Are We Ready to Wake Up Yet?

(Image by Charlie Gandy in the Alamitos Beach neighborhood of Long Beach)

I turned 48 on Monday. I find it both sobering to be so close to 50 and liberating. We live in such challenging times, yet it is these very challenges that give us the opportunity to wake up to doing better, being better, and living more fully in the present - if we're ready to hear the call. This month's Esquire Magazine has an enlightening interview with President Bill Clinton on the powerful opportunities for collaboration that are right here, right now for our government.

But each of us has the power to collaborate. We can choose to be less about hardening into corners of our own particular belief system and more about being of service and the power of wise compromise. That is our my goal with this website and the advocacy outreach for Women On Bikes SoCal - that we truly do our best to be of engagement, service, and empowerment. We want to affect change. We want to double the number of women and girls riding bikes in Southern California with our new campaign launching next week, and we want to invite others to do the same in their communities across the U.S. Can you join us?

I love the image above. It feels very live and let live. I wish I knew who this young woman is. I don't know if she too lives in Alamitos Beach here in the LBC, or if she was just cruising by that day. The bicycle movement has its own corners of hardening - yes it does. First there's the debate about what title to use. Cyclist? Bicyclist? Those who like to ride a bike? The athletes who have trained long and hard and look good in that lycra wear the term "cyclist" like a badge and deservedly so. But the term "cyclist" sets the teeth of many on edge. There are those who are incensed that the "Cycle Chic" movement came roaring out of Denmark and has moved much of the cycle, bicycle conversation into the realm of marketing, fashion and sex appeal. And then there are those who simply like to ride their bikes from often to occasionally. Guess which group is the one that spends the most per bike? Guess which one is the group that has the most members? And finally guess which one is the one getting mainstream media attention?

I'm sure you got the answers correct but just in case - "cyclists" spend the most per bike, in surveys we're finding most people like best to consider themselves "those who like to ride a bike" over bicyclist or cyclist, and finally yep, it's the Cycle Chic movement that's capturing the attention of the mainstream media most.

We at WoBSoCal are interested in the stories and truths from all of these people who enjoy getting about on two wheels.

But to be perfectly fair, I have certainly been hardened into a corner by my own beliefs and experiences in the past and I'm doing my best now to shake myself loose. Those of us who find ourselves in those dark hard corners often have good reasons how we got there - and yet that corner doesn't serve us. The past twelve years have been the toughest in my life, and yet over the past three years I've been able to craft a new career for myself with the help of wonderful mentors like Georgia Case and Charlie Gandy because I was able to take advantage of opportunities that came my way. Somehow, thank the universe, I was awake enough to hear them.

When I gave up my car five years ago in March of 2007 I had no idea it would lead to becoming an active living advocate. I pondered that as I filled out an application for a journalism grant for new media projects last week. What a difference three years have made. I gave up my car for financial and health reasons and found a career. I am not unique in this. The media has been filled with stories over the past few years of people who found new leases on life because of being out of work and donating time to a non-profit, or simply finding that less money meant simpler living with their family which lead to more togetherness and more happiness.

We live in a time where sedentary disease is rampant. According to a new report from the Alliance for Biking & Walking released January 23rd "Bicycling and Walking in the United States: 2012" bicycling and walking dropped 66 percent between 1960 and 2009, while obesity levels rose 156 percent. You can learn more here: www.peoplepoweredmovement.org/benchmarking.

We have the simple cost effective solution right in front of us - walking and bicycling. No gym, no muss, no fuss, and no need for special clothes. You can fit both or either into your every day routine. Each of us is a pedestrian, and vast numbers of us have been cyclists, bicyclists and people who like to ride a bike even if it was just during childhood. We are all people who matter, who love, who vote, who work, and who buy stuff. So when are we going to wake up to the fact that everyone in the bicycle conversation should be welcome and matter? It won't be until the bicycle movement embraces all of its variety and voices that the country and the government will really start to take us seriously.