What kind of career would allow me to focus my energy on sustainability activism, adventure the world and encourage communities to embrace livability through bicycle transportation? The answer, as I continue to realize, is to become a thought-provoking entrepreneur in bike advocacy. And luckily, I’m full of vibrant ideas on how to transition the U.S. to an active transportation culture! Pro Walk Pro Bike 2012 and the National Womens Cycling Summit in Long Beach last week left me in awe and has prepared me to creatively tackle America’s immobility and car dependence in whatever community I inhabit.
So where does the wind blow my wild red hair? Well of course I’ve gone west with only a bike, pack and two pannier bags. Pro Walk Pro Bike 2012 was the endpoint, and although I never imagined I’d stay in the sprawling suburban car-dependent City of ‘Angels’ and Hollywood frou-frou, it’s the people I’ve met here who have changed my mind. Boy did I meet the most awe-inspiring, entrepreneurial bike/ped professionals who are actively crafting and creating innovative, livable LA communities! (I can’t wait to move into an intentional community/eco-village, too)
During Tour de Fat this past Saturday in LA State Historic Park, I met colorful bike nuts from all walks of life from sponsored Velodrome track racers to start-up bike messengers to pedal-powered Sustain LA volunteers. I’ve always known bikes and beer was a winning combination but New Belgium’s Brewing cycling circus cultivated a captivating, interaction-driven Eco-topia and Burning Man-esque bike festival this weekend. Every bike scene in LA was represented and celebrated through an unparalleled costumed bicycle parade, eccentric entertainment and performances, and local food carts. Props to the LA County Bicycle Coalition for the bike valet service and sucking new, interested people into the bike advocacy movement.
Back to my realized dream. At the National Womens Cycling Summit I attended breakout session ‘Women in Bicycle Sports’ where I met the wonder woman who’s bridging competitive cycling and bike advocacy. Her name is Dorothy Wong and she’s an elite pro-racer, SoCalCross Series Director and Founder of The Team, a competitive female cycling team with an eco-advocacy mission. Dorothy’s been dubbed the ‘Queen of Cross’ and her passion to encourage more women cycling is the reason I’ve decided to stay in LA.
It’s oh so hard being a woman in cycling! There’s few of us and little support. I, myself, raced competitively on the Virginia Tech Cycling Team for three years, but was always disappointed by the lack of females on the team. I look back at VT Cycling with fond memories of nerdy in-training engineers gossiping about new aerodynamic, lightweight components on the way to races, yet riding in a van full of college boys wasn’t always the most supportive. The year I was most committed and raced every weekend with the team also happened to be the year where I was the only actively racing female. I would finish my race and there’d be little discussion on my performance. VT Cycling was financially supportive in encouraging women to join by waiving the $150 member dues for a year or so (thank you!), but even that didn’t necessarily keep women as female social support was always low. There were however, a handful of strong female cyclists on the team who came out of the woodwork (or VT Triathlon Club!) shortly after I switched out my training/racing time for an internship with VT Alternative Transportation. Even so, those women are rogues and we need to encourage more women in cycling!
What has my mixed bike racing and advocacy background led to? Well, that’s what I’m still trying to figure out! We need more women in competitive cycling and commuting by bike. We need competitive cycling to embrace bike advocacy. So empowering women to bike seems to be the key. So, let’s get more women into cycling and support them in every way! Luckily, WABA and the League of American Bicyclists are on the cusp of launching Women Bike.
In two days I’ll be in Las Vegas for Interbike! I’ll be attending as an advocacy promoter for The Team and SoCalCross. Thank you for this opportunity, Queen of Cross! While attending this world class bike industry conference and trade show, I’ll continue the conversation on how to bridge the worlds of bike advocacy and racing (although surely it’s through women 😉 )
Another little secret in case you haven’t heard – Richmond, Virginia will be hosting the 2015 World Cycling Championships! What a great opportunity (thank goodness for Tim Johnson’s Ride on Washington and announcement at National Bike Summit, now we can better prepare ourselves!). As a native Virginian I know I’ll be there and hopefully as a bike festival organizer or maybe I’ll just introduce the first ever UCI Critical Tits community bike ride around the race course. Empowering women to cycle shouldn’t only be left for the Burning Man community! (5,000 women do this ride every year)