I've been doing some emotional housekeeping as the season transitions, trying to clear space within my self for fresh thinking and inspiration as take on the privilege of working with Susi Wunsch of Velojoy.com and Elly Blue of Takingthelane.com on the "Media & Marketing" committee of the Women Bike initiative, and we celebrate a year of Women on Bikes SoCal.
I had an "aha" moment today while reading at lunch and reading the deliciously gorgeous Martha Stewart Living's November issue and an article "Founding Gardner" and Peter Hatch, who has been painstakingly returning the garden at Jefferson's Monticello to something Jefferson himself would recognize. Of course I've known since grade school that Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, was one of the great progressive thinkers of his age (perhaps any age) and that he owned slaves - guiltilly, but still did. He was a study in paradox. Aren't most of us?
But rather than seeing Jefferson as a hypocrit as I so often have (and accepting as I do that I too can be a hypocrit as I point the finger at him) I "got" his heroism for his progressive views in a new way. I moved from the intellectual knowing to the emotional knowing. Of course I knew the Founding Fathers faced death for their ideals and standing up to the British crown, had we not won the war, most likely a very horrible death. I knew they were brave beyond me and my own little patch of bravery, but this time I also got that he did the best he could. He was the best man he knew how to be. That it was completely okay that he was this paradox, that he didn't add abolitionist to his many accomplishments.
And that I was okay being a paradox too.
So when I got home today I updated my bio to include that I deal with migraines and fatigue, and that I gave up my car five years ago due to health and financial reasons. I have been very open about this in blog posts and when I speak to friends and acquaintances, and different groups about Women on Bikes SoCal and what we do and why. I want other women to know that I walk the walk besides talking the talking, that I might just know exactly what they might be going through right now and that's why I see the bike as a tool for optimism and empowerment. I know what it's like to lose almost everything, including ones health. But I hadn't felt comfortable including these very personal struggles on pieces of correspondence that are, well, possibly so linked to whether I come across as a professional capable executive and a leader.
I am both - and I deal with migraines and fatigue. Like many I've figured out how to arrange my life so that my health challenges don't infringe on my work. I have specifically continued to work as an independent contractor to have a flexible work schedule, and yet I still fear that I will be judged for my condition.
The truth is that most of us have some kind of condition that hinders us and keeps us from being our very best selves as often as we'd like to be. We almost all have fear of some sort that wrecks havoc in some way or another at some time or another. We might be work aholics and ignore our health to our detriment (guilty), we might date (and or marry) totally inappropriate people, we might be lazy about details and or getting the training we need to have the skills for today's opportunity economy,
This week we had the first conference call for the advisory board for the new Women Bike project of the League of American Bicyclists.
This week while buying Oprah Magazine the young clerk said to me, "My wife is very inspired by her."
We had a fascinatingly ironic scenario that has unfolded around our 9/13 Cycle Chic event - in essence a clash of the feminisms.
I thought the hook up culture from the female perspective was more about feinging the attitude of non attachment rather than young women really having better things to do than have serious boyfriends.
I had to stop and ask myself why a bike in a fashion magazine layout works better for me than say an ad for a ride, or a bicycle sporting event. It's simply really, chances are I can't participate in either. I don't have the strength or endurance. I can, however, ride my bike to meetings and to run errands.
New York Times article on types of female bicyclists, and recent article about bike share.
Elle profile on the owner of Nasty Girls.
If we leave bicycle advocacy to the purists we won't come close to encouraging the numbers we want.
Fast food is easy, junk food is easy, buying clothes and technology is easy. Driving a car is easy. Choosing a bike must become easy.
I met a young neighbor last night walking home from dinner. Apparently he had noticed that I'm out walking and riding my bike quite a bit and asked where the walk was to this time. He told me he originally started riding his bike because the parking scenario in our neighborhood is so tough - in fact I've met another man who was inspired to create his own bike line from the very same reason.
The past two weeks have been absolutely fascinating from a "Bike Minded Market Watch" point of view. Last week a story happened that I simply could not have made up. Charlie Gandy and I live across the street from each other in a part of Long Beach called "Alamitos Beach" just East of downtown. It's an older neighborhood with one way streets, lots of apartments, some cool Craftsmen houses, and very little parking but nice wide quiet bike lanes.
If you stand on my corner you can watch a very diverse and dynamic melange of bicyclists go by at almost any time of the day. Apparently GT Bikes thought it was a fascinating enough setting because as Charlie was making the arduous trek across the street to hang out for dinner he realized a professional photo shoot was happening - starring bikes. We, being the curious Georges of all things bikes, of course had to meander across the street and find out what the heck was going on. Yep, it was GT Bikes doing part of their photo shoot for their 2014 promos in Long Beach because, and I quote, "we think it's just so cool what you guys have been doing here about bike-friendliness."
Imagine how that made our week!I can't wait to see the images!
But ok, you say that's a bike company so hey we're happy for you Long Beach but it's not the world at large loving bikes more. You're right. So above I bring you an image that greeted me in the new July issue of Vanity Fair. Pippa Middleton advising readers it was smart to ride your bike to Wimbleton to avoid the crowded car situation. Will the sister of the future queen of England be the reason we'll hit the tipping point in bike-friendliness in our world?
No, but she's an excellent step in the right direction and I say well done.
There are those who like to try and make bicycling about class war fare, saying it's only a sport and only something the rich in lycra can afford. That's an argument going on here in L.A. right now over bike lanes. But I wonder who these critics are really kidding? Have they noticed the price of gas? Have they taken a look at how much of their income their car payment and insurance takes up?
The City Bike movement is gaining so much traction with the Lycra crowd that Bicycling Magazine's July issue has a woman riding one on the cover. Yes, I was as stunned and thrilled as you are. They don't seem to have the new cover image online yet or I'd certainly be sharing it with you.
I personally gave up my car because I simply couldn't afford it anymore and like many I started taking public transit, and walking walking walking. We have very good public transit in Long Beach, but it still only takes you so far - and a bike beautifully closes the gap. Do we need to do more for those who can't afford the price of a bike? Yes, certainly, but those who are calling bikes elitist aren't looking at the facts they're looking at fear at a changing way of life.
If we're smart in bike advocacy we won't make bike advocacy about the bike vs. the car, or even the bike about advanced athleticism. Instead we'll focus our energy on the bike as a tool for urban optimism. Here in Southern California many people have a commute to work that simply isn't feasible for them by bike. But what people here could far more easily do is replace many of their local car trips by bike. They can save substantial money riding their bikes for errands, exercise and fun. Fun is the key here. Getting people out to discover anew where they live, supporting their local economy. This is something almost anyone can do.
And this is how Kellie Morris and I will be marketing our "Street Savvy" novice adult bicycle education classes.
Standing on my corner I see people of all ages and races ride by on bikes. I see women in their 50's in conservative clothing ride by on folding bicycles coming from the train from LA. I see beautiful hipsters of both sexes I want to run after and invite to our next photo shoot. I see men who now proudly sport baskets and carry groceries home. I see families with children heading for the beach, and yep I see men and women in lycra. But not as much as I see bikes that have utility to help people get things done (and save money and their heart while they're at it).
Recently I had the great pleasure of finally meeting Lynette Carpiet, the editor of Bicycle Retailer, who just happens to live in Long Beach. She gave me much food for thought on how to better connect bike advocacy to the bike industry, something that is one of our new goals here. She also admitted that she and her husband were both looking for new bikes - bikes to ride around Long Beach so they don't have to hassle with parking. She loved the idea of vintage bikes so I told her about Evan Whitener and Nicole Maltz of The Bicycle Stand (in my own neighborhood!) and their amazing service. That weekend Lynette and her husband added two new members to their bike family.
To everyone who loves to wear lycra for their long hard rides who also wants to ride a city bike in their street clothes too I say welcome and thank you! Which is why young women like our "Athletic by Bike" columnist Jennifer Tetrick is such an important role model.
Each new person who rides a bike in everyday clothing is a pedaling advertisement - for the good or for the ill of bicycling. Each one of us is a possible ambassador for creating new ridership if we behave well and follow the traffic laws. Bicycles in T.V. ads for everything from Dove soap to Viagra, and chic ads magazine print ads from top fashion designer from Marc Jacobs to Hermes absolutely help, but it's really each new person who rides and does so proudly with a smile on their face that is the very best way to move us to the true tipping point.
I have learned something fascinating about our readers and our outreach network since we've been doing our spring survey - our largest, and most active readership group is in the 25 to 35 year old age bracket. An age group still very open to new ideas, and new ways of presenting themselves, as they're discovering exactly who they want to be in the world. I have to say that I'm very proud of our own representation of this group with our three latest columnists Maria Sipin, Machiko Yasuda and Shelby Sanchez - and we'll be adding a forth with Jennifer Tetrick coming on very soon!
That's not to say that the rest of us (both older and younger!) can't continue to grow and change and be open to new ideas as well (and happily we have readers in all age categories!). Who could represent iconic change in this country right now better than President and Mrs. Obama? How proud and thrilled I was to see Michelle on the cover of Vogue for April with her stylish new bangs! And how it filled me with pride, and laughter that we have a First Lady who can get up and shake her groove thing on national television with Jimmy Fallon to promote her Let's Move campaign.
Keep up the vision and goal with me if you will of seeing Michelle on the cover of next year's May 2014 Vogue Magazine on a bike for Bike Month won't you?
Yes style matters in the active living conversation. Why? Style = thought. Style is not about mindlessly mimicking the latest fashion, style is about discovering who you are, what works best for you, and visually having a conversation with the world by how you present yourself. The First Lady not only exemplifies this with tremendous grace, she expresses her own journey to finding the right clothes in which she is completely comfortable and completely herself in the new Vogue article.
Which is exactly what we're striving to do here at Women on Bikes as well by how we present ourselves, and of course what we say. Obviously we are a work in progress, and a labor of love (with a new spring fundraising campaign coming up!) working to find the right mix to have the most appealing and engaging conversation with you about how a bike can fit into your everyday life.
I was also very excited to read in this month's Vogue about the new bike line Martone Cycling Co., created by Lorenzo Martone who has a background in public relations and advertising. I expect Martone to not only bring a new sense of style to bicycle marketing and advertising outreach, but some of the very focused discipline a fashion mindset brings to getting the word out in the most appealing way to the broadest audience possible. From my research on Martone I found the gorgeous website Style of Sport and am thrilled to share that I'll be doing an interview next week for an upcoming Bike Minded Market Watch with founder Claudia Lebenthal.
From Right: Bernard Serrano of Cyclone Coasters and his dance partner Kitty Marie Wyman
And here's more news of exciting things on the horizon - I'll be coordinating a vintage bike exhibit and vintage bike + fashion show for Long Beach's downtown Bikefest on May 11th. Both are in honor of May as Bike Month and Long Beach's rich and vibrant vintage bicycling heritage and community. None of which would be complete without also honoring and showcasing the life of Bernard Serrano of Cyclone Coaster - one of the largest monthly vintage rides in the country now with 250+ people showing up to ride!
I met Bernard again through my bicycle advocacy work here in Long Beach about four years ago, but I knew I'd met him before. He seemed oh so familiar, and then it struck me - he had been one of my sister Michelle's good friends during her 1980's Rockabilly passion and the talented dance partner of one of her best friends Rose Apodaca of La Vie En Rose and A + R (If you love vintage Hollywood glamour as much as I do make sure to read Rose's article from La Vie En Rose and Hollywood 7 here).
The image above of Bernard and his latest dance partner the lovely FIDM student and vintage passionista Kitty Marie Wyman was taken in Long Beach's scenic East Village on Monday with yours truly playing photo assistant and sittings editor. We had so much fun. Aren't they gorgeous? Stay tuned for more images from this shoot and details about the vintage bike exhibit and vintage bike + fashion show!
Above: Georgia by Matt Fukushima. Below: Screen shot from the 4th "Love Letters" video "Stop in the Name of Love" - click on the image to go to the Bike Long Beach "Love Letters" page.
MB: The Love Letters Public Service Announcements are part of Share Our Streets, a multi-media road safety campaign that your company Idea Group created for Bike Long Beach. Tell us more about them.
Georgia: Love Letters address the real-world issues of road and bicycle safety via five short animated videos. Each vignette illustrates the two characters, Auto and Bicycle’s, affection and desire to share the road together through an exchange of love notes. The letters also express their inherent struggles -- the road conflicts they need to address to live harmoniously together – like stopping at stop signs and being sensitive about looking before opening the car door in the bike lane.
Love Letters is the brainchild of Margo Newman, a former project producer at Disney Imagineering R & D and her talented team which included animator Laura Yilmaz, Jaime Ryan Heinz and Musa Brooker.
The spots were created as content for the new bikelongbeach.org website and were distributed to all 70+ Long Beach elementary schools and middle schools, local cable channels, LBTV3 and Padnet, as well as preview ad spots for the local movie theatres.
Above: "12 Tips for a Safe Trip" brochure cover from Share Our Streets - click here to go to the Share Our Streets toolkit to download the brochure pdf. Shown in image Lexi Cruz, daughter of Long Beach Bicycle Ambassador Tony Cruz. Image by Matt Fukushima.
MB: What is the premise behind the Share Our Streets campaign? What did it hope to accomplish?
Georgia: The campaign was modest in terms of dollars but ambitious in its goal to raise awareness that bicyclists are increasing in numbers on Long Beach roadways and that both motorists and bicyclists need to be aware of the key rules of the road to co-exist safely and happily together. I say happily because it was very important from the onset to portray the campaign in positive terms continuing the theme of Long Beach as a premiere bicycle-friendly community.
The campaign used street banners, exterior and interior bus ads, transit shelter ads and pocket guides that targeted key safety messages that are site-specific to Long Beach, such as “Bike with the Flow of Traffic” which is the leading preventable cause of bike-car collisions here; and “Be Visible Day & Night,” by using hand signals when making turns, wearing bright and contrasting clothing and using headlights and rear reflectors at night, for example. There were "12 Rules to Live By" that were used in a variety of media to get the word out.
Above:Aidan Cruz, son of Long Beach Bicycle Ambassador Tony Cruz in front of pole banners with his image. Image: Melissa Balmer, pole banner images Allan Crawford.
The team had a lot of fun creating a colorful and very personable brand for Bike Long Beach: Melissa, you were integral to this effort as was Baktaash Sorkhabi of A Whole Lotta BS; Jay Doronio of Parallel-Play, Danielle Dana and photographers Matt Fukishima and Allan Crawford whose work is really top-notch. We had a dynamo of an intern named Claire Watanabe who is now promoting bicycling in Berkeley of all things.
Above: From left Lillian Kawasaki of the Metropolitan Water Board and Wilson High School student Kyla Mandas in a Share Our Streets Transit Shelter ad. Image: Matt Fukushima.
MB: You have been involved in promoting bicycling in Long Beach for a long time. What are some of the challenges that the city faces in increasing safe cycling trips?
Geogia: Yes, since 1996 when my husband John Case and I opened Bikestation Long Beach in downtown. There’s no doubt that we need to continue to be vigilant about stopping wrong-way riding and encouraging the use of lights and reflectors at night. And we need to do more to remind motorists to be on the lookout for bicyclists when approaching driveways and turning right at intersections, the leading cause of car-bike collisions in Long Beach. We are seeing enormous cooperation on behalf of Long Beach Transit and the Long Beach Police Department in helping to spread the word.
Above: Image of the cover of the "Walk Your Bike" postcards and mini posters for Share Our Streets. Shown in image from left Joen Garnica of Garnica Interiors and Elizabeth Williams of Cali Bike Tours. Image: Matt Fukushima
MB: And the opportunities?
Georgia: Well, the sky is the limit for Long Beach! We’ve proven through political leadership, and skillful expertise in public administration and passionate advocacy, that we are capable of creating sustainable and connected infrastructure and support programs that are allowing people to bicycle safely and more often. More people bicycling inherently makes the road safer for everyone.
The new bikelongbeach.org website, another key strategy of the Share Our Streets campaign, was designed to help people and organizations to be better informed and engaged with the opportunities that exist through Bike Long Beach and within the city in general. For example, there is a community events calendar on the site that links to classes, tours and safety rodeos; custom maps and rides; and a directory of more than 175 Bike Saturdays businesses (part of Bike Long Beach's "Bike Friendly Business District Program") that offer patrons specials and discounts when they bike instead of drive. There are also numerous links to a host of bike clubs, safety information and how-to tips for novices and experts alike.
Above: The Share Our Streets interior bus ad in Spanish. Shown in image from left bike advocate Katie Taylor, Bernard Serrano of Cyclone Coasters, Geraldine Knatz of the Port of Los Angeles, Long Beach Bicycle Ambassador Tony Cruz and graphic designer and avid bicyclist Marco Cortes. Images by Matt Fukushima and Allan Crawford.
MB: And there is an expansive number of reports, plans and downloadable materials…
Georgia: That’s right. The Bike Long Beach team is constantly uploading reports on past and future community projects and related safety data and bike statistics. In fact, an amazing ten years of safety data and bike counts was recently published on the blog. There’s a bike parking rack catalog for businesses who want to order a free rack installed on the public right-of-way and downloadable safety brochures and information for schools and community groups to order or print on the spot. The public is also invited to sign up for the Chain Letter, an e-newsletter published every quarter.
Above: One of the bus advertisements for Share Our Streets. Image: Allan Crawford
MB: It’s exciting there are so many programs to encourage a more active lifestyle in Long Beach. You are also involved in promoting walking, what’s happening in that arena?
Georgia: Biking and walking go hand-in-hand in making a city more livable and Long Beach, through public and private efforts, is positioning itself to become a world-class city for both bicycling and walking. It’s really a smart strategy for attracting a sophisticated workforce to live here, tourists to come and visit and a means for providing access to our underserved populations, many of whom rely on getting around without a car and whose health will benefit.
Through a network of organizations, Walk Long Beach is getting off the ground by offering walk audits and developing safe routes through parks and neighborhoods to encourage more people to get physically active and engaged in their community. And as a co-founder of City Fabrick, a urban planning and policy nonprofit, we started creating a vision of Walking Loops, a series of beautifully themed maps to help people realize there’s no shortage of interesting and satisfying places to walk in Long Beach.
About Georgia Case
Georgia Case is the principal of Idea Group, a communications resource for nonprofit and business enterprises on PR, marketing and fundraising strategies. She has helped to develop and launch a number of nonprofit organizations and social-benefit projects including Bikestation Long Beach, a bike-transit parking facility that expanded nationally and spawned a local initiative to be “the most bicycle-friendly city in the US,” an effort that has raised more than $22 million in transportation funding. Her other projects have included work with Bikeable Communities, Clean Mobility Center, NGV/USA, Neighbors of Rancho Los Cerritos and most recently, City Fabrick, an urban planning, policy and design nonprofit that champions for a sustainable and equitable built environment in greater Long Beach. She may be reached at: email@example.com.
MB: With your background in marketing, understanding what motivates women to buy, and social responsibility in the corporate world, do you have a favorite marketing campaign focused at women that could inspire bicycle advocacy and bicycle manufacturers as a great template?
Andrea: Not so surprisingly, sports related brands have really been getting better at connecting with women – so the bike industry has some great examples to learn from. I'll share three examples with you: Nike Women, Luna's Team Luna Chix, and Prius.
MB: Can you spell out for us why these particular campaign worked so well and was so effective?
Nike Women celebrate girls growing into women with passion and playing by own rules. NIKE has long since been known for this approach and have been very successful. First and foremost, their audience is people who are passionate about sports.
I’ve been a big fan of ClifBar’s overall marketing approach, and this Team Luna initiative is another great one.It brings the professional athletes and the local communities of athletes into one “club,” and emphasizes learning from and encouraging one another.Includes cause angle, one that was well-picked in the Breast Cancer Fund – which is all about research toward proactive prevention of breast cancer (as opposed to a focus on a cure, which "feels" reactive in comparison).
Priius for everyone. The story told in the ad reflects care for universe and other people along the way (from Melissa: note the bicyclists and the stopping for pedestrians at a crosswalk!)This, as opposed to most vehicle ads that are more traditional, with one sleek car and winding roads or one huge truck and heavy loads, where there is status in owning/being seen in one.Those ads make connections with much smaller markets, and are about exclusivity (who is the coolest? The one who owns one of these sweet luxury vehicles or gigantic trucks).
Note that none of these ads are us vs. them, not women vs. men.Nor, do you see flowers or “lighter” versions of anything in the sports-related campaigns.It’s about passion and power – exactly what it is for any male athlete.The stories are just told in a way that celebrates cheering one another on, rather than being the top rated or fastest.
MB: In order to seriously address the sedentary disease pandemic in this country we don't need to double the number of people riding bikes, it's more like we need to quintuple them, and women are the indicator species that we're connecting and getting the word out in the right way.
From a marketing perspective do you have some thoughts on what cost effective steps bicycle advocacy, bike shops and bicycle manufacturers could do to more effectively connect with non athletic minded females?
Andrea:Focus on taking the lycra and the speed/tech out of bicycle branding.Approach women indirectly – via environment, health, fun time with kids.It’s not “you need to get on a bike”.. but biking is part of things that are already really important to you:
Use spokes models who are normal looking women and who don’t mind if a bike helmet makes their hair look lumpy.
Quote or tell stories of everyday women and moms (and not necessarily the extreme advocates) who are recent converts to getting around by bike.
Emphasize the fun community that can come with getting more women on bikes (a la the Team Luna Chix).
Show off the clothes/fashion that look great and work perfectly for biking.
Leverage the culture around biking more than the features, bells and whistles or even the fact that you get super fit if you ride regularly.
The benefits of bicycling to a broader range of women are about much more than exercise, but the fact that you CAN get your workout while running errands, going to/from work etc.. is just a fantastic side bonus.
MB: I've heard a rumor that there will be a City Bike pavilion at the Interbike show in Las Vegas in Sept (the largest bike show in the country). If you could wave a magic wand and create a female friendly pavilion adjacent to the City Bike one what would it look like? What would it contain?
Andrea: The people hosting the pavilion would be more women than men (but not only women, that doesn’t reflect reality!).They would all be wearing regular-looking clothes (and cute clothes) that just happen to be bike-friendly. There would also be:
No poster of a lycra clad woman or man anywhere.
The bikes would be a variety of city/urban bikes that are the best sellers in the women’s market already (what has already attracted women to biking, will be the best way to start…).
Resources for finding the nearest support group/bike club in various localities would exist/be handed out.
Women from across the country who are relatively new converts to biking errands or commuting would be some of the booth hosts, but also would be the main people speaking (if there were various events).
The cool ways that people have integrated biking into their daily lives (nothing fancy) would be emphasized, so .. maybe the idea that one woman does a combination drive/bike commute to her job during the good weather months opens up a new possibility for some?
Corporations who have had success with employee engagement and health initiatives around their bike-friendly/bike commuting efforts would also present and be on a list somewhere visible.
I could go on and on!Lots of ideas!My key point would be to involve not just 100% women in such an effort.There’d be lots of women to interview/engage, a balance of advocacy types and those interested from the practical or cultural side of things – women of all ages, races, body types (of course) .. but there would also be a strategy for including men who are involved in the same way (i.e. don’t emphasize their lycra rides). Part of the process of researching this would be to engage men and women from the industry in developing the booth, the narrative, so they then go back to their bike manufacturing companies or retail employers with all that they have learned.
MB: What is one of the biggest misconceptions about marketing to women that you coach clients to think differently about? Could this shift in mind set help both advocacy and bicycle manufacturers as well?
Andrea: The general marketing rule of thumb is that men tend to think more linearly and focus on fact/figures/features – or to lean way to heavy on “sexiness” if marketing to women (i.e. picture car ads that are supposedly trying to attract women but it is clear that a roomful of men thought it up – a la Cindy Crawford at her most powerful driving some sports car.)Men tend to think – the point is to be at the top/to win/to compete around whatever the product.
Women, on the other hand, tend to think more relationally and focus on finding commonalities/building community/helping or sharing in something new.
I do not believe these stereotypes have to be the case, it’s just that our culture and traditions, and what society has rewarded men and women for in terms of behavior, has made the men-linear and women-relational path the most well-worn.Each of us can break new ground – and I think more men and women are, especially related to sports, which is great and will only lay the groundwork for doing the same in their lives otherwise.
With marketing to women efforts, it continues to be too easy to fall into the “just paint the campaign pink with flowers” pattern.Don’t let that happen to you!Do a lot of talking with the women you’d like to reach and they will tell you what terms to use, what palettes are best and what types of community speak to their values.
And here are some thoughts on engaging women who are not athletic or haven’t seen themselves that way: Emphasize the environmental, the community, the freedom and all their other values about life and demonstrate how biking just FITS.
I’m not the greatest example, because I have always been athletic, but my reasons for getting into bike commuting are more practicality and impatience.The fact that I get a workout in along the way is icing on the top.
I first started in Portland Oregon in the early 1990s and even up through now, having just moved back to a city and needing to get in and out of downtown Seattle for work, my motivation is mostly about being able to get around on my own time, not look for parking and not be bound by bus schedules.Plus, what you’ll hear a lot of us biking fanatics say – it is incredible how much you feel like a 12 year old with no responsibilities and only blue sky when you get back on a bike.
Two big issues that seem to keep women away – needing to transport kids and looking good (including hair).To me the point is to get women started but by no means pressure them to embrace biking solely (the reality is the ones who get going are very likely to build their own momentum toward true biking dedication).
If they have one day a week where they don’t have to transport their kids, get them excited to be a biker that day!If they are concerned at how geeky they’ll look in typical biking gear – prove them wrong.Deliver fashion that works and show a wide range of people who wear those clothese, in real life, to get around by bike.
About Andrea Learned
Andrea is Senior Social Media Strategist At Pyramid Communications, leading social media engagement strategy for Pyramid and its clients, conducting issue and influencer landscape analysis, identifying opportunities and appropriate tools and developing digital campaign strategies and tactics.
Earlier in her career, Andrea built an internationally recognized marketing to women expertise, which she shared in her book Don’t Think Pink: What Really Makes Women Buy – And How To Increase Your Share of This Crucial Market (AMACOM, 2004). Andrea has an MA in Sustainable Business and Communities from Goddard College and a BA in Political Science from the University of Michigan.
Andrea has worked as a writer, researcher and consultant in sustainable business and corporate social responsibility—finding creative and powerful ways to use social media as an engagement tool. Andrea’s social media experience includes leading workshops across the country and coaching media groups and university students on the psychology of social media and how to quickly build a networked presence.
Like many of us I no longer make a long list of New Year resolutions that I know I'm going to quickly forget about, but I do try and start each year with a few intentions - a few new skills I want to learn, and a few important concepts I want to keep in mind as I move forward in my daily life. This year there are two skills I want to master. First I want to become a skilled video director and editor, and second I am returning to painting.The key concepts I want to keep in mind as I move forward in my work and play is doing by best to create beauty and connectivity.
I've drawn and painted passionately my entire life, but haven't been doing very much of it since moving to Long Beach. While shopping just after the holidays for a few pieces to spruce up the look and feel of my kitchen with, I was very inspired by a little plate at Crate and Barrel in one of my favorite colors of green (much like the grass above). An idea for a series of paintings for my kitchen popped into my head and I've been happily working on those for the past couple of weeks. I've forgotten how powerful color therapy is for me, how beneficial simply sitting and contemplating and mixing color and then putting it to canvas both relaxes and invigorates me.
On the video directing and editing front I'm now working with Allan Crawford and Charlie Gandy on a series of short videos to promote the upcoming Street Savvy classes. I'm so excited to share those with you very soon. But I'm also in the very beginnings of a new project that I hope will take engaging story telling focusing on bicycles to a whole new level.
With all this in mind I want to share with you a video I just came across on my friend Vizal's website that is so inspiring to me. Vizal (better known as Sam to many) is the head of The Academy store and design line that creates/sells green bicycle friendly active wear. He styled the apparel for us for our Cycle Chic: Past, Present and Future fall fashion promotional photo shoot show last year which included his bike friendly shirts, shorts and pants (worn so stylishly by Nicole Matlz of The Bicycle Stand and Joseph M. Bradley of the Pedaler Society).
The video is sponsored by American Express and directed by Michael Geoghegan to promote the concept of "Small Business Saturday." It stars Sam and a series of other small business owners and businesses in a very short video that so beautifully captures the spirit, flavor and artistry of these businesses. It also makes it very clear that the bike is a part of this hip new urban culture (and yes, the director is a cyclist). Take a look!
I am so inspired by this piece. I truly believe the more we can utilize this type of smart, positive, beautifully crafted media and marketing pieces for bicycle and active living advocacy the more people we'll happily be attracted to our cause and see how biking and walking can be incorporated into their lives far more easily than they have thought. The creative team at Partizan (a top award winning production company) who produced this piece have set the bar high. I now have a very clear vision of the caliber of video pieces I want to learn to create for the future. It may take me awhile!
This all ties in so nicely with a new series of interviews I'll be doing this year for "Bike Minded Market Watch" with experts in marketing, communication, design and journalism. To start it all I wanted to share first with you three of my female media darling heroes.
These are women who, in a challenging economy, became break out sensations who are setting the traditional publishing world on fire with best selling books (and games), super popular blogs, and their own masterful use of a myriad of new media tools.
I'm inviting those of us in bicycle advocacy, and active living advocacy in general, to contemplate the power of what these women have accomplished and how we can take pages from their books to galvanize our own outreach to women (and people in general). I hope you will not only watch the videos I've included of each, but will go to their websites and note how each woman has:
Used the struggles/passions of her own personal story to connect with readers/viewers
How her branding is creative, vibrant, modern - and feels authentic to her personality
How the allure of artistry is used in her media to make her stand out from the crowd
Meet Jane McGonigal
As someone who deals with migraines and an auto immune disorder, and who is also up in arms about our current world-wide sedentary disease epidemic, I'm always looking for breakthroughs in health. Sometimes the most powerful change towards healing is a mind shift. With that in mind the first woman I want to introduce you to is game designer Jane McGonigal author of the New York Times best selling book "Realty is Broken and How We Can Fix It."
Jane's latest TED talk below is on "The game that can give you 10 extra years of life." Who wouldn't want that, if of course, they are happy healthy years? And Jane means for them to be happy and healthy for you - and she knows what it's like to be neither. Bedridden and suicidal ater a severe concussion, the talented game designer decided to create the game "SuperBetter" to help herself heal.
Meet Garance Dore
The second woman I'd like you to meet is fashion illustrator Garance Dore who began a blog in 2006 that led to a whole new life as a fashion new media darling. Along with her partner, the photographer and creator of The Satorialist blog Scott Schuman (click the link and see one of his recent photos of three young people and one great bike in Florence), Garance now directs and stars in video adventures of top fashion personalities and places that are sponsored by the likes of Net-a-Porter, and BMW.
And guess what? Both Garance and Schuman ride bikes (that's how Schuman gets around New York to take his artful images). Here's a very short video from last March introducing her "Pardon My French" video series:
Meet Kris Carr
The third and final media darling for today is wellness activist Kris Carr of the Crazy Sexy Cancer movie, best selling book, and her new Crazy Sexy Wellness website. A former actress, dancer and choreographer, Karr was diagnosed with a very rare stage 4 inoperable form of cancer on Valentine's Day 2003 - imagine that! Rather than giving in, Carr decided to go on a journey to wellness that has led to the creation of her award winning movies and writing five top selling books.
We never know what will happen when we decide to be open and honest and authentic in sharing the personal journeys we are on in this adventure called life. In part one of this piece I shared Dr. Brené Brown's TEDx talk on vulnerabilty that touched me so much I ran out and bought her book above "Daring Greatly." By the time I finish reading this moving and inspiring book there probably won't be a page I haven't marked in some way as crucial to remember.
For the past twelve years, in one way or another, I have been working on my craft as a writer mostly through various blogs of my own and guest blogs for other websites. For the past four years I've been immersed in an intense course of bicycle and active living advocacy. Now I want to marry the two and become a truly engaging story teller on the importance of this work - whether I'm sharing my own story, or sharing the stories of others.
Can I pull it off? Can I come up with topics that a broad audience will find engaging, appealing, useful and fresh? I'm gambling yes, and it's scary! What is particularly rewarding is finding out how much power the topic of vulnerability and authenticity has. I had the priviledge of being interviewed by Frank Peters for his cdmCyclist audio podcast show this past week. I felt a little self conscious when I brought up these topics to this uber-successful-tech entrepreneur-turned-angel-investor turned bike advocate extraordinaire. But it was exactly the topic of vulnerability that made Frank's eyes light up with intense interest. If you have the time I hope you'll give the show a listen, and you can see all of the other fascinating and learned bike advocates Frank has interviewed.
But let's get back to Brené. She has touched a collective nerve in our society. Over six million people logged in to see her TEDx talk which led to her being invited to the big show - TED itself hosted last year right here in Long Beach California. Below is her equally powerful talk on shame. Think about that for a moment. Imagine what it would be like to be excited to do a local TEDx talk, imagining that a few hundred people would be in the audience and perhaps another few hundred people would click to watch the video - and then finding out instead you'd become a youtube.com darling!
Well, you may ask, isn't that what everyone longs for these days? Fame? Isn't that why so many people sign up to be on reality shows?
What Brené shares in her talks and in her book is that she had planned her life very carefully to stay comfortably small. She was happy to be well respected, an author of critically acclaimed books for a particular audience, but certainly her aim was not to be a media darling. She feared moving out of her academic comfort zone so that when she found out how popular her first video was on the TED network she wanted her husband to hack into the system and erase it.
What Brené also feared was criticism - and yep it came. The anonymous comments posted were harsh, most especially about her weight. Isn't fascinating how very mean people can be when no one is there to see the face of the critic? And isn't it humbling to note that in our modern day and age women are still so very judged on our appearance?
As I now start to create videos as well as blogs I too fear my appearance being judged harshly. I fear hearing about my shiny ruddy complexion (that I am on a constant quest to tame), my one crooked tooth (I stopped wearing my retainer too early after braces as a teen), my crooked nose, not being the right age, race, or having the right background. Oh yes, and my wardrobe that never feels quite right....and then I read this in "Daring Greatly" at the beginning of Chapter 3:
"Shame derives its power from being unspeakable. That's why it loves perfectionists - it's so easy to keep us quiet."
Wow. I need that on a t-shirt, how about you? I have spent much of my life stepping back from what I was passionate about just as it might become something more, something bigger because of fear. I have feared both not measuring up to what I could imagine in my mind's eye, and conversely getting too big for my britches. But here is my truth about both bicycle and active living advocacy - it cannot get too big. We are meant to be active beings and we are too sedentary. The cost is enormous and it keeps going up. We can tackle this pandemic one walk, one bicycle ride at a time. Active living advocacy needs every positive voice that wants to speak up and inspire others to get up and get out and move. Yes, I do believe the bike can be our tool for optimism.
In closing today I want to share with you what a woman named Andrea Learned posted as a comment on part I of this piece:
"I'm so glad I came across this piece, Melissa. I can now share the link with all my friends and family who may not quite get why I am so committed to biking around Seattle. I, like you, randomly fell back into biking (after loving it as a kid) about 20 years ago when I was living in Portland - long before they got quite so bike-friendly. At the time, I was blown away at the freedom and the excitement, even though the vulnerability was a bit scary. After living in Vermont for 7 years, where biking really wasn't an option for 6 months of the year, I am so glad to be back in urban density and milder weather.
And, your approach and authenticity are exactly the model advocacy organizations everywhere should follow. My marketing to women background tells me so. It is fun to apply that knowledge of how women think and make decisions to helping them engage and commit to more everyday bicycling (to quote the fabulous bike advocate Elly Blue) . The women we all help to get interested in biking will influence the rest of the world. Thanks for writing such a great piece."
Andrea Learned (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I am so moved and hopeful by what Andrea wrote. And I've written to ask if she will be an upcoming interview on my series with creatives and marketers on how we can greatly expand the allure and impact of bicycle advocacy. Keep good thoughts she says yes!
For the past month or so I have been on a journey to delve into and polish my skills as a storyteller to better serve this website and the bike advocacy we're doing here at Women on Bikes SoCal and the national Women Bike initiative. I am so very proud to share that this month we successfully hosted a group of nine women from different parts of Los Angeles and Long Beach to become League Cycling Instructors with the League of American Bicyclists and I'm looking forward to bringing their inspiring personal stories to you as we prepare to launch the Street Savvy adult bicycle safety classes soon.
Three years ago this weekend I got back on a bike again for the first time in almost thirty years. I've been saying twenty, but sitting here right now and counting it out, I realize I've been wrong. Amazing how time flies, isn't it?
I'd been pondering riding a bike again for over six months. I had already begun researching and brainstorming on bicycle advocacy with Georgia Case. Three years prior to that I'd given up my car for health and financial reasons. I'd been watching the urban bicycling revolution blossoming outside of the bus windows, or on my many walks, out and about here in Long Beach with great interest. Above all the bike looked like fun. I recalled with great joy riding my purple-tassled-banana-seated Schwinn as a child.
But I was afraid to try. I was afraid that I didn't have the strength. I was afraid that I'd ride out too far and wouldn't have the energy to get home, that I wouldn't have the strength to get the bike on the bus rack, and that I'd make an idiot of myself trying. Frankly I was afraid of having to deal with my own vulnerability. I felt much safer on the bus and walking thank you.
Then Charlie Gandy asked me to join himself, Bernard Serrano and the Cyclone Coaster group, and other bike advocates along with Suja Lowenthal in the Belmont Shore Christmas Parade. Charlie said that Bernard even had a vintage cruiser that I could borrow. And so I finally said yes to the bike, and I've been saying yes to the bike ever since. I wouldn't have gotten here without a lot of help - from Charlie, from Georgia, from Bernard offering that first bike loan, from my family and friends. No, I wouldn't have gotten here without connectivity.
Since then the bike for me has become a tool for connectivity and optimism. When we ride a bike we are visible to the world in a way that we simply aren't in a car. We can be ambassadors for friendliness and courtesy by smiling and waving at neighbors and strangers as we pass by. Or we can plug in our earphones and tune out, each person for him or herself.
Like many, I have been captivated by Brené Brown and her TEDx talk which I've shared above. I found her equally compelling in her conversation with Krista Tippett of OnBeing.org this weekend. I invite you to watch and listen to both. I think you'll be glad you did.
But what, you ask, could a research expert on vulnerability have to say that would be valuable for bicycle advocacy? We already know we're vulnerable out there damn it! What's to discuss? I'd like to humbly put forward nothing short of everything. I feel vulnerability is at the heart of the matter - but it's the white elephant we don't want to face.
Driving makes us feel invulnerable but it's an illusion. Riding a bike for many makes us feel vulnerable but it's an illusion as well. Life is inherently risky. We can take every precaution known to be a safe driver and yet someone driving drunk, or simply running a red light, can wipe away the safety net our skills and our car usually provide within seconds. We can take every precaution known to be a safe driver and yet the very act of choosing to drive over and over again rather than an active form of transportation can lead us (and our children) straight into the unsafe condition of heart disease, diabetes, and other very challenging sedentary diseases.
I don't make these comments to be dramatic, but to invite us to reconsider what makes us feel safe. We do have a choice. If we can go to that uncomfortable place of facing our own vulnerability and question it, it can provide us with rich and rewarding answers that might just save our lives in a myriad of ways we never considered.
For myself personally riding a bike means I feel more connected to where I live and the people I pass as I ride by. It also means that most of my need for daily exercise is taken care of when I run my errands. What does a riding a bike mean personally for you? I'd love to know.
I had the wonderful privilege of being included in an article on CNN's lifestyle blog yesterday called "Pedal perfect: Bikers shed spandex to inspire new riders." Author Emanuella Grinberg did a terrific job giving an overview of the tremendous appeal of fashion and style has as concept rides, and the allure of every day apparel zipping by on eye catching new bikes to engage new riders to bicycling. Included in the article is the growing popularity of "Tweed Rides" which also happen to be featured in the current "Style & Spy" section of the November issue of Town & Country Magazine (alas the image is not posted online!)
As I write this I had an "aha" moment. I've been trading emails for a few months with a woman here in Long Beach who specializes in the historic architecture of our city and giving local citizens a personal history of their own historic home. We've been playing with the idea of doing an "Arts & Crafts" tour of some of the beautiful craftsmen homes of Long Beach this spring. Wouldn't it be fun to tie it together with a Tweed Ride?
At the heart of style and fashion is the allure of aesthetics certainly, but there is also a celebration of life and an appreciation of the inspiration of our natural world. Last month Harper's Bazaar included model Arlenis Sosa dressed in leopard print riding a cream colored Linus Bike as the perfect accessory (click here to see what I'm talking about on the Linus press page). I am bummed I can't find the image online to share with you. Are there those passionate about bicycling who will scoff? Absolutely, there are those dedicated to the bike only being about speed and utility.
But here is what I know about sticking with utility and sport and survival of the fittest in the marketing of the bicycle - that approach will never get those of us who so very much need inexpensive transportation and a healthy practical solution for our daily exercise needs on bikes. And that's the bike's biggest growth audience. In that rich vein there are millions of possible riders, not those who will wear lyrca, but those of us who will never really contemplate lycra at all.
Whether we admit it freely or not we are all seduced in some way by fashion and style, even if it means we will only ever wear utilitarian khaki. Somewhere, somehow we got the idea that khaki spoke the right language for the story of our lives and how we wanted to represent ourselves to the public. Most of us however, like to change our outside image as we change our own inner landscape. This can mean a small step like a scarf in the latest shade for fall, or a big step like radically changing our whole wardrobe after weight loss or decided one day that we need a totally different hair color. Yes, of course I know as I write this I am speaking mostly about women - but that's bicycling's next big growth audience.
This past year a plethora of savvy marketing teams used the bicycle in their advertising pieces to create the image of happy, healthy living including the team at J.C. Penny's as they rebranded to become "JCP." Take a look here at one of their new videos that includes a happy couple walking a bike (thank you!) on a sidewalk. My wish? They all keep at it and step it up even more!
I'm not out at Ciclavia and I'm a little bummed but I'm ok with it. It's a gorgeous day for it, but it's beyond my strength today to ride over to the train, take the train to L.A., and then ride a much longer route than I'm used to in my daily routine. So I'll cheer it on in spirit as I continue to ponder what makes a real bike advocate, and how we can successfully grow bicycle ridership here in the U.S.
I found this TED talk by Amy Cuddy so fascinating, in part because both riding and dance lessons in childhood and my teens have left me an advocate for excellent posture, but mostly because visually she is not who one would suspect of having low self esteem, of feeling like she didn't deserve to be someplace. I encourage you to watch the video all the way through to learn more about her story, and what she and her research team have discovered about how changing your posture can help you feel very differently about yourself.
Most of us have felt sometime in our lives that we don't deserve to be here, haven't we? I know I have. I still feel regret and shame that I never graduated from college. I knew I had the smarts for it, but I couldn't juggle both school and work, which I needed to do in order to be able to afford it. And in the 1980's what I really wanted to go to school for (either art or creative writing) were subjects which my parents approved of, or thought one could really earn much of a living from. They were fine subjects for leisure time, not to really "make it." Of course my parents were teaching me what they knew - what they did not know was that the personal computer would revolutionize the work world, and turn it on its head.
I had advocates at the time, but I didn't realize it, nor did I understand at that time how to recruit support to my cause. My parents ideals reigned supreme. I was scattered and unfocused, wanting to follow my heart but not having the courage to. I stumbled into the opportunity to go to language school in Florence, living with friends of my family, and when I came home I even took a job with a friend of my Mother's boss. I hate the industry. Hated the hour+ drive each way, but because of my parent's approval, my fear of not finding another good "career" sort of job in a down economy, kept me in that industry for eight years.
It wasn't until I was 37 in 2001, divorced, and suffering almost full time with chronic migraines and fatigue that I decided to hang tough with something I really wanted to do - write. I finally decided I had what I called "The Permission Slip from God" and I was going to keep at it. I had almost no energy, I had a couple media clients, but other than that I was only able to work part time and the only jobs I could find were very low paying, I'd maxed out my credit cards trying one last ditch effort of my own little business, I knew sooner or later I'd have to give up my small but lovely apartment in Santa Monica six blocks from the beach, but I had a computer, I had the internet, and I began to blog and become passionate about social media.
I gave up my car in March of 2007. Riding the bus one day I met a lovely young woman Amanda, who I recognized as working at a small restaurant near the flower shop I worked at. She told me that she liked to ride her bike to work but that she'd been hit by a driver who was angry she was on the road and purposefully hit her, and it had really frightened her. She was involved with a local group of bicycle advocates and she invited me to a "bike to work" day event. I had never heard of bicycle advocacy but I had noticed more and more people riding bikes, and I watched them rather longingly thinking of how much fun it must be. But I was worried that with the fatigue I dealt with it would be too challenging, too hard to get the bike up the two flights of steps into my apartment.
By 2008 I'd met Georgia and John Case. Georgia and I began pondering projects we could work on together to get Long Beach into the broader regional good news press. Long Beach was not the media darling it's now becoming, but Georgia knew the city was gearing up to become bike friendly - she and John had brought Enrique Penalosa to Long Beach while he was visiting Los Angeles and the fire had been lit with City Manager Pat West, and Council Member Suja Lowenthal. She encouraged me to get involved. It fascinated me but I felt a little silly because I was afraid of riding a bike again myself. Then in spring of 2009 the Cases had a party to welcome Charlie Gandy. Charlie and I had met at an event the night before that Brian Ulaszewski held and he offered me a ride to the Cases' house.
I told Charlie that this whole bicycle advocacy idea was really compelling to me, that I would love to help from a media promotional angle in any way that I could but that I'd be a strange sort of advocate as a woman afraid to ride a bike again myself. And that's when Charlie rolled out the welcome mat. He told me that I was exactly the right kind of person to get involved - there were far more women out there like me than women already happily riding bikes. It took another six months for Charlie to convince me to get on a bike again. I made my debut in the Belmont Shore Christmas Parade on a borrowed cruiser from Bernard Serrano and Cyclone Coasters.
The majority of the women I meet and talk to about the idea of taking up bicycle ridership, or who have already taken it up, have no idea what bicycle advocacy is either. They have noticied bikes becoming popular again, and most of them think it looks like fun, but many of them are a little afraid just like I was. Some are afraid of traffic, some are afraid of not having the strength and the stamina. And that's all ok. As far as I'm concerned just noticing bikes again is an excellent first step. I'm doing my best personally and with this website to be that welcoming permission slip for them to ask questions, to learn more, to consider renting a bike for an afternoon's ride along the beach, or to perhaps join us this December 1st when we ride in the 30th Annual Belmont Shore Christmas parade.
Part I in a new series of blogs engaging a series of bicycle advocates in a conversation on new ways forward for bicycle advocacy.
I am dismayed by the news that Governor Jerry Brown decided, at what seemed like the very last minute, to veto the 3' bill or SB 1464. Rather than restate my frustration here right now (as I'm still ruminating and digesting this challenge and formulating ideas for action) I'd like to point readers to this excellent blog by Ted Rogers of Biking in L.A., including the disheartening news that Brown has not responded to the California Bicycle Coalition's repeated attempts to engage him on the issues of bicyclists to find out where the heck his philosophy is even at.
The news of Brown's veto is even more heartbreaking in the aftermath of the deaths of two female bicyclists in Newport Beach from collisions with cars earlier this month. A memorial ride will take place on October 28th - please click here to learn more: http://www.newportbeachmemorialride.com/index.html
How are bicyclists to become a powerful enough voice to create safer conditions not only here in California but in the nation as a whole? By becoming a stronger and more united voice. we have to see the forest for the trees. We need to build our numbers in advocacy so that they include everyone who not only already rides, but who wants to ride.
Yesterday there was a very lively conversation stream on twitter about the different "styles" of bike riding, the pro's and con's of Cycle Chic, and those who were both delighted and dismayed by the New York Times article "To Encourage Biking, Cities Lose the Helmets" by Elizabeth Rosenthal. I shared this blog into the mix as my hope that being a bit more open minded and less critical could be a way for the female focused bicycle advocacy movement to thrive. Again Ted Rogers came forward today with another excellent blog today called "The terrible tyranny of the two-wheel tribal wear."
What struck me as I read Ted's piece is how unaware we are as humans of our impact on others by how we dress and how we behave. I am pretty sure the majority of men and women who have worked hard on their bodies so they can suit up proudly in lyrca don't do so thinking "boy am I going to make others feel bad today!" Neither does the woman who is delighted she has found a way around the serious financial challenge of ever increasing gas prices by riding a beautiful and comfortable new vintage inspired bike to work. She loves to wear dresses and heels, she loves the idea she can walk out the door dressed for the office, and the 200 blogs of the Cycle Chic movement have empowered her to do so. Her own ride is not so arduous or lengthy that she feels the need to have special gear to address it. She probably gives no thought to the person who rides by her wearing clothing to deal with a longer commute being made to feel "less than" because she has chosen to dress in professional attire.
As a child I was an ardent equestrian. What does that tell you about me? Yep, I was a horse snob. We even had a word for those who were not professionally trained in riding the way we were - river bed riders. I cringe at the thought of how arrogant that sounds now. We were so sure that those who rode their horses only on trail rides somehow loved their horses less, cared less about their well-being.
We humans love to belong to clubs. We love to feel special, on the inside. I have certainly done my share of wanting to feel like a valued member of a special tribe, and because of that desire I have made others feel left out, uninvited. Not intentionally, but it happened. A decade+ of dealing with ill health and financial challenges have helped me to see that perhaps this is a limited approach to living.
In the wake of the veto, and over the past couple of weeks since the Pro Walk/Pro Bike: Pro Place conference, the first national Women's Bicycling Summit and the Cycle Chic: Past, Present & Future fall fashion show, I have been reflecting and ruminating on just why I've become a bike advocate. Especially as I reflect back on the criticism of both the Women's Summit and our own Cycle Chic show (the harshest criticism was for the fashion show but there was some tough feedback of the summit as well) and think about how to move forward best in my new role on the steering committee for Women Bike. It is a great honor to be asked. So how can I best approach the position? How can I bring my best to the table with women who may have a very different take on the best expression of advocacy than I do? How can I recognize that we all view the world through our own lens, but invite others to step back with me and take a bigger view?
The toughness of some of the critics of the summit and fashion show (apparently giving no allowance for a first time attempt - and why should they really?) reminds me to double check, and perhaps triple check, my own words before they come out of my own mouth when voicing an opinion about another's work in bicycling advocacy. It is so easy to criticize and often so tough to actually successfully "do" something - especially for the very first time.
My own personal take on why I'm in bicycle advocacy boils down to three key reasons: health, safety and equity. We are a nation and a world faced with a completely preventable and completely reversible pandemic with our current sedentary disease challenges (I have been very very surprised that the health of our entire human population is not more in the forefront of bicycle advocacy). Secondly I want our streets to be safe for all citizens whether you're in a car, ride a skateboard, roller skate, ride a bike, walk, run, skip, take transit or a combination of all. Thirdly I want those who cannot drive a car, or choose not to drive a car, NOT to feel less than because of it - but neither do I want to demonize motorists.
(Krista Leaders image of seeing the Share Our Streets wrapped bus. So cool! Both Krista Leaders and Tony Cruz are riders in this image as well as Geraldine Knatz Director of the Port of Los Angeles. I need to find out who the other two riders are - there's a story here. Images had to be reshot so that all of the bicyclists had helmets.)
Indeed, when Georgia Case and I began our work on the multi-media road safety campaign for Bike Long Beach (which became the "Share Our Streets" campaign coming out now) we were advised very strongly not to demonize motorists. The entire campaign has been designed to be extremely friendly and engaging. I must say I was pretty thrilled yesterday when twice I saw a bus pass me on the street that had Share Our Streets messaging on it.
Courtesy counts is one of our key messages for the Share Our Streets campaign, and that is what I am going to do my best to keep putting into play with my own bicycle advocacy outreach.
So here's my question - is it possible to allow a bigger tent for the voices and the opinions of women in bicycling advocacy so we can truly address the needs and wants of women who not only already bicycle, but are interested in bicycling in the future? Is it possible to allow more open minded nuanced conversation without hardening into our opinions and beliefs?
If we don't agree with one and other's approach could we step back and and try and understand where she is coming from rather than attacking first? Is there something we could learn from each other? Could we find the places where we agree and be cordial in our agreeing-to-disagree where we disagree? If we become known as a movement of great diversity yet united in our good will towards getting women and girls on bikes won't we be much much stronger and powerful for it?
I do get that the phrase Cycle Chic is hitting an unhappy nerve for some. From my reading and conversations with fellow bike advocates (female and male) it appears there are those who feel really judged by the chic aspect, that the movement is only interested in the pretty, the young, the new, the modern, or the vintage polished to perfection, and that you'll be looked down upon if you ride an old bike, and don't always dress at your best.
My take on the movement is very different. I see it as a permission slip to be a normal person riding the sort of bike that most appeals to you (and that you can afford) in the clothes you wear to do whatever it is you want to do that day. And from my conversations with Mikael Colville-Andersen that seems to be very much what he means the movement to be about. I came away from spending time with him during the Pro Bike summit an even bigger fan of his work than when I started.
But, you say, the images on these cycle Chic websites are only of attractive slender people! They often ride in what I think are really uncomfortable looking high heeled shoes! Ok we hear you on your taste - but are these blogs telling you that you HAVE to ride this way as well? Not that I've seen. What excites me about the movement is that it's a movement, a world-wide movement. Can we celebrate that, even if personally we have a different taste for our own bicycle riding and advocacy approach?
Let's set the chic conversation aside now and take a look at the term cycle, or cyclist, shall we? Even Randy Neufeld of SRAM warned of using the term "cyclist" when talking about bicycling when he addressed attendees at the California Bicycle Summit last year. He advised it makes people feel left out. In the U.S. in many people's minds the terms "cycling" and "cyclist" only mean sport riding, and there are many many people who would like to ride a bike that want nothing to do with the sport of cycling (I had no idea the venom that drips from many at the word "lycra" when I first became a bike advocate).
When Georgia and I did our pre-survey for the "Share Our Streets" muti-media road safety campaign we found out that most people who took the survey don't identify themselves as cyclists or bicyclists, they consider themselves "people who like to ride a bike." I have heard that the San Francisco bicycle coalition has come to the same conclusion and is moving to different language, and I would love to speak with the Executive Director and find out if this is true.
For a long time after hearing Randy and finding out our survey results, I went around mentioning this (and even sort of correcting peopel, ack!) to every person I encountered who used the term cycling and cyclist. I've decided to stop doing that. Why? Because it's another way to make someone else in bicycling advocacy wrong in their language and their approach. If I am asked to write an article, blog, give a presentation, or asked outright my thoughts on the subject I will mention it, the rest of the time I'm going to try and limit my thoughts in this direction on it to this website.
I have become very wary of being a purist in my approach over the past year. Oh sure I'd love hard core female bicycling/cycling advocates to appreciate and/or accept what we're trying to do with Women on Bikes SoCal, but they aren't the audience we're trying to connect and inspire with this website. We want the newbies and the timid. We want the frightened but curious. We're aiming for those who have begun to notice bikes becoming more popular and can imagine themselves cruising to the beach with the wind in their hair, if they can get over their fear of traffic, feeling silly, and getting up the nerve to walk into a bike shop and ask for what they want. We want the women who think they're only riding a bike again because we're offering an excellent wine tour/architectural tour/foodie tour.
When I'm out and about speaking and doing outreach I'm interested in women of all ages who remember the joy of riding as a child but are worried they aren't strong or fit enough to ride - that's where my own personal story of dealing with chronic fatigue and pain has some value. I'm interested in the woman who has never learned to ride and now wants to be able to ride with her children. I'm interested in women, like myself, who have had to give up so much to survive financially and want to feel just fine that a bike and the bus and walking are the ways they can afford to get about now.
How very appropos for IBM to launch it's new "Birth of a Trend" online report on 9/19 by focusing on the growth of the Cycle Chic movement! Talk about media relations gold! The timing couldn't have been better - right on the heels of Mikael Colville-Andersen's (the founder of the Cycle Chic movement) role as a keynote speaker at the national Pro Walk/Pro Bike: Pro Place 2012 conference in Long Beach from 9/10-9/13 to the opening of the Intertrend bicycle retail conference on from 9/19 - 9/21 in Las Vegas. The report takes you through the birth of the movement in 2007 through 2012 and shows visually how the trend begins slowly but then blossoms quickly as connection and interest grows.
What the report illustrates so clearly is the power not only of style and fashion to help engage an audience and thereby helps to grow movements, but also how powerful a celebratory and empowering approach is. Cycle Chic isn't about shoulds, instead Mikael has used his creative skills as a photographer and journalist to share in an aesthetically appealing way what is already going on in the bicycle culture of his chosen hometown of Copenhagen, as well as the bicycle friendly culture of the cities he visits around the world. But perhaps his most masterful step was in allowing others to create their own "Cycle Chic' blogs (there are over 200 of them around the world) to illustrate and celebrate the growth of bicycling in their own cities.
On a spur of the moment Charlie Gandy and I decided to rent a car and go to the Interbike trade show in Vegas and catch up with our friends from the Pro Walk/Pro Bike Conference. It was a heady experience. Where Pro Bike had 850+ attendees, Interbike hosted about 30,000. I was most curious about what was going on with the display of city bike lines and what sort of visual presence women would have at the show. On that note I certainly appreciated the Bikes Belong sign above that was obviously paying homage to both the Cycle Chic movement and the positive impact that Momentum Magazine is having on the bicycling movement by making us aware that yes, women are out there riding too - and not just in lycra! I'm very curious to find out who won the $1,000.
Above: a model Tanya shows off a sleek style at the Interbike/Momentum Magazine fashion show, below on another section of the stage signage lets us know who she is and what she's riding/wearing.
I was also very happy to attend one of Momentum Magazine's terrific fashion shows. I so appreciated not only the organization of all of the different forms of riding, but the branding and signage that clearly let everyone know who was riding and wearing what. But I was bummed to see that both the fashion and technical apparel fashion shows happened in a sort of side alcove and were not nearly as well as attended, nor promoted as I imagined they'd be. Now I understand why the Momentum team envied our long wide Long Beach catwalk for our 9/13 Past, Present & Future fashion show!
I can only imagine the work that goes into hosting Interbike and I certainly applaud the superb job that is done, but I do wish that women could be made to feel even more welcome. The fashion shows ran at 10:00 am and noon. I think they should be at 12:30 and say, 4:00 - and they should have a nice long catwalk so that the models can really ride. We had over 300 people at our 9/13 fashion show - I know that Interbike could easily draw 1,000++ if the fashion shows were in the right location and properly promoted (and perhaps they could draw their own sponsorship from companies that normally don't attend Interbike...). The Momentum creative group, the apparel companies, the bike lines and the models that put their heart and soul into the shows certainly deserve this.
My very favorite booth section was something similar to what was done when I was in the gift industry - a section was organized specifically for bike related products hand made in the U.S. I felt a tremendous sense of pride seeing all of the products that are being manufactured here. I know it's not easy to do. Imagine how powerful it would be if next year Interbike also had a section for companies that specialize in bike lines that appeal to women and/or city bike riding? Certainly there were beautiful booths full of city bikes like Electra Bicycle Company and Nirve, and companies such as Specialized showcased their Globe line, but imagine if there was a whole row/rows of female-family-friendly city bikes at Intertrend?
If we want to attract the number of riders we need in order to fully and successfully address such issues as sedentary diseases, traffic congestion, successful mobility independence and the overall health of our communities, the bike is key. It really is a tool for urban optimism. But we won't attract and engage those needed numbers unless we make both sexes and people of all ages, races and walks of life feel welcome. Frankly we need to take a page from the great style marketers like Coca Cola, Target, Levi's, Kate Spade, Missoni, Banana Republic just to rattle off a few. There will be no invitation to ride a bike that fits all, but rather many invitations that illustrate how there is a bike and style of riding available for just about everyone.
And here is another important truth that I've learned personally and several women echoed to me back at both Pro Bike and Interbike - the better dressed you are while riding your bike the better people in cars treat you. As advocates this is something we really need to keep in top of mind awareness.
I'm quite happy with the bike in the media so far this week I must say - and the week just got started! Last night I was enjoying a particulary good 60 Minutes when Sal Khan, the founder and Executive Director of the Khan Academy of Silicon Valley, was shown riding a bike to work in the opening segment of a profile about and his groundbreaking educational company. Imagine how marvelous it would be to have Khan as a bicycle ambassador for California! Jim Brown of the California Bicycle Coaltion and I will certainly be adding him to the dream list we're compiling (we also have Oprah Winfrey, Cameron Diaz and Ellen Degeneres on our list, how about you? Do you have a dream list of celebrity bicycle ambassadors? If so I'd love to hear about it).
I'm also very pleased that our Cycle Chic: Past, Present & Future fashion show on 9/13 was picked up as an event in Los Angeles Magazine both in print and online. In print they used one of Mikael Colville-Andersen's beautiful images, and online they use one of our own images of Jennifer Tetrick by Allan Crawford. This is particularly sweet as Mikael is both a keynote at the upcoming Pro Walk/Pro Bike: Pro Place 2012 Conference and a special guest of our fashion show. FYI Bicycles also got another little shout out in L.A. Magazine on page 42 in Buzz/The Seen by Kari Mozena at "Affair #2 - Different Spokes" aka "L&M Arts' Ghost Town" reception that appeared to have a bike rack and perhaps bicycle valet!
Right now over in the East Village of Long Beach a very talented team of people are putting together our last promotional photo shoot for the fashion show on 9/13 (have you bought your ticket yet?). Led by photographer Robert Evans III, Cradelle White as wardrobe stylist and the adorable Sandra Pimentel (shown above I've borrowed a shot of her from her salon's facebook page). The owner of the Downtown Darling boutique and salon, Sandra stepped in seamlessly to help with hair and makeup today when the original makeup artist had to drop out and are we excited about it. Special thanks to Molly Gardner of the Arts Council Long Beach for connecting us!
Here below is a recent image by Robert, styled by Cradelle and featuring Long Beach's own Yellow 108's sunglasses. These images are from the hot online magazine Tinsel Tokyo - and the shot on the right is the current cover!
Pondering what to wear two weeks from now! Yep, my latent clothes horse side has reared it's head and refuses to go back into the closet. I've always been a fashion magazine fan, but now I flip the pages not only looking for interesting articles (and images of bikes to share with you all of course) but also inspiration on how I'm going to organize my wardrobe for the week.
Like most of us I don't have the $$ to run out and buy a whole new wardrobe for our big bike week an our fall fundraiser (and to welcome our special guest Mikael Colville-Andersen, Mr. Cycle Chic himself to town), so instead I need to focus on a few select pieces and of course mining my own closet for a few choice treasures. I must admit fashion-wise summer is not my season, but fall? Bring it on. You can't imagine how delighted I was when flipping through the new "T" (New York Times Style Magazine) I found an image of Emma Watson wearing a Ralph Lauren jacket in the exact same material as a Ralph Lauren double breasted jacket I have in the back of the closet from the early 90's. Sweet!
But enough about me. I want to share my excitement over some great "bike sightings" I've seen in the media of late. An obvious choice of course is actor Max Irons (son of Jeremy - show above) in the August issue of G.Q., but the big winner for me is the double issue of Marie Claire for September. There is a traditional fall issue and as a bonus a "work" issue. The only bummer is that the images I want so very badly to share with you are not online - but I have faith I will track them down eventually (even if it means I go and scan the pages myself).
I'm sure a profile of a celebrity photographed with their bike has been shared in a top fashion/lifestyle magazine before - and by this I mean not just the bike as a prop but the celebrity actually sharing that they love their bike - but I haven't run into one until now. On page 253 of Marie Claire's main fall issue actress Erika Christensen of NBC's Parenthood is shown with one of her favorite bikes. She owns one hybrid and two road bikes. She has ridden her bike to a TV interview - how cool is that? She is exactly the type of talent we need to recruit! Yes, I'm on it! I'm tracking her down I promise.
The next happy bike surprise came in the bonus "work" issue of Marie Claire where I flipped to a section called "Who's the Boss" with profiles of top female executives and right on the front page of this article is an image of the very striking writer/producer Mara Brock Akil (who co-write Sparkle with her husband, and is the Executive Producer of The Game) sporting a very beautiful set of legs under her dress - and right next to her is a very chic looking European inspired city bike. No mention of the bike in the article or image - and I've tracked down Laurie Sandell, the author of the interview and they never discussed bicycling. But I'm convinced it's not a prop. Again I'm on the case! Keep good thoughts that she really rides.
My final major bike sighting is back to "T" Magazine and a profile on model Hannelore Knuts who is designing a bike for Marniek Kint. Sadly I have yet to track down anything more than that tidbit to share with you thus far. Stay tuned!
I don't know about you but I'm getting excited to dress for my destination more than dressing for the heat! Bring fall on!
Screenshot from Trendhunter.com blog on luxury style house Longchamp's use of a tandem bicycle in their fall 2012 ads (the ad is in the September issue of Vanity Fair).
I am having a beautiful-if-busy summer (and enjoying every ripe peach and delicious cherry I can get my hands on) but I've got to admit that my very favorite season is fall. I love the weather, I love the changing leaves (even though we see little of that in So Cal), and I love the fashion. So as I prepare to make the media kit this weekend for our upcoming "Cycle Chic: Past, Present & Future" urban bike fashion show on September 13th I was very excited to see that the beautiful September fashion issue issue of Vanity Fair was out on the newstand yesterday! And guess what? Not only do I adore much of the fashion within its glossy pages I spotted bikes featured three times! Woot!
The first is the full page ad for the fashion house Longchamp (screenshot above) which is featuring a tandem bike in a series of images that they released back in June to the fashion trend media to spark interest. Remember when I said that fashion and design can bring vision and long term planning to bicycle advocacy? This is exactly what I'm talking about. Target did the same thing last year with the home line & bike the Italian fashion house Missoni designed for them. They announced the line in May and when the products made their debut in September it crashed the Target website!
Imagine if the official top bike advocacy organizations such as the League of American Bicyclists, the Alliance for Biking and Walking, and Bikes Belong joined together to create a full fledged media outreach campaign for May 2014's "Bike Month"? I'm saying 2013 rather than 2012 because the time is pretty short to do this kind of beautifully styled and photographed campaign I have in mind when there's our big Pro Walk/Pro Bike: Pro Place 2012 conference to make happen first (though I've certainly got ideas brewing...).
On that beautifully styled photography note I'd like to share one of my favorite tears from our Cycle Chic shows lead stylist Cradelle Swon White. The image above is one she recently styled for a shoot for Tinsel Tokyo's May 2012 issue with photographer Ryan Cleveland called "Femme Robotique starting on page 86. I love the whole steampunk theme to it - and especially love the hats (see the shot below). This shot did not make it into that layout but it's one of my favorites. The model is wearing pieces from designer BK Phillips whose designs will be featured in our fashion show as well. I love the movement, and I love that though the model is quite slender we can see the muscle tone in her thighs (perhaps she rides a bike!).
Hats are big for fall 2012, as are tweed, the whole English Country House Riding to the House Look. Oh the tailorin and the boots showcased in Vanity Fair's September issue! And really, everything that wears well for riding a horse wears quite well for riding a bike too!
Actually, everything that's hot right now reminds me of what was starting to be seen in 1982-1983. Yes, 30 years ago when yours truly was graduating from High School and getting ready to go to FIDM. We had both the fine tailoredness of Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Giorgio Armani (who made his big splash in the U.S. dressing Richard Gere in American Gigolo) paired against the rock n' roll punk leather and chains street look. How fascinating that we have the same juxaposition coming around again.
What shall I be wearing to our Cycle Chic fashion show? I've got a wonderful vintage Ralph Lauren double breasted jacket that could just to the trick. That is if I don't decide to run out and buy leather jeans...Stay tuned for more on Cradelle very very soon!
Have you seen this ad? I adore it. I've seen it in a couple different places, but most recently I've seen it in the August issue of Marie Claire. I am so curious about how and why this talented young woman Jessie Hemmons chose a bike for her profile in this campaign that I'm considering writing to her to ask. Why a bike isn't explained on her website, but what is explained on her website is how she began to crochet and knit - she began in juvenile hall. Someone who made it clear she did not like Jessie initially (who was the only white girl incarcerated at that time) took the time and patience to teach her how to crochet. It became her art and her vocation.
I love this series of ads by Tampax. I do. They illustrate what Mitch Joel, of Six Degrees of Separation talks about in a recent blog called "The Work We Do Is Our Art" by showcasing a series of talented young women with fascinating careers showing off their work. I know that the Tampax organization didn't set out to raise our awareness of the bicycle as a hip urban transit tool, but guess what? They are. This ad is being seen by hundreds of thousands of readers, and perhaps most importantly, young female readers making decisions about how they're going to move forward and live their lives.
I wish I could hire Jessie to come and yarn bomb parts of Long Beach as a female placemaking statement for the Pro Walk/Pro Bike: Pro Place 2012 conference. How cool would that be?
As I meditate on how I can better combine my work in bicycle advocacy with my art (I draw and paint, yes sometimes bikes!) I'd like to share another way that women can learn about the bike as a hip urban transit tool - or what I like to call "a tool for urban optimism." It can also be a tool for suburban optimism, and all over the world it's being used as nothing less than as a tool for transformation. This September 13 from 2:00 pm until about 11:30 pm the first national "Women's Bicycling Summit" will come to Long Beach California at the end of the "Pro Walk/Pro Bike: Pro Place" conference.
Our keynote for the conference is Leah Missbach Day, the co-founder of the World Bicycle Relief organizaton which has so far put over 100,000 bikes into the hands of those who most need mobility options throughout the world. To get a sense of the amazingly positive impact a bicycle can have on someone please take a look at this CNN newslink from the World Bicycle Relief site:
We have three ways that you can attend the Cycle Chic urban bike fashion show! For just $35.00 you can attend both the Women's Bicycling Summit + the Cycle Chic: Past, Present & Future urban bike fashion show. Or you can buy a General Admission ticket for just $15 (includes a token for a free beer + along the catwalk seat, live music, and after fashion music party - and yes, we will have some very good food options available to pre-order very soon for just $15 as well!), or a VIP ticket for $50 (includes entrance to VIP area, dinner by Primal Alchemy Catering, New Belgium beer bar, live music, along the catwalk seat, live music, goodie bag, and after fashion music party!). You can find the links to make those purchase right here!
Can I share with you how proud I am of this image making the cover of Momentum Magazine? And how thrilled I am that we have Momentum as a promotional sponsor for the Cycle Chic: Past, Present & Future urban bike fashion show on 9/13? Photographer Allan Crawford and I had such a wonderful time working with our delightful model Molly Gardner, who works at our local Arts Council Long Beach. I chose Molly to model for us for her incredibly warm and engaging personality - and of course that she's beautiful. I felt that Molly was just the sort of young women we need to recruit for the bike movement, smart, creative, game and so incredibly positive. The photo shoot was an "aha" moment when Molly realized a bicycle wasn't just to cruise to the beach on (as she loves to do) but could great to get around a city as well - wearing whatever you'd like to wear as you do so.
On that note if I was to boil down what I personally want the Women On Bikes SoCal website and advocacy to represent for both women and men my "in a nutshell" response is "welcome + enjoy + participate!" I am as equally excited for you whether you're finally deciding that you're going to clean the rust off your old cruiser in the garage and ride to the beach this summer as I am of those who regularly commute to work or regularly ride centuries.
Why? Because I know that when you get on your old bike and take off for the shore you're going to discover many things. First you're going to remember the sheer joy of riding a bike, of having the wind in your hair, of being able to admire the flowers (and smell the jasmine as my dear friend Terri reminded me), and you're going to feel very proud of yourself for getting to your destination under your very own steam.
You're also going to notice where your own city's streets are in need of repair, whether you know the best route to get where you're going, whether you'd like to improve your bike riding skills, and how motorists and bicyclists in your city interact. The more you ride the more you might think to yourself "I wish..." and then finally you might think (and I hope you will) "Gee I'd like to: take a bicycle safety class and learn more skills, get my friends together to ride, contact my city council member to ask how we can improve relations between bicyclists and motorists.
You may notice that what I haven't written is that you'll think, "Gee I need to find my local bicycle advocacy organization and join them. Why? Because we're still quite an unknown entity. You know who to contact if you want to support breast cancer, or the First Lady's "Let's Move" campaign, but chances are unless you're already a bike advocate the concept of bicycle advocacy is rather new to you. That's okay. That's exciting. That means there are more of you out there to engage and recruit to the cause. It's up to us in bicycle advocacy to find new and more appealing ways to connect with you.
There's so much more I want to share with you all - including my recent trip to Sacramento! But that will have to wait until next time. In the meanwhile I'll leave you with a quote from Mr. Cycle Chic himself Mikael Colville-Andersen (our Cycle Chic: Past, Present & Future urban bike fashion show special guest) in June's Details.com on deciding what to wear on your bicycle this summer:
"Open your closet: It's already full of cycling clothes. You shouldn't be thinking Lycra, you should be thinking tweed. In the old days in Europe, a bespoke suit would come with two pairs of trousers—one for everyday use, one for cycling."
Everywhere I go in Southern California I see evidence of the blooming bike culture here as never before. Yesterday I was at Fashion Island in Newport Beach and snapped the above image of a lady's breukelen Bowery Lane bicycle at Anthropologie. Later I snapped the image below of a new store coming in called "C Wonder" using a bike as one of its alluring lifestyle images. It feels as if Fashion Island is looking to differentiate from the nearby South Coast Plaza with a fresh, youthful, active living appeal and I have to say that I really like the effect.
The more I dig deep and delve into my art and fashion background, the more I study how the most appealing lifestyle brands thoughtfully layout their look and feel to entice us, the more convinced I am that those of us in any sort of biking and walking advocacy need to take several pages from their "how to" books.
Whether we like it or not we have become a consumer culture that is used to being seduced with clever words and gorgeous imagery. If we are smart we will use these tools to help make a radical shift in our country's behavior - from sedentary to active, not by demonizing the car, but by continually showcasing in the most engaging ways the beauty, ease and benefits of including biking and walking into our everyday lives.
The screenshot above is from Vogue.com by photographer David Vasiljevic linking to their favorite bicycle assessories for May 2012. Yes, apparently Vogue is aware of national bike month online! Now let's see if we can get into the print issue for May 2013! Better yet, what about Michelle Obama for the cover on a bike, or Cameron Diaz? I'd like to draw your attention to the fact that lead image is from a layout from December 2007. I stand by my theory that fashion has been helping the bike movement in oh-so-many-ways.
Only three months and so much to do! Eeek! I'm so excited about the creative talent and design lines we're connecting with. And I don't think things would be flowing so easily if I hadn't been concentrating on letting go of my inner (very vocal!) critic and focusing instead on the positive and amazing things that are coming together for bicycling.
I know there are those who just don't understand why style, fashion and design in general can be such powerful tools to harness for bicycling advocacy. They fear focusing on image and expensive items can make people fear that we are leaving people lout and left behind, unimportant. I understand the fear, and if by using style, fashion and design were for advocacy I meant to sell expensive bicycle products I'd agree. But that isn't what I'm about, I'm about inviting more people to feel welcome at the table. For me style, fashion and design are about utilizing the power of beauty to inspire and engage and include.
What I'm finding, frankly, is that here in the U.S. "cycling" to the every day public means "sport" and exclusivity and competition. I can't tell you how many women I've approached about their own bike stories who shake my hand, and then say in an apologetic tone, "Oh, but I don't think you want to know my story, I'm not a cyclist..." No, you're wrong, you're precisely who I want to hear from. Yes please! If we keep measuring the worth of people involved in the bicycle advocacy movement in terms of how often they ride, or how far, we're never ever going to engage the numbers we need to turn back the tide of sedentary diseases, or to make a truly serious impact on traffic congestion.
At the California Bicycle Summit last year Randy Neufeld of SRAM encouraged us to watch our language, to watch our use of "cyclist." This was also our mandate when Georgia Case and I worked on the Share Our Streets road safety marketing campaign for Bike Long Beach (coming soon I hope!) - to use the term bicyclist, or "person who likes to ride a bike" rather than cyclists.
We may need to ask ourselves if we want to be a passionate and dedicated advocacy click or a broad serious movement that makes a sweeping and deep impact.
Ok, enough soap box and back to the pretty and the market watching. In July's Oprah JC Penny's (now JCP) used a bike for their ad. And in this month's GQ there's a profile on The Sartorialist's Scott Schumann, street style recorder extraordinaire - who rides a bike around to take those captivating images of stylish folk.
Elizabeth Williams of Cali Bike Tours and her fresh new photo by ARobersonPhoto.com is such a gorgeous example of the Cycle Chic phenomenon. Elizabeth is also one of our passionate and dedicated bicycle safety trainer scholarship candidates, and a young entrepreneurial leader here in Long Beach.
On Monday two friends came over to help me reoorganize my apartment/work studio. I'll be honest it's a work in progress that will take several weeks. I have a lot of old paper work, magazines, books, clothes, etc. to let go of. I have a space that needs to be re-thought and transitioned to be ready and right to now focus on September's upcoming Pro Walk/Pro Bike: Pro Place conference, the national Women's Bicycling Summit, and of course the Cycle Chic show. Oh, I'm having so much fun on Pinterest putting together an inspiration image board of ideas for the show!
My plate is full but I'm being very careful not to become overwhelmed - not by the workload itself, but by my thoughts of the workload. It's amazing the power of our thinking for positive or negative, isn't it? Summer is here in a couple of weeks and I want to celebrate this new season with fresh thinking, with a fresh approach. That's why I'm so glad that one of my friends who came to help me is a "Transformation Consultant."
When I moved back to Long Beach eight years ago I knew a total of three people who lived here. I was in constant pain, could only find part time work, and was in dire financial straights. I'm not sharing this to say "poor me," because I know many many people have been, or are in now, this very same situation and worse. Life can be very challenging. But I found Long Beach very welcoming. Sure I missed my great apartment in Santa Monica, I missed feeling like I lived in a center of progressive thinking hipness, but I found the slower pace, the beautiful historic neighborhoods, and more casual attitude here soothing.
But finding enough writing gigs and clients for my marketing and pr consulting services was very tough. I was definitely an outsider, and even after I became the editor (part time of course!) of a local magazine, breaking into the inner circle of movers and shakers in the business world here just wasn't happening very quickly. My soapbox about why regional and national lifestyle media placement was so crucial to changing Long Beach's image of itself to itself and in the broader world fell on confused ears. Not deaf, they just didn't get what I was talking about...wasn't that kind of media for Hollywood?
So I did what many of us do when we suffer disappointment. I became rather bitter and critical of the establishment. And this critical side of me stayed around for a long time. I saw the great potential of my city and I wanted things to change now. Even after I moved from outsider to insider (an overnight success that only took 5+ years) this mindset stayed with me, because I kept seeing things that I felt really needed to be fixed. And well, it was hard to quiet my critical mind once it got going!
Something that has become so clear to me in the past six months while working on Women On Bikes SoCal is how very hard it is for most of us to step outside of our own frame of reference. This is why trying to revolutionize from a place of criticism is not only not sustainable, but doesn't build the kind of strong framework you need for your revolution to survive . Yes, definitely in the beginning you can create a movement pulling together others who feel as cranky and angry as you do, but that only takes you so far. We only have to look at Occupy Wall Street to illustrate my point.
The Founding Fathers of this country understood that. Had they built a revolution only on being angry about being taxed without representation and had not worked so brilliantly on creating a strong, clear and inclusive mandate to move towards we might have won the battles but in the end lost the war. We would have been a country without a positive vision. Yes, sure we are still working on living up to that vision, but that vision has inspired the world.
Certainly there are those who will point out that the Founding Fathers were only talking about white land owning men in their vision. But for the time that was very radical. At the time it was the royalty of Europe who held all of the power. We may not be where we could be as far as the actuality of equality, but let's remember how far we've come.
We are at a place of amazing opportunity for bicycle advocacy. Many of us only change when not changing becomes too painful. As we face the obesity and diabetes epidemics, high gas prices, growing traffic congestion, the bike offers a powerful tool for optimism for a new way forward...if those of us in advocacy can work together rather than hardening into our particular points of view. What I get now so much more clearly than ever before is that there's room for all of us at the table. Thoughtful critique has its place. We need to learn from the past and see where we can raise the bar in the present. But when we lead with criticism we often shut the doors of connection and opportunity. When we lead with telling others how they've been doing things wrong, we're often not invited back again to that particular party. Yes, we may be justified in our feelings and point of view - but do we want to be right, or do we want to invited in.
I'm not for a moment suggesting one pretend to be/feel/think something one does not, but I am suggesting (and I'm learning to take this advice myself) that when we lead with the positive, the opportunity, and open mindedness miracles happen.