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 :)
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.
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!
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!
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.