Bike Trains!

I really like the concept behind this recent NPR story on bike trains in LA. The idea of the bike train is that a conductor, an experienced, confident cyclist, leads a group of people on a determined route to help new cyclists learn how to ride in traffic. In fact, the concept reminds me a lot of the Big Sister/Little Sister program we started in Quito, because the idea is to find mentors in your neighborhood to help show you the ropes and build your confidence riding a bike.

However, this story also makes me pause because of how it belittles small community scale change, like bike trains, in comparison to large, infrastructural investments like bike lanes. The logic is that bike trains only reach such a small group of people, whereas bike lanes can reach many people. And I get that. But I’m also a big believer in these small changes, because in my experience it helps to create truly informed, passionate cyclists. I think that someone who learns to ride with a mentor I think is more likely to be a cycling advocate and to encourage others to ride, than someone who uses bike lanes because they are convenient. Obviously, both sides are needed – the large infrastructural investments and the small scale community action – I just get automatically defensive when I feel like a news story is belittling community action.


“Biking and Civil Rights” by Elly Blue

Elly Blue recently wrote an article about Biking and Civil Rights, which discusses appropriating civil rights discourse in bike advocacy.

She talks about how cyclists often use the discourse of civil rights and compare cycling as a civil rights issue to other civil rights struggles across gender, race, class, sexuality, etc. Her point is that if you’re going to say that biking is a civil rights issue, than you better also be fighting for the other civil rights issues that you’re comparing biking to.

So if you want to say that bicycling is a civil rights issue, or that violence against cyclists is similar to violence against women, then you’d better be prepared to make sure that these are exactly the battles you are fighting. Otherwise you’re just appropriating someone else’s struggle for a cause that helps you and makes you feel great but may actually be hindering them.

I’m still processing how I feel about comparing and appropriating other civil rights struggles to biking. Personally, I don’t feel comfortable comparing different types of violence or trying to say that because I experience one type of exclusion or prejudice that I then understand other forms of violence and oppression. I’m afraid that that sort of claim trivializes the experience I’m appropriating, and that it’s a way to take power away from that experience.

I personally prefer to phrase bike activism in terms of citizenship and democracy (the logic being that all people should have equal access to the street regardless of the economic resources that they have – walking, biking, driving, etc – and that as part of a democracy all transportation users should have an equal voice). Yes, it’s pretty much two sides of the same coin, but for me I feel more comfortable with using the language of democracy, while in my actions trying to fight against oppression and for civil rights. I think this way I’m not claiming to understand someone else’s experience, but instead am using language that is meant to be as inclusive as possible and trying to act in solidarity.

Anyways, back to the article – Elly also brings up examples of ways in which bike advocacy at times actively works against existing civil rights issues.

If mainstream bike advocacy continues to focus on raising property values in and attracting “creative professionals” (all too often code for “white”) to gentrifying neighborhoods, then bicycling isn’t a civil rights struggle, it’s a powerful symbol of an economic process that many people are going to rightly feel like they need to struggle against.

As much as I want to end this article with a ‘capitalism – meh.’ Instead, I will say that I appreciate Elly’s article, first because it’s helping me to understand my own position in the language I use around bike advocacy, and second because it’s sparking this conversation at all.

Bikes Outselling Cars in Europe

NPR recently featured a story on their website about how bike sales are outpacing car sales in Europe. And that is AWESOME.

Source NPR
Source NPR
Source NPR
Source NPR

I disagree with the final lines of the article tying economic strength to car sales, saying that the US has ‘fared much better’ because our car sales are higher. Looks like the author should read more about Bikenomics to see how bike sales and usage can be considered a measure of economic strength and stability.

Speaking of which, there are only 3 days left in Elly Blue’s Kickstarter campaign for her new book Bikenomics and she is just shy of her $4000 goal. Check out her page and consider supporting the book!

Grease Rag and Facilitating Safe Spaces

My friend, and Minneapolis Bike Hero, Laura Kling recently wrote up some responses to frequently asked questions about Grease Rag.

Grease Rag Ride & Wrench aims to encourage WTF (women, transgender, femme) cyclists by facilitating fun and supportive open shop nights, group rides, educational seminars and social events. We are an entirely volunteer-run organization, fueled by enthusiasm and a drive to grow our community. Grease Rag would like to make bicycling in the Twin Cities more inclusive of WTF cyclists, especially focusing on including and building confidence in new cyclists, and cyclists new to bicycle mechanics. In the past year we have gotten a lot of new cyclists biking and excited to bike around the Twin Cities.

I used to help facilitate Grease Rag while living in Minneapolis, and it is one of the most incredible bike spaces I’ve ever been a part of. The environment is so supportive and positive, and I think that the whole Grease Rag community has something really incredible and special going on. The FAQ’s also address why safe spaces for WTF cyclists are important, and different methods Grease Rag uses to try to facilitate that kind of space. I know that this is something that Laura thinks a lot about, and her responses are insightful and useful to others who are trying to organize safe spaces.

Continue reading “Grease Rag and Facilitating Safe Spaces”

Bay State Badass Bike Zine

This weekend I came across the Baystate Badass Bike Zine while exploring a zine library in Cambridge with my friend Mark. Because I heart zines, bike feminism, and I extra heart zines about bike feminism – I couldn’t help myself, I had to get them all.  Then I got home and checked out their wordpress site – and admittedly, it has only two posts on it – BUT the two posts are free downloads of the zine! How awesome is that?!  So check em out!

Baystate Badass #2 Coverart
Baystate Badass #2 Coverart

Link Love

Here is a round-up of some of the recent articles I’ve read regarding gender and biking around the states.

First, an LA Times feature on the Ovarian Psychos detailing their activities as a women of color bike collective in East LA. They are awesome, and I have a huge bike feminist crush on them. Here in my favorite quote from the article:

Without blushing, the women use “feminine positive” slogans and catchphrases too risque for a family newspaper.

Next up, Bicycling Magazine featured 14 people changing biking around the country called “While You Were Out Riding, Bike Advocacy Became Cool.” Two stand-outs to take note of include Charles Youel, one of my personal bike heroes, of ArtCrank, a traveling art poster art show. The article also features of Liz Jose of WE Bike, a collective of women riding in NYC and doing tons of cool outreach to different communities in the city.

Continue reading “Link Love”