Tag Archives: media

Bicycling on “Call the Midwife”

Call the Midwife, a BBC show now broadcasting on PBS, is the story of independent young women working as midwives in 1950’s London.  The portrayal of these women (the opposite of something like Grey’s Anatomy) is refreshing and I’m especially charmed by the shots of them bicycling around the city to and from jobs.

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Love the bikes, love the outfits.  :-)

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There is even a storyline about one of the midwives learning how to ride a bike as part of the job.

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Here is a fun behind the scenes look at the role of bicycling in the show.

Watch Behind the Scenes – Riding Bikes on PBS. See more from Call the Midwife.

“I find it really freeing. It makes you really happy, riding a bike…I really loved it.”

Anyone else enjoy watching Call the Midwife?

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Yoga and Bicycling: Pedal, Stretch, Breathe

A wink and a smile.  Peanut butter and jelly.  Gin and tonic.  Some things just go well together.

Such is the case with yoga and bicycling.  Trisha and I discussed this lovely combination in 2009, and I mentioned recently that I’ve begun practicing yoga every weekday morning.

So when I read about Pedal, Stretch, Breathe: The Yoga of Bicycling, a new ‘zine written by Kelli Refer of the blog Yoga for Bikers and published by Elly Blue of Taking the Lane, I decided to order a copy.

While the 44 page booklet is not a comprehensive guide, it outlines interesting links between bicycling and yoga, beginning with the importance of breathing fresh air and ending with the ability “to invite meaningful change into our communities.”  In between is practical information with action steps for integrating the practice of yoga with bicycling.  While some of the information is aimed at those taking long, sporty rides, much is applicable for those – like me – who simply ride for transportation.

The first half of the booklet provides several different yoga poses that either integrate a bicycle into the pose or are especially helpful for bodies subject to the repetitive motion of cycling.  Each pose is presented with a sketch and a description.  The poses can be performed either directly on the bike while waiting at a stop light or with more space pre or post-ride.

My friends Chika and Sara were cool enough to experiment with and demonstrate the poses when we met up for a free yoga class on Lake Michigan.  Below are their thoughts on a few of the poses.

They started with Dancer’s Pose: Natarajasana:  a little hard to balance while standing over a bike, but otherwise easy to do while waiting at a stoplight.  Good for the thigh and ankle, which both get a lot of strain from bicycling.

Heart Opener:  feels good! especially after leaning over handlebars.

Turn Around Twist: not much of a twist feeling…

…but they achieved more leverage by putting the front hand in the middle of the handlebars, allowing for a fuller twist.

Down Dog with your Bike:  feels good, would work as a pre or post-ride stretch, but obviously not at a stoplight.

Down Dog Twist: even better!

The booklet offers several different flow variations for these and other poses.  After completing this series of poses, Chika and Sara said they felt warmed up and ready to go and could see themselves enjoying these poses on their own.  Two thumbs up from my testers.  :-)

The second part of the booklet contains a basic guide to chakras “for you and your bike.”  Some of this I’m not really into, such as “true your wheels and repack your hubs to feel more freewheeling in life.”  But some is inspiring, such as bicycling as a moving meditation.

Consider your bike ride to be a moving mediation.  Notice all the sensations: Air on skin, steady breath, sweat rolling down your brow.  Move with keen awareness of your body and surroundings.

I need a recording of those words read in a calm, yoga-teacher voice to play whenever I get frustrated by heat, cold, potholes, or drivers.

Overall, Pedal, Stretch, Breathe is a unique and thoughtful read for those interested in both bicycling and yoga.  Definitely worth $5, especially considering the money supports cool, entrepreneurial women.  You can buy the ‘zine HERE and read more about the topic at Yoga for Bikers.

Now that I find myself doing heart openers at stoplights, I’m curious: do any of you incorporate yoga into your bicycling routine?

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Bike Style in Vogue

News flash: bicycles are in.  Last week, Vogue wrote about the fashionableness of bicycles:

As we ease into the last few weeks of summer, bike style is the new street style. So why not count your chic cruiser as a seasonal staple? Just as you might acquire pieces to complement a favorite new bag, it’s possible to build your ensemble around your bike.

A slideshow of bicycles matched with fall fashion accompanies the article. (Hat tip to CycleStyle Australia for the link.)

Looking at the slideshow is fun, kinda like our Fashion Fridays, but with all couture designer clothing.  We have been known here at LGRAB to match our outfits to our bikes!

I think such attention is positive for the image of bicycling and it gives me a little thrill, but I also agree with Trisha that bicycling is more than a fashion statement and that making the bicycle a fashionable accessory – without accompanying advocacy – will not substantially increase the amount of bikes on the road.  Paris and New York’s bikeshares and increase in infrastructure must be pushing this trend.  I’d love to know what others think.  Do you get excited about or roll your eyes at such articles?

(I must say, in regards to the imagery above, that society tends to gloss over painfully thin models as normal for fashion, but excepting the very few woman who look so naturally, this extreme thinness is not good or healthy.)

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Mary Poppins Effect in the Media

“The Mary Poppins Effect is a matter of humanizing the bicycle rider,” says Ms. Brackett, who co-authors the blog LetsGoRideaBike.com. “It helps drivers realize bicyclists are people too.”

Crains Chicago Business magazine has a little article about the Mary Poppins Effect by Claire Bushey. You can read the entire article here.

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Critical Mass in the News

Does Critical Mass help or hurt the cause of bicyclists?  This question is as rife with tension as the big helmet question.  Neither is a debate I’m interested in dredging up here.  Personally, I think Critical Mass in Chicago is great, but I can understand and respect arguments to the contrary, subject to the same caveat I have for any argument: that it be thoughtful and intelligent.

This week, some guy who wants to sell his book on “urban cycling” wrote a highly inflammatory post against Critical Mass, using the horrifying photo of a car driver crashing into (and killing members of) a group of cyclists in Mexico with the caption, “When is something like this going to happen in Chicago thanks to Critical Mass?”  The text of his post is as bad, with gems like this: “Critical Massholes are to fundamentalist terrorists what Islam is to cycling.”  That does not even make sense, but you get the idea.  His book cover is equally awful, a yellow and black graphic of a bicyclist plunging over a car.

I am very tuned in to Chicago’s bicycling scene, but I had never heard of this guy or his blog until today.  I’m not buying what he’s selling and I won’t link to his site from here, but apparently his distasteful publicity stunt is working, because he also got the attention of the press.

Earlier today, Chicago Tonight, a local PBS/WTTW news show that I watch nightly, had a discussion about Critical Mass, featuring this guy, along with Gin Kilgore, a Mass participant and creator of Bike Winter and all-around awesome woman, and Ethan Spotts of Active Trans.  Host Phil Ponce did a great job moderating.  Overall, I thought the segment was a positive piece for Critical Mass.  You can check it out for yourself below.  After the intro, jump ahead to 3:25 for the discussion.

I am not interested in starting a Critical Mass debate, but I do want to share this video and point out that there are ways to argue against the Mass with dignity and respect. It’s a shame for both sides when those who fail to do so get the attention.

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Betty Foy in the Red Eye

“I love owning a semi custom bike because it suits me perfectly and, as a result, I enjoy riding my bike even more,” she said.



Read more about me and others who prefer their bikes custom or semi-custom in Pimp My Ride*, the cover story in this weekend’s print and online editions of the Red Eye.

*Betty Foy would like to point out that she is against sex trafficking.

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Newcity Cover Story: the Martha Stewart of Chicago biking

Last week John Greenfield interviewed me for a cover story in Newcity, a Chicago news and arts weekly. I enjoyed chatting about bicycling with him over a beer and the story came out quite nicely. Apparently, I am the Martha Stewart of Chicago biking! I want business cards with that title.

One funny thing about the paper layout, though. The Pitchfork bike cut-out is grouped with two photos of me and before reading the interview (which mentions the objectification issue), people may think it’s also a representation of me. My co-workers were joking, Is that you after a few drinks??

You can read the full text and see more photos at Grid Chicago, where John blogs with Steve Vance about transportation issues. If you’re in Chicago, you can pick up a paper copy at any pink Newcity dispenser around the city.

Thanks, John!

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…and then news stories like this happen.

File this under “schlocky local news strikes again.”

I could not watch the entire video because I was shaking in rage from the opening line: “Bicyclists on the streets of Chicago face many dangers, but they may put themselves in that position and frequently frustrate others on the road.” (Next up on Channel 7 news – Domestic violence victims: why don’t they just leave the guy??)

This is how the mainstream media uses a few examples to twist reality and perpetuate false truths about bicyclists. I ride through Chicago every day and I see hundreds of bicyclists riding lawfully and courteously. Anyone could stand on the corner of downtown Chicago during rush hour and record footage of drivers and pedestrians breaking traffic laws, but no one’s broadcasting a story about how those who die in car crashes everyday are asking for it. This story is bullshit, total car-head on display.

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The macho discourse on city cycling

How much does the bike community’s own discourse on city cycling negatively affect the number and type of people who are willing to give life on two wheels a try?

This question has been swirling around my head since last week, when I read a guest post on Commute by Bike that offered 10 Rules for Urban Commuting. The rules are full of advice such as disobeying stop lights, being aggressive and never signaling. There is also solid advice about avoiding the door zone, not waiting to the right of stopped traffic and taking the lane. I disagree with a lot of the rules, but that’s fine: it’s not my list and I’m sure the style of riding works for the author and many others.

However, the macho tone of the article is endemic of a problem of the greater discourse on bicycling in the bike community. This wild west approach contributes to the fringe status of transportation cycling, both by repelling everyday people, especially women, and by reinforcing a culture that pits cyclists, drivers and pedestrians against each other.

When I first started bike commuting, I eagerly searched the web for tips and information, and this is the kind of advice I found everywhere – the kind that increased my apprehension about riding in the city and made me feel like I was not the type of person who should be attempting this. While I would have learned something from the “10 Rules,” the net effect may not have been helpful.

Me, a happy city cyclist {photo (c) Martha Williams}

I must not have been the only one who felt this way. The comments following the “10 Rules” post argued passionately both in favor of and against the rules. In response, the author followed up on his own blog by posting an 11th rule:

“I was struck by one curious and oft-repeated theme: the idea that those who ride bikes should assiduously avoid breaking traffic rules, because doing so makes motorists think badly of us.

For those afflicted with this way of thinking, I offer Rule 11:

If your priority is being seen as a “cycling role model” by drivers, you should not ride in the city.

Leaving aside the notion that riding safely and not making motorists think badly of us are mutually exclusive, I have a problem with this statement. I am not comfortable with advice aggressively telling people they should not ride in the city if X, Y or Z. I have enough experience with city cycling now to know what’s what, but this macho instruction would have been very off-putting to me when I was a beginner. What is a new bike commuter to take from such a statement: that to ride a bike in the city, one must abandon a lifetime of lawful behavior and reconcile oneself to pissing off drivers in a never-ending struggle to make it home alive? Sign me up!

Since new bike commuters are presumably the intended audience for these rules and other similar advice columns around the internet, I worry about how many potential cyclists are scared off by this kind of rhetoric. Someone kicking around the idea of bike commuting is already going out on a metaphorical limb and is likely hearing from family and co-workers that riding a bike is crazy and dangerous. It may not take much to push someone away from the notion completely. Certainly, safety is important and a new bicyclist must learn the rules of the road, but there is a way to broadcast that message without alienating most of the audience (I highly recommend the article, “How not to get hit by cars”).

Hopefully, some who are initially put off keep digging around the web and find advice that speaks to them and their situations. In the two and a half years since I first started my research as a new bike commuter, the number and quality of alternative resources has grown. Although the discourse is still largely controlled by the hardcore contingent, I am optimistic that as city cycling becomes more popular, the discussion will become more moderate.

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Live Call-In Show with Path Less Pedaled TONIGHT

The owner of transportation and cargo bike shop Cycle 9 (located in my beloved old stomping grounds of Carborro, NC) is doing a live call-in interview with Russ Roca and Laura Crawford of The Path Less Pedaled TONIGHT at 9 pm eastern/8 pm central.

Russ and Laura, photo by Trisha

You can not only listen to the hour-long show, but call in to ask questions!  To do this, you first need to register at http://www.biketouringbliss.com.  Once you register, you’ll have access to the call in number. There’s no charge to participate.

If you don’t already know about Laura and Russ, you should!  They are a couple who have embarked on a truly “epic” 14-month bike ride across America.  I know I’ll be listening tonight!

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LGRAB in Yes! Magazine

Let’s Go Ride a Bike is featured in the upcoming issue of Yes! Magazine, an award-winning, ad-free, non-profit publication that supports people’s active engagement in building a just and sustainable world.  The issue is on building community resilience and one of the features is 8 Crash-Proof Ideas, highlighting people and places building skills now that will come in handy in a future without oil.  We (meaning us and all of you out there) are Resillent Idea 3: Bike Anytime, Anywhere, As You Are.

You can read this part of the article by clicking on the image above.  The issue comes out sometime in the next week or two.  You can purchase it at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Whole Foods, other book/magazine sellers or subscribe here. I highly recommend supporting this intelligent, interesting and unique publication.

Viva le revolution!

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The Natural Attraction to Bicycles

I am still thinking a lot about bicycle marketing, and how important a simple and positive message is for eventual infrastructure change. I strongly believe that on a basic level people are naturally attracted to bicycles. Cycling reminds them of the freedom and fun of childhood. If only we can expose everyone to the beautiful side of cycling – think Copenhagen – the tide would start to turn in our favor.

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Out and about with Oma

Am I veering too far into unicorn-and-faerie territory?  An experience today makes me think that this idea is not too far-fetched.  Continue reading

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Marketing the Simple Bicycling Lifestyle, Part 2

Earlier this week I asked what you would do as a marketer tasked with getting people to switch from cars to bikes. The resulting discussion was impressive.  The main points were to emphasize the ease and desirability of cycling, while not being too pushy or preachy and remembering that infrastructure is the most important piece of the puzzle. Steven Vance is discussing this approach in his Making cycling normal series, and of course it’s a constant theme over at Copenhagenize. Today I was hoping to report back on how I had the opportunity to spread this message via the mainstream media, but life is never that simple.

I volunteered to participate in the filming of a segment on winter cycling for a show on the new ABC Live Well network, along with a few other people, including Elizabeth of Bike Commuters and Julie of The Chainlink. Prior to filming, the producer sent us the following instructions:

Please be bike-ready, that is, bring your bikes and gear. We don’t want anyone showing up to the shoot site coming off a bus in work clothes! And finally, please bring your winter gear. We want to capture some footage of you guys wearing balaclavas, your three layers, and someone applying gel toothpaste to their goggles! (emphasis added)

After reading this, I considered canceling. I have no balaclava, goggles or gel toothpaste tricks, and my goal is to dress in work clothes looking as if I could have stepped off a bus instead of a bike. They obviously had a story in mind that I did not fit into. I should have followed my instinct.

The Interview

The Guys

Continue reading

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More Gender Gap Analysis from the Media

The press lately has been fascinated with women on bikes. Reading these articles brings us a mixture of pleasure, optimism, frustration and annoyance. While mainstream acknowledgment of transportation bicycling is positive, the coverage regarding women has been shallow. Back in June the New York Times and Treehugger published articles that focus on women’s appearance and risk aversion – flaccid analyses that Trisha took head on in Mind the Gender Gap. Our female readers made their thoughts known loud and clear, which I highlighted in Women’s Voices.

My sister and nephew

My sister and nephew

Now Scientific American has jumped into the discussion with its article, “How to Get More Bicyclists on the Road: To boost urban bicycling, figure out what women want.” While there is the typical assertion that women are more risk averse than men, based on “studies across disciplines,”  there is also an interesting note that even within the same city, women’s cycling rates shoot up when one counts riders on protected paths.

Continue reading

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The Bike Commuter Stereotype

Let’s face it: bike commuters are stereotyped as fringe, eccentric, a bit odd.  Even in Chicago where there are plenty of cyclists, I am an anomaly as a bike commuter.

"This is what a bike commuter looks like"

"This is what a bike commuter looks like"

The reaction I get from most people is easy to predict, as I watch their stereotype confront reality.  Usually, they are surprised and slightly impressed.  The average Chicagoan is aware of bike commuters, so that big hurdle is cleared from the start, but people are surprised because I am a fairly quiet and unassuming female – I don’t fit the stereotype. There are always questions.

The most common:

  • Aren’t you scared of cars? You do wear a helmet, I hope?
  • You didn’t ride here in that skirt, did you??
  • But not during winter, right???

Some people are “hip” to the bike commuting “trend.”  Their questions tend to be:

  • Cool, where do you shower and change clothes?
  • You didn’t ride here in that skirt, did you??
  • But not during winter, right???

Once they learn that I ride in skirts and through the winter, they are shocked and confused. I love talking about cycling – obviously!- but even I grow weary of answering these questions.

I want to know from all of you:  What reactions do people have when they learn you are a bike commuter?  What questions do they ask you the most?  Which of your characteristics contribute to the way people react? How about your geographic location?

Finally, assuming this stereotype prevents a lot of people from considering bike commuting, what can be done to revamp our image, short of enlisting Don Draper’s assistance?

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Sunday Style

08.02marieclaire-idees-06-09The other day at the bookstore I treated myself to a French magazine. They can be pricey but always provide a different angle on style and fashion as well as a new vocabulary word or two.

My faves are the Elle family, especially Elle à Table, but today’s selection was Marie Claire Ideés. It had a bicycle on the cover — no contest.

This magazine, which has no American equivalent as far as I know (maybe one of Martha Stewart’s line?), is full of beautiful photos of craft projects, theme parties, fashions, etc., and then contains instructions for doing them yourself at the back.

Unfortunately, the only bike project they had instructions for was a saddle cover — but the inside spread provided a lot of inspiration for customizing your bicycle.

Continue reading

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More on the Guardian’s Bike Coverage

I’ve long been a fan of The Guardian, so when they launched a bike blog over the summer that collates all their cycling coverage, I signed up to receive updates. So far, I’ve not been disappointed. It covers a broad range of cycling culture and news.

There are women contributors who write about everything from harassment to riding in a skirt. The show’s current podcast, second in what’s to be a monthly series, included an interview with cyclist and Olympic medal winner Victoria Pendleton, who said that while she enjoys racing and can’t wait for London 2012, she looks forward “to the day when I don’t have an agenda [while riding]” and can “just toodle” around with her friends. Perhaps she was imagining that while posing for this picture.

Pendelton with a Pashley Poppy, from the Daily Mail via Cyclechic.co.uk

Pendelton with a Pashley Poppy, from the Daily Mail via Cyclechic.co.uk

Also featured were reviews of the new Trek Soho (described as “stately” yet “slightly chunky”) and the Sirrus Elite (the “boy racer” of hybrid bikes), and an inside look at Pashley (not only is business up, they’re opening a new distribution center . . . in Taiwan!).

Continue reading

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Famous Friends

Picture 3The latest issue of Momentum arrived at my house earlier this week, and I finally had a chance to page through it last night. As one of the few mags out there on utilitarian cycling, there are always interesting things to read, but this issue brought the extra pleasure of features on two of our favorite fellow cycling bloggers! First came the Hanadas in an article on DIY bike crafts that provided a lot of inspiration. We’ll see if it provides anything else—I’m big on finding projects I’d like to do and never finding the time to actually do them!

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I hadn’t gotten over the thrill of thinking, I know them! when I turned a page to see Miss Sarah of Girls & Bicycles, looking stylish as always in an article on biking while pregnant. The entire topic was new to me when she first started posting about her experiences on her blog, so it’s wonderful that she and the other women interviewed in the article were able to further spread the news that pregnancy and cycling can mix.

Momentum is  available for free in local bike stores in many US and Canadian cities—check out their list to see if yours is included. If not, you might have to spring for a subscription like me, but supporting such a venture is well worth the $20. But if you’re overseas or on a tight budget and don’t mind reading on the computer, a PDF of each issue can be found on their website, too.

What cycling magazines do you like to read?

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More on Women and Cycling . . .

Picture 1Check out today’s BBC Woman’s Hour, which posits that women are actually more at risk on a bike than men (six out of seven cyclists killed in London by “heavy goods vehicles” this year were women), though no real reason or further figures on this were given. Training videos for truck drivers, safety devices like proximity sensors, and other ideas for improving cyclists’ safety are discussed. It’s nothing ground-breaking (I was disappointed that the discussion with four female commuters focused on, you guessed it, helmet hair), but at least women are speaking for themselves, even if it’s just for a minute or two. You can download here (right-click and “save target as”) or stream it live here.

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Mind the Gender Gap

Dottie and I make no secret of the fact that the number one mission of our blog is to show that city cycling can be a part of any woman’s everyday life—no special equipment or clothing, or even a special type of bike required (though after a few months of riding, you’ll probably want one — or two!). Over the past six months, we’ve talked about our own obstacles to commuting and given our personal experiences as examples of how women might fit cycling into their lives.

Lately the media has been obsessed with women on bikes—or, more accurately, the women who are NOT on bikes. Apparently, we
Picture 3need more women cyclists to pretty up the place. Why aren’t they riding?!? Is it the helmet head? Are women too scared to share the road with cars? Maybe they are afraid to sweat? The latest to join the discussion is the New York Times’ City Room blog. The article presents research from a professor at Rutgers that says men commute by bike at 3 times the frequency of women, and the percentage is even worse in New York City. Having never cycled in NYC myself, I can’t say whether his description of riding its streets as “like going into battle” is accurate. And I certainly don’t want to discount concerns about safety and fashion, which were issues for me when starting out and two things Dottie and I are trying to help others overcome.

What annoys me is that none of the articles I’ve read on this topic lately go any deeper into why those things present serious obstacles for women but not men, even though men have the same concerns (no one wants to show up for work disheveled and stinky after all). Why bother, when it’s so obvious that men are just much less self-absorbed and a million times braver? It couldn’t be that there are higher expectations for women’s appearances in the workplace, or that the burden of transporting children or household errands like grocery shopping more often falls to them—the first reasons that came to my mind. These are not insurmountable, of course (just ask these cycling superparents, both moms and dads, or the other stylish women bike commuters we know), but they require some thought, negotiation and planning that your average male might not have to overcome in his quest to bicycle commute.

But instead of giving weight to these concerns, or looking into others, these articles stay on the surface. Women are dismissed as frivolous and their absence is mourned not because of the missed opportunity to allow them to discover an activity that can improve their quality of life, but because their presence would improve the scenery. As a girl who likes to look good on her bike, I can’t argue with that statement, but I can argue with it being the number one reason we should get women on bikes—sorry, Treehugger.

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