November 2011

Photo: Matt Fukushima

We start out of the gate this month with Long Beach's engaging Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal on our cover in a beautiful photo by Allan Crawford. Suja has been one of our the key political cheerleaders for the bike-friendly movement in Long Beach, and one of the first women we asked for support from as we begn putting "Women on Bikes" together. We are proud to have her as one of our key spokes-people.

A native of India, Suja spent her first seven years immersed in a culture where the bike is still a major form of transportation for millions of people. She has vivid and visceral memories of being ridden to school every morning by her Father on his bike, and we'll be sharing those memories here via video very soon. A very busy single mom, business woman and politician, Suja is a "dress for the destination" bicyclist who avidly wears a helmet while riding - but guess what? She may be dressed in heels too! And she wants women and girls to feel just fine with whatever level of riding a bike feels comfortable for them, perhaps it's commuting to school, perhaps it's enjoying rides on the weekend with their families on a beach bike path.

We're beginning Women on Bikes SoCal locally from a home-base in Long Beach California where both the City and its residents are making profound inroads into creating a compelling and attractive bike culture, but we're thinking regionally and globally as well. How do we support a movement and inspire others to join? How can we support the advocates already on the ground doing such great work such as the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition and our sponsor Bikeable Communities, yet also engage a whole new audience who have not yet considered bike advocacy before? How can we be both meaningful and enjoyable to participate in?

For me personally, as a writer and an editor, it always goes back to the caliber of the story telling. I am always looking for the stories of individuals to inspire me. You will find a myriad of personal stories here at WoBSoCal from a variety of angles and interests.

When I was toying with the idea of riding a bike again two years ago I was worried that I was simply too frail and out of shape (you can read more about that here), but still I was intrigued. I loved riding a bike as a child and really wanted to do it again. I'm happy to say I had friends who encouraged me to try. Since then I've been inspired daily by the dynamic and organic bicycling culture here in my hometown. Living as I do close to the downtown area, I can stand on my street corner and watch a fascinating array of people ride by on bikes everyday - many of them women.  I've also been profoundly inspired by the Cycle Chic phenomenon from Copenhagen and the world wide movement of beautiful and engaging female-focused bike blogs that have sprouted up because of Mikhael's groundbreaking story telling and compelling imagery of women and families "dressing for their daily lives, not their bicycle commute." It's an "aha" idea that's taking the world by storm. Won't you join in?

Melissa Balmer