Category: Advocacy, Women's Cycling
Surely by now many of you have read the great article by Jonathan Maus of BikePortland.org that highlights Emily Finch, mother of 6, who bikes her children all over town in Portland. I’ve had this article forwarded to me by a variety of people and have seen it posted in multiple places on Facebook; I finally just got around to reading it tonight.
Emily Finch is an inspiration to be sure – a woman who decided she needed to make a change and proceeded to ditch her gas powered GMC Suburban for what is essentially the pedal-powered version: an elaborate cargo bike system that carries all of her children, groceries and various other sundries.
Truth be told, there was a tinge of envy to go along with my admiration of Emily Finch as I was reading. I wish I could be her…I dream of a life in a charming, scaled down midtown Omaha house, downhill from my favorite grocery store, and with easy access to Metro transit. (Hey, a girl can dream, right?) In my dream, I commute by bike nearly everywhere I go, and although I might have a car, I don’t really use it very often. My legs become so strong that I pedal carelessly up even the nastiest of midtown hills (California Street, I’m looking at you.) My children willingly and happily pedal with me on every excursion. I ride to the Farmer’s Market every Saturday and only cook meals with locally-sourced food. Oh, and there’s always a tailwind, a nice temperature of 72*. And unicorns.
I have a lot of friends in Omaha that have lives very similar to the dream I just described. (Well, maybe not the unicorns… not as far as I know, anyway.) I have a lot of envy-tinged admiration for them, too. My reality, however, is pretty much the opposite: I live in suburbia, and while I love and try to ride my bike(s) as much as possible and take transit when I can, the fact is, I still drive a lot more than I pedal.
When I pondered this a bit more, my envy-tinged admiration turned to frustration … not because I wasn’t living out my dream (yet!); I was frustrated because I caught myself falling into the trap that so many women fall into, and that is thinking we need to have it all in order to be worthy. In other words: Either I have to be Emily Finch, or I’m not worthy (certainly not a worthy bicycle advocate). WHY do I do this to myself, and more importantly, how many others have created a barrier for themselves by having the same thoughts?
I was at the first annual Women’s Bicycle Summit in Washington DC last March, and I’m very pleased that there is momentum building. There is going to be a follow up summit at the end of the Pro Walk Pro Bike conference in September, and the League of American Bicyclists has set up a Facebook page for the Women’s Cycling Project and a Twitter account, too @womenbike. The goal is “…to encourage more women to bicycle in the United States.” If we want a more bicycle-friendly city, then getting more women on bikes is the bike lane that leads to the proverbial promised land. More women on bikes -> more kids on bikes -> more support for bicycling in our city… and it only gets better from there.
I’m pretty sure that the League is not going to measure “more women on bikes” solely by the number of cargo bikes sold or the total yardage of spandex procured by desingers of the Pearl Izumi women’s line, or the number of women completing century rides. Progress will be achieved when more women start getting on a bike for short trips here and there, for whatever purpose, and however often it makes sense for them. It most certainly does not have to be all or nothing.
I’m looking forward to plugging into the League’s initiative and being inspired by other Emily Finch’s of the world, but also by women who feel passionately about bicycling and “just” ride with their kids to school, or “just” ride their bike a few miles on the bike path near their house every so often…. or “just” WISH they could and need someone to be their voice in the matter.