The 10 Things I Learned at the California by Bike Summit 2013

Charis by Allan Crawford at the California by Bike Summit in November 2013.

Charis by Allan Crawford at the California by Bike Summit in November 2013.

1) Women are the future of bicycling advocacy and bicycle lifestyle

Women played a critical role in the success of the summit, especially with the official unveiling of Women Bike by the League of American Bicyclists, as well as the unveiling of the new California initiative, Women on Bikes California/Pedal Love (that’s US!!!).  Not to mention, in California many, if not a majority, of bicycle advocacy organizations are led by women.

2) Media outreach from all fronts is crucial to the movement

No longer is our movement about hitting the pavement and trails by foot or pedal.  Bicycle advocacy’s increase in participation from the young and hip, plus the trend towards not owning a car and living in cities rather than suburbs, allows us an opportunity we cannot pass up to make bicycling something that everyone can do.  We’re learning to use social media ourselves but we depend on the voice of pop culture media to advertise bicycling as more than just a trend - think People, Vogue, Oprah. Using media to spread images and lifestyles in biking far and wide inspires collaboration, hype, and a lasting impact on the way the country gets from point A to point B.

3) Biking is young, hip, but also necessary for so many other classes of folks.  Bicycling is becoming accepted as a lifestyle, but we’re not there yet.

We’re no longer a state or a country that can look at bicycling only as a form of exercise or a competition – we need to expand our view to include everyone.  That means everyone: those who commute (by choice or necessity) to work or school, those who ride just to compete or for exercise; those who are car-free…

4) Those passionate about bicycling want it to be fun

I heard the mention of safety far less at the summit than I expected.  People were focused (to me, anyway) more on how to make riding a bike (I hardly heard it called cycling, and for me that was great because ‘cycling’ sounds like a sport, to me) not just appealing to anyone, but an easy choice.  We need more bike parties; more social functions by bike; and more festivals, arenas, fairs, concerts, and rallies that welcome those who arrive by bicycle with perks and free valet parking.  Yes, having good infrastructure should come along with that.

5) Bicycle Friendly Business Districts are the future of branding bicycling as a neighborhood tool for economic progress

Act Global, Shop local has been around for a while, but what an opportunity the bikeped community has to make this movement our own!  What a concept in branding!  With better bike parking (think bike corrals), better sidewalks, slower, slimmer roadways, and more gathering places in business districts (like parklets), the idea of Shop Local grows exponentially.  Making it easier for those in surrounding neighborhoods to get to a business a mile away by bike means more money is spent in that same neighborhood.  People have to try to NOT shop locally.  Who knew it was so easy for bike riders to help save the planet?

6) We have to go to where the people are, not wait for them to come to us    

7) Corporate involvement will make a big difference in increasing ridership by leading a true movement for all employers to follow 

Google and Facebook both make it really easy for their employees to ride bikes.  Now, they just need to work with those outside their campus. The companies that have it together in terms of being bike friendly need should branch out and provide support for other businesses that could use a helping hand.  Besides, good press follows companies that help save the planet.

8) Bike advocacy is about community development

Grassroots.  I heard that a lot during the summit.  One person can make a huge change.  For example –Jenna of Red Bike and Green started a fledgling social riding group for African Americans in Oakland.  Now, Red Bike and Green has chapters across the nation.  Jenna remains humble.  I stayed with an AirBnB hostess, an African American woman who rides her bike to run errands and for fun.  When I showed her the video from Red Bike and Green she recognized a man in the video as her neighbor.  When she ran into him the next day she found out he is Jenna’s boyfriend – and he’s now going to knock on her door before every social ride to get her involved.  That’s bike advocacy to me – connecting people and sharing stories.

9) Style – everyone has a style

There were vans, clip shoes, Van Heusens, heels, boots, Tom’s, slacks, skirts, dresses, ties, jeans, leggings, and some Lycra.  More than what we wear, though, style when it relates to bicycle advocacy is how we carry our stories, our fights, and our reasons.  Style is where we go, what we do, and how we react in the world around us. 

10) It’s important for people like me to be at summits like this because of the way we see a bike functioning in our life 

To me, a bike is a tool. I feel somewhat an outsider when it comes to bike advocacy – I guess I prefer not to label myself.  This summit made me think that maybe – maybe I should call myself an advocate until I don’t have to anymore. Until we can all just be people, riding bikes.

And an extra thing I learned at the bike summit – you can take your advocacy resources everywhere you go.  Just tow them behind you.

About Charis Hill

Charis moved to Sacramento in November 2011 from Raleigh, North Carolina, where she graduated from Meredith College in 2009 with a BA in Sociology and minors in Psychology and Women’s Studies. Prior to working at the Support Services Coordinator for the Sacrament Area Bicycle Advocates she worked with Easter Seals United Cerebral Palsy as a job coach for people with disabilities for a couple years after graduating, then as a professional mover for a short while both before and after moving to Sacramento. She does not own a car and either walks or uses her bicycle around the county. 

Charis Hill

Charis is a car-free bicycle advocate, healthcare advocate, and fashion model living in Sacramento, CA. A native North Carolinian and graduate of Meredith College in Raleigh, NC with a B.A. in Sociology (minors in Psychology and Women's Studies), she has lived in Sacramento since late 2011. Charis lives with a severe, progressive, autoimmune disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis; her bike keeps her moving which is crucial to maintaining her current quality of life.