hurdle for you.  Could you talk about that?

Yes, lack of storage for my bicycle is a huge issue.  I live on the top floor of a smaller apartment with no basement storage.  Since my apartment is smaller inside, there really is very little room for me to place a bike and it’s looked down upon for us to hang anything if I wanted to.  I’d consider a bike to be an important investment, so I’d want to make sure I could store it in a safe place.

How did you come upon Let’s Go Ride a Bike and what do you get from reading it?  

I love reading blogs, especially Chicago-based blogs.  This is pretty much my go-to blog to read about cycling, biking tips and learning about the bicycling community.  While I’ve seen people cycling in regular clothes, I had not previously found any tips that cover the topic like this blog.  Plus, I love the idea of seeing a community of passionate bicyclers who share their stories and view biking as much more than a hobby.

{Thanks so much to Sheena for answering our questions!  I might have to start grilling everyone I know who does not bike.}

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My Hyggelig Feature

My Hyggelig, one of my favorite blogs that is celebrating its 4th birthday today, has been publishing a series on creative female bike bloggers in the month of January, and yesterday featured an interview with me.  I suggest that you head over there and check out the other features on Kara of Knitting Lemonade, LC of Naturally Cycling: Manchester, and Meli of Bikes and the City, a truly inspirational group!

Me and Coco in the snow

Commuting update: Yesterday I biked to work wearing a pinstripe pants suit with a white puffy down vest over the suit jacket and that kept me warm enough in 18 degrees, although I may have looked a little funny.  Today I’m heading for the L train, as a blizzard is expected to start this afternoon and dump 1.5 feet on Chicago.  Later!

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Marketing the Simple Bicycling Lifestyle

Today there is an interview with me on funsherpa, whose tag line is “uncovering what interesting people are interested in.” What a compliment! In my experience people who ride bikes to get around tend to be pretty interesting – they are independent people who take the time to question and challenge the status quo.

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One of the most thought-provoking questions funsherpa asked me was:

Lets say you worked for a marketing firm tasked with getting Chicagoans to switch over from cars to bikes – what would you do?

I would use all the tactics that automobile advertisers use. They show the car as sexy, safe, freeing, fun, attractive, normal, necessary. In my experience, these adjectives describe bicycling more accurately than driving, especially in the city. Bicycling delivers the kind of freedom that car advertising promises. We need images of successful and happy people on bikes dressed nicely, going on dates, smiling and laughing. Exposure to such images, like those on Copenhagen Cycle Chic, is necessary to show the public the possibilities that the bicycle presents. Most women here have no idea that riding a bike with a skirt and heels is easy; that bicycling does not have to be a sport; and that the bicyclist does not have to get sweaty.

My answer is a start, but I’d like to hear all of your ideas. We’ve touched on this in The Bike Commuter Stereotype, and now we’d like to take the issue head-on. What would you do with unlimited resources, or what can you do working with the resources you have? How do we go beyond preaching to the choir and reach the general public – posters, commercials, product placement in movies? Let’s hear your ideas!

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