A decade ago I was traveling from Honolulu, HI to Washington, DC at least once a quarter. My work was technical in nature and frequently involved convincing other engineers and members of the Defense Department that our projects were superior to the hundreds of others they were being pitched. It was exciting, somewhat glamorous, and incredibly stressful. As part of this travel I possessed my “professional wardrobe”, anchored by my kick-ass power boots. In the past 5 years, as part of my transition to a new city, a new work environment, and a new lifestyle, I have slowly shed parts of that wardrobe. But the power boots have remained, and it’s time to dust them off.
I am headed back to DC as an attendee at the National Bike Summit. While there, I will be representing the Portland Society, speaking for the child and family rider as a member of the Islabikes, Inc. team, and filling my own interests at the intersection of policy and implementation. The Summit provides an opportunity to learn of and contribute to innovative advocacy ideas and trends from around the country and to participate in an organized Lobby Day to bring the message about the benefits of bicycling to our elected officials on Capitol Hill.
What is my message? Kids (and families) ride around their neighborhoods: to school, to meet their friends, to the park, to the corner store to buy candy (or, just maybe, milk). By riding around, they humanize the act of cycling as they get to know their neighbors, young and old. But they need to be able to ride on the street without risk of injury or death. I plan to be the voice of “why” — why kids ride their bikes and why they need to be out there more frequently. In my neighborhood, over fifty percent of the kids get to school via cycling, rolling, or walking, but perceived or real concerns about infrastructure and neighborhood safety significantly increases the number of kids being driven to school, isolating them from becoming true members of the community that they spend so much time in.
I also want to discuss with others the amazing things that groups of women can accomplish for their communities, riding bikes. According to PBOT’s 2013-2014 bike count survey, 32% of the counted riders were female, while nationally women account for only 24% of bicycle trip riders (National Bicycle League). How can our local experiences help raise participation levels nationally, and how can successes in other locales be translated to raise Portland’s bikeshare to reflect the population demographics?
Getting things done involves meeting people halfway in ideology and in dress. And that means I’m putting on the power boots, finding that business wear stashed in my closet, and heading off to DC to make my community, and yours, a better place to live.
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