Expanded October 10, 2018
Renée Moore began her bike advocacy career with the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) after deciding she needed a change from her career in pharmaceutical marketing. What did she love to do? Ride her bike! But she hadn't learned to ride until she was a young adult and knew that there were many more people in the DC area that hadn't learned to ride yet either and would love to, and still more who knew how to ride but didn't see biking as a viable form of transportation.
Renée decided to become a League Certified Instructor and then launched the popular Meet Up Group Bicycling in the City, and she became known as "The Girl on a Blue Bike". She brings a fresh, fun, "let's really get people" riding attitude to bike advocacy. She began at WABA as their Women & Bicycles program coordinator, a group of over 5,400 women, and then moved into focusing onVision Zero, and is now an Outreach Coordinator.
As someone with a sales and marketing background myself I always have a wonderful time connecting with Renée. Here below are my latest questions for her as I work on updating and expanding the Equity & Diversity section of our upcoming book "The Surprising Promise of Bicycling for America."
Melissa: You've now been a full-time professional bike advocate for a few years. What about this work makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning?
Renée: I love getting people on a bicycle who haven't biked in a while and people who want to ride but don't want to ride alone or on a long, hilly ride. I LOVE creating a ride that has a fun event and inviting new people we usually don't reach out to to bike with us.
MB: What programs and events are you most proud of being a part of?
RM: I loved being W&B Coordinator and Outreach Coordinator. The group grew by over 40% during the year I was there. My favorite events with W&B were Bike and Kayak because we had so many people show up. I also enjoyed hosting the Pizza Crawl to several pizza places in the city. And my favorite was the Progressive Lunch Ride where we had appetizers at one restaurant, lunch at a second place and dessert at a third place. And we biked to each one.
As Outreach Coordinator, I am most proud of the Boomer Biking Bike Ambassadors which are rides during the day for people 50+ and learning sign language so I can connect with more of our deaf and hard of hearing bicyclists.
MB: You are known for creating very fun rides that include some other type of adventure. Can you share with us the magic mix of getting people who are new to biking, or haven't ridden in a long time, on a bike?
Yup! I don't really focus on the ride. My goal is to find something fun to do then figure out how I can get there by bike. I want to bring out people who would like to ride but don't want to ride a lot of miles or a hilly ride right off the bat or those who want to meet new people and not ride alone or attend the event alone.
My rides are under 10 miles, typically flat, and are designed so that we do/go to some event and the bike is how we get there. I also try to go to someplace where it is difficult to park so people won't just drive there to attend.
MB: I always learn so much from you about what real inclusivity and diversity and equity means. Can you break those down for us and maybe give us some examples of how this can and needs to play out in bike advocacy?
Diversity is having different looking, different believing, different abilities, etc people in a group. So it could be having black and brown people, deaf people, older people, or people with disabilities, etc. involved. I think of this as inviting people to the dance.
Inclusivity is making those people feel like they are part of the family, that they belong. It's about the group creating a culture to make new people feel welcome. I think of this as asking the people at the dance to shake a tail feather with them.
Equity is giving those same people a voice to make decisions and help shape the group's plans/events/ideas. They not only have a seat at the table but they get to eat and help plan the meal that others will eat. I think of this as having the diverse group plan the dance.
In bike advocacy, diversity would be getting black and brown people, deaf and hard of hearing bicyclists, people over 50 etc to a bike event. Inclusion would be making those people feel special and welcome even loved when they attend the event. It's more about how they feel when they are around us. Do they feel like their presence matters or are they just there for a photo op? ( it should never feel like the latter to them). And equity is having those people be in leadership roles and making decisions about the event(s).
The big thing I believe organizations have to realize is that these terms are different and not interchangeable. And if you are truly looking for equity you have to be ready for your organization to look and think differently than it is presently is operating.
MB: Continuing on the making magic theme, wave a magic wand for me and describe the kind of training or retreat you'd like to attend for building skills and bridges in biking and walking advocacy?
RM: If we're talking about creating diversity, inclusion, and equity I wouldn't create a retreat or training. We can't train and retreat everything. So I'd say spend time with and make friends with people of other backgrounds. Learn how other people think, what they do, what matters to them. Post your events in places beyond your normal list of people. Listen to people's concerns without trying to explain why what you want is the right thing- even if you really believe it is. Help other people get what they want so you build trust and aren't just the people who show up when you want something. Basically, treat people of color (and other backgrounds) as people.
MB: What am I not asking you that you really want to talk about that isn't being talked about?
RM: Bike advocacy organizations should ask themselves are we ready for our organization to operate differently if we become diverse, inclusive and equitable? Do we have a plan we are married to and just want the diverse group to give their stamp of approval or do we want the diverse group to have true equity and help decide how the organization will evolve? Bike advocates have to answer this question and decide if they want lots of different people attending their events who support their cause or they want lots of different people leading the organization who are creating a variety of causes diverse people care about.
MB: This past September you attended the Walk Bike Places conference for the first time, this time hosted in New Orleans. How did you enjoy it? What stands out as the most inspiring aspect of it?
RM: I LOVED the Walk Bike Places conference. It was my first time going and I was asked by Mark Plotz, the host and coordinator, to moderate the closing plenary session. The three people who were on the panel weren't in the transportation industry and the work they individually didn't overlap with one another. After reading their books, studying their online profiles and websites and reading a dissertation by one panelist, I decided to ask them about the disparity in wealth and racial equity in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. Their answers were powerful and heartfelt. The big takeaway was to listen to what people in their own neighborhoods want before you begin building and changing things. The crowd of over 1000 gave us a standing ovation. Mark told me later that that had never happened on a panel at Walk/Bike/Places.
MB: Where would you like to take your message of equity, and inclusivity and how to truly engage fresh audiences with the opportunities of active mobility next?
Program wise, I want to bring back the Women Bike day sessions at the National Bike Summit in 2019. I want to create a program of teaching women to fix up abandoned bikes that we then give to shelters for women who are in housing transition and teach them about bike safety and bike repair.
Personally, I want to be a keynote speaker at the National Bike Summit in March 2019 and Association of Pedestrian and Bicycling Professionals (APBP) in April 2019 and ultimately do a TED talk entitled: You Can't Google-Sheet Diversity & Equity. ( Ok I'll work on that title but it's truly how I feel :)