Some Thoughts on the LA Newspaper Group's Summer of Cycling

Dear Readers:
Below is an email I sent to the email address given for the ongoing conversation The Press Telegram and the entire Los Angeles Newspaper Group will be having this summer on bicycling:

I was very excited to find that The Press Telegram and the entire Los Angeles Newspaper Group was taking on this subject and am hoping for a series of articulate, well researched discussions and articles versus a project geared at stirring the pot for sensationalism but not coming to any better understanding.

Right now I have to admit I'm a bit dubious. The initial cartoon didn't help.

I am with Damien Newton of L.A.Streetsblog in hoping that you will move away from an us vs. them, car vs. bike approach.

Here are some things I'd like you to consider as you move forward:

  • Starting out the series with the term "cyclist" implies to many that you are focused on the lycra clad set. Research shows, including a survey I was personally involved in producing, that the majority of people who ride bikes do not tag themselves "cyclists," nor even "bicyclists" but "someone who likes to ride a bike."
  • The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition is currently in the middle of hosting 30 "Traffic 101" adult bicycle education classes throughout Los Angeles County within September. Will you be attending any of these classes? They are happening throughout the region.
  • Here in Long Beach I have personally been involved in launching "Street Savvy" this summer, a short "hands on" bicycle education class originated by Bike Long Beach and further developed by female instructors in our Women on Bikes SoCal program. We have a class on July 21st and July 28th - I invite you to come a check one of them out. Yes, I will follow up with a press release.
  • Throughout Southern California there are knowledgeable, articulate, professional bike advocates that can bring much to this conversation that you really need to be reaching out to. I recommend you start with Jen Klausner, the Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coaltion. I'm happy to provide you with her information if you don't have it.
  • I also recommend that you come to Long Beach and take the City's "Three Hour" bicycle infrastructure tour with Bike Long Beach's Allan Crawford if you want to truly understand why bicycle infrastructure is so important - and I would hope that you will educate your readers that money spent on these types of projects CAN ONLY be spent on these types of projects.
We are living in a time of a sedentary disease pandemic and the cost to our state alone is crippling. Our youngest generation is not expected to live as long as their parents due to the effects of diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Is it really a time to focus on fear rather than bringing understanding? I hope you can show true leadership and do better. Most people who ride bikes also own cars so the whole "I pay more taxes as a driver so I'm worth more" is not only offensive, but frankly, mute.

Best Regards,
Melissa Balmer - Editor/Program Director Women on Bikes SoCal

Growing, Asking and Allowing

Happy Spring!

We are gearing up to grow here at Women on Bikes SoCal with our second big fundraising push. We not only want to be able to host our "Street Savvy" adult bicycle safety education classes for free to underserved areas of Long Beach and beyond this spring, summer, and fall, but we're also gearing up to host an innovative new advocacy + media training this summer, and a very cool "Arts & Crafts Architectural Tour by Bike" this July with the very talented Maureen Neeley of Houstories.net.

By nature or nurture asking for things for ourselves doesn't come easily for many women. I have found it much easier to ask for things when I could ask on behalf of someone else - say a friend or an organization. How about you? In my twenties and early thirties I was a successful sales executive this way (complete with a wardrobe of suits with padded shoulders), and have found it fun and exciting to place clients in the media this way as well. Now, however, it's time for me to learn to ask for something that includes my own needs as the Editor and Executive Director of this organization, as well as my creative team so that we can put all of our great ideas into play. I have to admit it's not a task I've been preparing for with ease, but I'm now at a point where I'm beginning to relish the opportunity.

For inspriation and courage I've been listening faithfully to Martha Beck's Joy Diet, and today I've just finished up reading about Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg and catching up on the food movement's talented word-smith champion Michael Pollan (like Jim Brown Executive Director the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates I too feel the food movement has much to teach bicycle advocacy) in April's Oprah Magazine.

Do I feel 100% confident? No. But I'm ready to do it. I believe in this program and this wonderful synergy we're creating and most of all I believe in the diverse and talented group of people (both women and men) who have gathered together to make it happen.

We are now in the wild west of the "opportunity" economy and while I'm on this roller-coaster for my role at Women on Bikes SoCal I've decided I absolutely want two things as my constant companions: 1) A creative brain trust I adore collaborating with and 2) The ability to create new opportunities for women of all ages, races and backgrounds to become professional advocates, new media professionals, and spokeswomen (get it? SPOKESwomen?) as advocates for bicycling and active living advocacy.

Whatever other types of industries and economies develop in this new fast paced age it is absolutely imperative for the health of our nation and world that we have talented, dynamic, diverse female voices advocating for the fun and well being of a fit life by bike.

So my assignment to myself as I gear up for all of this has been to focus on what women so excel at - relationships. Over the past month I've made a commitment to get out of my little studio, out from behind my computer, and connect live and in person both with old friends and people I've been wanting to meet for some time now. And guess, what? Fascinating things are unfolding from this effort, one of the most exciting is that I was finally able to spend time with the delightfully effervescent energy that is Shelby Sanchez. And because of this in person connection, this new relationship, we now have a brand new columnist! I hope you'll take some time to read about this fascinating young mother here.

So what about you? How are you on asking for things that you want and need? And if it's been a challenge for you to do so how are you addressing that challenge and finding ways to move forward with asking anyway? I'd love to hear about your adventures.