Mia, Alissa & Alexis - Creating Culture Shift

From left: Mia Kohout pf Momentum Magazine by David Niddrie, Alissa Walker of A Walker in LA website from her Flickr, and Alexis Lantz of the California Bicycle Coalition by Allan Crawford

From left: Mia Kohout pf Momentum Magazine by David Niddrie, Alissa Walker of A Walker in LA website from her Flickr, and Alexis Lantz of the California Bicycle Coalition by Allan Crawford

Earlier this year Bike Talk founder and host Nick Richert invited us to start hosting a monthly "Pedal Love Podcast" for the radio podcast and we jumped at the chance. I'm sure you've noticed that our blogging, email and social media outreach has slowed a bit as Maria, Daniella, Kim, Kellie, Charlie and I have all been on a sharp learning curve to understand the basics of good radio sound engineering (and making plenty of mistakes along the way that sound less than stellar) and of course excellent show hosting.

The happy results is that each show gets better than the last.

I'm really delighted to share that for our August Pedal Love Podcast I have a very fun and informative interview with Mia Kohout, CEO & Editor in Chief of Momentum Magazine for my Stylish by Bike segment. Our new show will be posted by early next week. In the meantime I invite you to check out some of our archives!

I first met Mia at the 2012 Pro Walk/Pro Bike: Pro Place conference (this year being held in Pittsburgh September 8-11) and felt right away that I had met a Kindred Spirit.

Take a look at her short "Pecha Kucha Night Vancouver" presentation above and you'll see a very smart, savvy, articulate young woman who understands how important it is to promote bicycling in ways that make it easy and appealing to a very broad audience - not just to the athletes, or the hard core commuters who ride long distances in any weather, or those who want to save the planet (which I'm all for, certainly but sadly that stance still makes many people want to run away with their fingers in their ears).

Mia is one of several young female leaders I have the honor of knowing in active living advocacy who guide and share with joy and enthusiasm and fun. It's a potent cocktail and it's really working to engage and inspire new audiences. I'll be introducing you to the two other young women in this blog title a little lower down in this piece. These three are at the forefront of helping to create a true culture shift for biking and active living advocacy.

Shoulding people into bicycling works for very few, whether from a personal health or a planet health perspective. To connect emotionally with the vast numbers of people who could really find the bike a useful, healthy, and cost savings tool Illustrating the allure works much better, as we've seen with the great popularity of the Cycle Chic movement across the world, and the image of the bike, and the fun of bicycling, being used sell everything from Viagra to green beans to shoes.

But what I'm finding is that many who admit they want so much to move into fresh thinking about connecting with new audiences are still rather stuck in their old paradigms without being able to really recognize it. Right now I'm noticing this most in the bike industry and ride promotion realm. Wonderful people, great enthusiasm, but so many of them still want everyone to become athletes. And that's who so many of them market to. Still, even for lines focused specifically at women.

There once was a time when I could run fast and dance hard, when I was athletic and truly proud of what my body could do. I understand the thrill of being strong and fast. If you've worked hard to get there you deserve to feel you've really accomplished something, and you have! That's not my own personal situation now, however. For the past 14 years I've dealt with with chronic pain and fatigue symptoms from Fibromyalgia. In order to live relatively successfully with this disorder I've had to go through my own culture shift. I've had to relearn the best approach to better fitness and more energy. Now I move in baby steps because if I do too much I will pay, for days and perhaps even longer. And I've learned there is actually a lot of power in baby steps, small bite sized chews and how doing a little bit regularly walking or biking is key to my being at my best.

Were I to be invited to give a presentation to the bike industry I would invite them to consider their real growth markets - say the third of Americans who are obese, or the 50-70 million Americans who are estimated to have a sleep or wakefulness disorder.

The hip urbanites are ahead of the curve on this of course, and Public, and Linus and Electra and Shinola were quick to jump in and make the bikes that appeal to women in dresses and those who want/need to cart stuff by bike.

Make bicycling hip and sexy and suddenly the bike is hot as a media darling. But we need to all work together now to move bicycling from the leading edge to a real paradigm shift. Now we need to expand from the great urban bikes getting coverage as "must haves" items in the beginning of a cadre of magazines, to "must ride" with inspiring fun, flirty and inspiring editorial stories of both celebrities and normal people revolutionizing their lives by bike.

The women I'm sharing with you in this piece not only know this, they lives this. They are ladies who love their dresses. They love to dress for the destination rather than a workout.

We're refining our focus here at Women on Bikes California and PedalLove.org, to spend our efforts and energy to help make the needed culture/paradigm shift happen. This new focus will play out in two main ways:

1. We're grant writing and fundraising to create Pedal Love: Having Civil Streets Conversations among Californians and Beyond which will be a comprehensive online media/style guide and resource platform to facilitate respectful, accurate and effective coverage and civic engagement on urban bicycling in California. Our emphasis will be on the specific needs and opportunities of/for women, youth and underserved communities, especially those for whom riding a bicycle is a need rather than a luxury.

2. We're taking the next steps for our official media plan to exponentially grow the bike culture and bike riding in California. After successfully testing our belief that focused media pitching in collaboration with select members of CalBike's affiliation program would result in successful placements, we're expanding this plan across the state and even work in collaboration with the Women Bike project of the League of American Bicyclists to grow bike minded stories in the local, regional, statewide and national press.

So it feels very apropos and timely that the Levi's Commuter line should have tracked down Nick Richert of Bike Talk through KPFK and invited him to participate in the L.A. pop up Commuter space, and that Nick should in turn invite members of the Pedal Love creative team to help him host a live Bike Talk on August 15. Yes we're excited and we hope you'll join us! From 6-9 pm in downtown Los Angeles for this free event. The guest list is limited to 40 so RSVP here online and get there early! To learn more about the space (i.e. where the heck it is) and what other events will be hosted during the 8/5-8/25 activation of the space click here (where you'll also learn what they're doing in Brooklyn and London).

For this live taping hosts Nick Richert, myself, Maria Sipin and Machiko Yasuda will have short interviews with some of L.A.'s brightest bike advocates and new urbanism journalists. Our guests include:

  • Alexis Lantz - California Bicycle Coalition
  • Alissa Walker – A Walker in L.A.
  • Carlos Morales – East Side Bike Club 
  • Cynthia Rose – Santa Monica Spokes 
  • Don Ward – Wolfpack Hustle 
  • Jennifer Klausner – Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition
  • Josef Bray-Ali – Flying Pigeon 
  • John Jones III – East Side Riders Club 
  • Nate Berg – freelance journalist who writes frequently for Next City + City Lab

This is such a wonderful group to have together for interviews all at once. I hope you'll join us. Another two of the women I want to give a shout out to in this piece will be our guests next week. Alexis Lantz, the President of the California Bicycle Coalition, and her good friend Alissa Walker are two leading care centric L.A. in new directions.

Beyond her work at CalBike, Alexis is a policy analyst with the Los Angeles County Public Health Department’s PLACE (Policies for Livable, Active Communities and Environments) Program. She previously served as planning and policy director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. I have had the great pleasure of her feedback and guidance when I was first pitching the idea of Women on Bikes California, and next collaborating on bringing more women and diversity into last November's California by Bike summit.

Alissa writes and speaks about design, architecture, cities, transportation and walking for many publications and events. She is the urbanism editor at Gizmodo and her work has appeared regularly in Los Angeles Magazine, the LA WeeklyDwellFast CompanyGOODThe New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times, as well as on the KCRW public radio show DnA: Design and Architecture.

Alissa not only writes but is also written about and it's been great fun to see her featured in places like Sunset Magazine and The New York Times. Make sure to take the time to read more at her blog, A Walker in LA, and follow her at @awalkerinLA on Instagram and Twitter.

Two weeks ago my partner Charlie and I decided to take back up our old ritual of watching 60 Minutes together on Sunday night from their online archives and who should we see riding a bike happily through Manhattan but best selling author Malcolm Gladwell of Tipping Point, and now David and Goliath. Unfortunately I can't seem to find any good images of Malcolm on a bike  except for the tiny one they share on the 60 Minutes website here.

I would so love to interview Malcolm for our Pedal Love Podcast and my "Stylish by Bike" segment, imagine the fascinating conversation we could have! What would you like to ask this wise observer of how trends happen? And what questions would you like to post to either Alexis or Alissa for 8/15? Send me a note to Melissa@pedallove.org by 8/14 and your question could be included. And follow the conversation on #Commuter!