Women on Bikes California

My Ride of Silence Epiphany - Part II by Sonya Lovine

I clearly remembered the overwhelming feeling I had when one of my close friends and I rode up to the starting location of the Ride that evening. We were late and we were carrying the flowers that we would be placing at the ghostbike along the route.  In my mind, I think I was anticipating 20-30 riders might show. But when we arrived, my first thought was, where did all of these people come from? And…they are here because of my efforts?  Instantly I realized there was work to be done so our Ride will depart on time – once again the strategic and methodical me kicked in!  The Ride took off without a hitch.  It wasn’t until I was actually on my bike riding – after all the work had been done – that now it was just me participating in the Ride just like all the others.  And then it hit me.  All of a sudden, this Ride was FOR me - or so it felt.  This Ride represented me doing the one thing I now feared the most – facing my fear of riding in traffic.  But I had 71 other cyclists there to protect me.  I cried when the flowers were placed at the ghostbike and the names were read aloud - as I thought, it could have been me, or worse, it should have been me.  As we all rode in silence, I was surrounded by two very dear friends of mine.  I knew they were only there simply for me.  They knew I needed support when I wouldn’t even admit that to myself.  The approximately hour-long silent ride allowed me time to fully contemplate and reflect on all that I had gone through - and all that I was still going through - things I hadn’t fully allowed myself to think about prior to that point.  When the Ride was over, a number of wonderful people came up to me simply to say “thank you” for organizing the Ride.  

There were two particular “strangers” who approached me and made lasting impressions on me.  One who truly seemed moved by the experience and very graciously thanked me for doing what I did.  At that very moment of meeting her, I remember feeling that I would always have an angel riding with me.  The other meaningful person inquired about my accident.  I remember asking “how did you know I was in an accident?”  And he pointed to the red ribbon I was wearing on my arm (all cyclists who have been injured wear a red ribbon during the Ride).  I then felt silly for having asked “how did you know”!  I found myself telling this perfect stranger every detail about the accident.  He then told me about his absolutely horrific accident of his own.  It was then I realized that all of us wearing red ribbons that night bonded in some shape or form.  We were comrades brought together by our own very unfortunate incidents - but that night, we all rode as one.  When it was all said and done, I knew that my “unintentional” involvement with the Ride was purely therapeutic for me.  It was what I needed to start my healing process. 

One year later, May 2014, I embraced taking the full lead on coordinating this year’s Ride of Silence in Sacramento.  The goal this year was to get the word out, get the community involved, raise funds and gather donations, and simply make it a memorable experience for those families of loved ones lost who were joining our ride.  No longer was I only reflecting upon my own personal experiences and pain – now it was more about what I could do to advocate for the safety of others while cycling.  This year I was much more involved – it was solely my responsibility to get the numbers up and make sure the ride was a success.  I finally felt like I was making a difference for others, not just for myself.  This year I became much more engaged with the families of the deceased cyclists.  The horror stories I heard – each one of them filled with grief, pain, and sorrow – had me in tears. Family members from various parts of California came to Sacramento to join our Ride.  The California Bicycle Coalition supported our efforts this year.  There was such a great outpouring of support from the local community, bicycle shops, and other local businesses.  

As I reached the starting point of our ride, I was once again in complete amazement.  The crowd was bigger than I could have ever wished for – we had 135 participants!  Almost double of what we had last year!   For the second time in two years, our ride took us from California’s State Capitol building to the front of California State University, Sacramento where a ghostbike was installed. Upon the reading of the names of cyclists who have left us, there were not many dry eyes in the crowd.  With our bagpiper playing “Amazing Grace”, I desperately tried to keep busy during what is the saddest part of the whole event.  I looked around and just observed the great variety of cyclists who participated this year.  We had sleek and sexy road bikes out there, cruisers, fixed gears, recumbents, hybrids, mountain bikes, trikes – cycling clubs, families - all types and skill levels of riders joined together for one powerful cause.. As I continued to look around I noticed some very great men and women of our cycling community – they stood out and represented everything that this Ride meant – we are all one, and we have to look out for each other.  Regardless of any competitive spirit elsewhere, we were in this together on this one special evening. 

My greatest volunteer effort is my involvement with the Ride of Silence.  Being a small part of a greater movement - in helping to spread the word to protect all cyclists and to honor those that have been killed - has given me a sense of peace and strength.  My personal traumatic experience prompted me to do what I can to bring awareness to our community - we all must share the road because these are human beings’ lives which are being put at risk daily.

The show of support from the Sacramento cycling community, the cyclists who shared their stories with me, the grieving family members I was blessed to meet, and the friends that supported me on this ride –came together to make this a safe and successful event.  At first a bit too much for me to handle as I read the statistics of bicyclists injured and killed – it brought back far too fresh memories.  But in the end, this was by far the best therapy for me.  Overwhelming in so many ways – the solidarity displayed helped ease my fears.  In the end, I was reminded that I ride for freedom – and I will always have angels riding next to me.

About Sonya Lovine

Sonya Lovine is a Sponsored Research Officer at California State University, Sacramento. She has worked at Sac State for over 25 years.  Sonya received her master’s degree in Public History and bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Sacramento State.  She will begin work on her second master’s degree in Information Science in the fall of 2015. Sonya is an active volunteer with the Governor’s Mansion State Historic Park and enjoys spending time with her Boston Terrier and going for long bike rides along the American River Parkway.

My Ride of Silence Epiphany - Part I by Sonya Lovine

For the last two years I have assisted with and led the coordination of the local (Sacramento, CA) Ride of Silence. The Ride of Silence is an international effort to educate the public and it memorializes those lost doing what they loved.

The organization exists to honor cyclists who have been killed or injured on public roadways, to raise awareness that cyclists are on the roads, and to ask that we all share the road.

The first ever Ride of Silence occurred in 2003 in Dallas, TX after an endurance cyclist was struck and killed by the mirror of a passing bus. The maiden Ride drew 1,000 cyclists purely by word of mouth that began just ten days prior to the event. The cyclists came together and rode in silence, some in tears, in honor of one fallen cyclist – one of their own. Chris Phelan, now President of the Ride of Silence, coordinated this first ride for his dear friend – never with the intention to make it an annual event.  But when others learned of this very moving experience, Chris began receiving inquiries from many who wanted to honor fallen riders in their own local communities.

This worldwide event occurs in many countries on the same day, at the same time. Cyclists convene to ride in a silent slow-paced ride.  Although all cyclists have a legal right to share the road with motorists, the drivers often are not aware of these rights; many drivers are not even aware of the cyclists themselves.  The ride is held the third Wednesday of May, during National Bike Month.  Routes taken on this ride will often stop at ghost bikes that have been installed at the location of a cyclist’s death. Ghostbikes are small memorials for bicyclists killed on the road.  A bicycle is painted all white and placed near crash sites, and often accompanied by a small plaque honoring the cyclist.  They serve as reminders of the tragedy that occurred and represent a quiet “voice” in support of cyclists' rights to travel on safe roadways.

My involvement with the Ride of Silence evolved from a need to heal. In 2012, after only a year and a half of riding, I was struck by a car while riding home from work.  Long after I healed from the physical injuries, the emotional damage was still ever-present. 

The city in which I live, Sacramento, CA, has participated in the Ride of Silence for a total of six years.  I learned of this organized Ride through a friend who rode in each of the respective rides that were held from 2008 through 2012.  During those years, attendance was nominal – eight participants in the first year, 26 in 2009, and 11 and 14 participants in years 2011 and 2012, respectively (a ride was not held in 2010).  Prior to my accident, I wasn’t interested in participating in the ride – I knew what its mission was – but it just seemed a bit morbid to me.  Following my accident in October 2012, my friend tried to get me involved with the upcoming ride to be held in May 2013.  Now more than ever it felt far too morbid and I was unsure if this was the best thing for me to be involved in so soon after my horrible incident.  I gave in though and agreed to help “spread the word” about the ride.  Everything I did was very systematic – my only goal was to help increase the number of participants. I emailed every cyclist I knew. I tried to give it as much publicity as I could on Facebook, simply trying to drum up interest and participation.  The further I became involved, the more I took on.  It wasn’t until I started writing the press release for the event that what I was doing became real to me.  I was researching statistics on the number of bicycle-related deaths and injuries in our state which then led me to reading a number of newspaper articles about bicycle accidents.  

Next came the gathering of names of those who would be honored at the Ride – all of a sudden I was putting faces with names with actual lives. I remember at one point telling my friend that I could no longer be involved with the Ride. It all became far too much for me to come to grips with.  I was overwhelmed with the statistics and not so far removed that I realized I could have been one of “those” statistics.  Beyond that, for each and every person that I researched – their story became real to me – I was far more involved than I felt comfortable with.  I was grieving for all that I had gone through, grieving for those that died while doing the one thing that I loved, and to a certain extent, questioning how I managed to be so “lucky” on that fateful day.

Needless to say, I eventually returned to finish up what I started. Despite my need to disconnect emotionally, I knew that no matter what, I wanted this ride to be a success.  In the end, at the 2013 Sacramento Ride of Silence, we had 72 participants – more than all four previous rides total!  My efforts were rewarded!

About Sonya

Sonya Lovine is a Sponsored Research Officer at California State University, Sacramento. She has worked at Sac State for over 25 years.  Sonya received her master’s degree in Public History and bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Sacramento State.  She will begin work on her second master’s degree in Information Science in the fall of 2015. Sonya is an active volunteer with the Governor’s Mansion State Historic Park and enjoys spending time with her Boston Terrier and going for long bike rides along the American River Parkway.

San Gabriel Valley Bicycle Coalition Creates WoW (Women on Wheels)!


As the president of my college's environmental club, I spent two years educating people about environmentally-friendly alternatives to everyday life.  I practiced everything that I preached, except for alternative transportation.  Being from the San Gabriel Valley, I never thought about using anything but a car to get around.

In September 2012, I got on a bike for the first time since I was a kid. I was so nervous while our group discussed the route and destination.  Without much warning, the ride began and within thirty seconds my hesitations had turned into a sense of freedom.  As time went on I joined more rides and began completing short commutes by bicycle.

During this time, my boyfriend brought me to Bike San Gabriel Valley's monthly Bike Train along the Emerald Necklace.  I got to know the volunteers of BikeSGV and started to learn more about why bicycles are so important - not only for the environment but for mental and physical health as well.

As I learned more, I realized how important active transportation is, especially in low income areas where health disparities are high.  In these areas, many people cannot afford a car and there aren't many resources for cyclists. Through BikeSGV, I plan to play a role in providing these areas with the resources they need such as education, community rides, and bike maintenance and repairs.

A few months ago, BikeSGV reached out to me in regards of creating a women's group due to the fact that the majority of BikeSGV volunteers are males.  While women do participate in rides, their numbers aren't as great as men's and very few of these women have shown an interest in becoming involved with bicycle advocacy.  WoW (Women on Wheels), a project of BikeSGV recognizes the need for a safe, encouraging space where women of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities feel comfortable biking. WoW is working to create that space and provide the resources necessary for women to comfortably bike, whether it be for recreation, commuting, or running errands.

Currently, we host weekly rides on Friday mornings.  These rides begin at Encanto Park (777 Encanto Parkway, Duarte) and they last from 7AM-8AM.  The point of these rides are to get women out for a morning ride, especially for those who want to start riding or just ride with a group of women.

Women on Wheels is also hosting our first Bright Ride on Sunday, October 12th.  This event is free and fun, and it will explore the Rio Hondo bike path.  We will meet at Peck Road Park at 9AM and begin our ride at 9:30AM.  Once we reach Whittier Narrows Park, we'll stop for a snack break and a discussion on WoW's efforts. Why is there a 3:1 male:female cyclist ratio? How bike-friendly is the San Gabriel Valley for women?  As the name says, we also encourage women to wear the brightest and most colorful clothing. A link to this event is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1484339705170785/.

It is an exciting time to be a cyclist in the San Gabriel Valley and Los Angeles County. Ideals are changing and our streets are getting a makeover, and it is so exciting to be a part of the process.

About Nikki Hermann

Nikki Hermann is a lifelong resident of the San Gabriel Valley and a recent graduate from Cal Poly Pomona.  While working towards a bachelor's degree in Environmental Biology, she served for two years as president of The Green Team, the college’s coalition for the environment, where she played a role in advocating for active transportation, healthier food options, and improved public knowledge of local and global environmental issues.  Currently, Nikki is a participant in the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy and a volunteer for BikeSGV, both of which help her focus on her passion for public health and environmental advocacy and education.  In addition, Nikki has been tutoring students in math and science all over the San Gabriel Valley for the past two years and currently volunteers as an educator for the Whittier Narrows Youth Science Center.  In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, cycling, camping, traveling, gardening, reading, and spending time with her friends and her dog.

Finding Our Feminist F.L.O.W.

Since “feminist” is the first word in our name, maybe that’s a good place to start in introducing ourselves. A core part of our mission is eloquently described by bell hooks, in Feminism is For Everybody: “Imagine a mass-based feminist movement where folks go door to door passing out literature, taking the time (as do religious groups) to explain to people what feminism is all about. . . . Most people have no understanding of the myriad ways feminism has positively changed all our lives. Sharing feminist thought and practice sustains feminist movement. Feminist knowledge is for everybody.”

We want to redefine what it means to be a card-carrying feminist. A F.L.O.W. library card doesn’t tell you what feminism is, but it acts instead as a tool you can use to choose what feminism means for you, how you can use it, maybe how it can be changed for the better. Jenn Witte, whose inspiration created F.L.O.W. in the first place, and I don’t have the same relationship to feminism, but we both see it as a positive force for change, as a way of creating a more peaceful and congenial world for everyone.

Jenn began talking with the Women’s Center for Creative Work about building a feminist library for them in the spring of 2014. In June, she shared the inspiration for making it a mobile library, powered by bicycle, with the feminist reading group we both belong to. Something about that intersection--between books, bikes, and feminism--powerfully appealed to me in ways I couldn’t quite describe at the time. We met and talked one evening, sharing pieces of a vision, questions we both had, people we knew who might be able to help us locate the tools and knowledge we needed.

As the weeks have gone by Jenn’s dream has become my dream, too. And we have both been amazed and thrilled by how much the Feminist Library On Wheels speaks to people--it seems to bring values and possibilities into being that people we know, and people we may never know, find as exciting as we do. We’re eager to start learning more from the generosity of spirit we’ve been meeting in our early life as an organization.

The momentum we are building feels deeply connected to the best things about literacy, cycling, and feminism: freedom of movement, inside and out, for individuals but also for communities.

One of my favorite events in Los Angeles is CicLAVia. And each time I’ve gone, I find myself pedaling through a boisterous, peaceful crowd, with a few tears falling down my face. It sounds sentimental and corny, but I’m completely sincere--seeing stress and danger and congestion and pollution transformed by a gentle wave of bicycles, and by so many people who might not otherwise enjoy the same space together, feels downright magical.

Reading is a way to foster transformation too. And the feminism we want to nurture through F.L.O.W. shares that fluidity and openness. In the same way riding through a street that’s usually filled with cars, as part of a stream of bicycles, brings a feeling of liberation, so has being able to talk about the power of stories and ideas on paper, and being able to keep saying the word “feminist” out loud--even if it’s tucked gently into our acronym.

Right now we’re hard at work to get our first bookcycle built, and push our Indiegogo campaign past our goal. This is a project where we truly can do more with more resources: we can rent a storage space so the collection and the bookcycle are secured in a central and neutral place; we can provide all manner of programming, especially for children but also in partnership with other groups; we can get an iPad to help us tweet our locations up-to-the-minute for potential patrons; provide our volunteers with ample support and special activities; invest in materials for special events, and so on. Every day I wake up with a new little package of ideas to unwrap. Jenn and I have complementary but different talents, and this project is helping us flourish.

We’re different in a lot of ways. That’s okay. We want to encourage the representation of as many voices as possible. Lots of different kinds of riders can volunteer to steer our bookcycle--we’d love to organize special rides for them, say to various libraries around Los Angeles, to literary events, independent bookstores, important locations in the history of feminism, and more. Our library reflects donations from different people, with differing relationships to feminism. We hope to put the books in our library into as many different hands as we can.

There are so many ways people can get involved! We would love to receive donations of books; suggestions for our wishlist at Skylight Books; online donations from the wishlist; offers from individuals or businesses to serve as drop-off locations where patrons can drop books for us to pick up, on a regular schedule; or donations to our Indiegogo campaign. Connect to us on Facebook, twitter, tumblr, and Instagram (@feministlibraryonwheels), and help us spread the word! You can also email us directly at feministlibraryonwheels@gmail.com.

It’s hard to find a way to express the gratitude we feel for all the gifts we’ve received already--we are tremendously grateful, and we know there are countless readers, riders, and feminists out there who will be too!

Lisa's Triumphant Triple Crown by Dorrit Ragosine

Lisa all dressed up for her third ride!

Lisa all dressed up for her third ride!

At the fourth annual Beach Babe Bicycling Classic on July 13 in Long Beach, Calif., Lisa Watkins earned the coveted Ladies Triple Crown honor for completing her third CaliforniaGirl Series™ bicycle ride in 12 months. Out of thousands of riders, she and only four others who participated in the long-distance, all-female ride trilogy reached that achievement.

Although an impressive accomplishment for anyone, Lisa’s story is especially inspirational.  In 2009, she was diagnosed with Crohn's—an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract, which leads to flare-ups that make it difficult to participate in activities, let alone strenuous bike rides.  She requires an immune suppressant treatment every 42 days, which (like chemotherapy) leaves her drained.  Because of the condition, she cannot eat solid food and lives on a liquid diet.  Calorie maintenance and replenishment – important for any athlete – is more challenging for Lisa, but has not stopped her.

Lisa, 31, has always been active in multiple forms of exercise, including rock climbing, hiking and walking, but  --  along with husband, Byron, and 10-year-old son, Gavyn –have cycling ingrained in their daily lives. Lisa rides her three-speed cruiser to take Gavyn to school and Byron is a staunch bicycle commuter.  Cycling is also her favorite exercise because she can train anywhere, whether on the road or in a spin class.

“I love the freedom that riding gives me and traveling to participate in group cycling events takes me to great places,” Lisa says.

When she was looking for a ride that would fit her goals without the stress of competing in a race, she found the CaliforniaGirl Series’ non-competitive rides for women of all ages and abilities.  She also discovered that these rides inspired her to transcend her physical ailment.

Her first ride in October, 2013, The Princess Promenade in Sacramento, Calif. – near her hometown of Fresno – required careful meal and hydration planning and support from her dear friend Monica.  Without both, the physical stress of driving hundreds of miles, then participating in a long ride could create bouts of diarrhea and vomiting.  With Monica, who met her at the rest stops along the way to help and cheer her on, Lisa was able to complete the ride without incident.

With her first ride under her belt, Lisa went on to complete the Senorita Century in San Diego, Calif. in March, 2014.

To manage the symptoms of her disease and get proper nutrition for her long distance rides, Lisa blends unsweetened almond milk, a scoop of peanut butter and Vega One nutritional supplement - an all-in-one plant based powder. When she has a sweet tooth or wants to change up her liquid diet she relies on juicing fruits and vegetables.

Beyond her daily, one-mile, round-trip “tease” bike route to school with her son, Lisa rides to towns near Fresno that are within a 15- to 20-mile, round-trip distance.  This keeps her ready in between longer rides.  The stay-at-home mom also squeezes in rides as much as possible while Gavyn is at school and by participating in organized rides in the area.  “When I am not feeling strong enough to be on the road, I have a trainer and can ride in my home.  Even a little is better than nothing!” Lisa says.

“Completing all three CaliforniaGirl Series rides was such a huge accomplishment for me,” Lisa recalls.  “I can’t tell you how proud I felt pushing through my physical challenges and receiving the Ladies Triple Crown medal. I wouldn’t have completed any of them without my friends and family and the greater CaliforniaGirl family.  The camaraderie and support I received was critical to my success.”

In keeping with her belief that “you should live your life as a final draft and not as a rough draft,” Lisa is currently looking for her next ride—preferably a long-distance one in a state she has never visited.  Says Lisa to others, with or without physical challenges, “The goal is not to come in first or second, but to cross the finish line.”   Lisa looks forward to her next finish and hopes to inspire others to try something they didn’t think was possible.