Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Change in Tone

I went to the Women's Bike Forum yesterday in DC.  It was sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists who are trying to get their women's division into high energy.  The National Bike Summit, sponsored by same, began yesterday evening so the Women's event was on the front side of the big event.

Most of the people there were, predictably, women.  My daughter was helping with the Georgia in Dublin pop-up shop, so I circled back to see her every so often.  There was a lot of interest in the product, so that was good.

I attended a couple of panels and I have to say I was ... disappointed.  The panels were so much fluff.  I understand that women entrepreneurs in biking are important, and women teaching each other how to use social media, and special interest biking groups...all of that is a part of biking, but there was only ONE panel that had anything to do with safety issues, or advocacy, and it was a last minute add-on, and offered by our own Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling member, Fionnuala Quinn.

The last keynote speaker was one of the rock stars of women's bicycling, Janette Sadik-Khan.  Her efforts have virtually transformed NYC for cyclists.  It helped that she had a mayor with some big cojones.

She was so positive and spoke so eloquently about advocacy and how important it is to changing the culture. She allowed for questions and something happened that I noticed the last time I listened to an effective woman speaker in a room full of mostly women.  The first 3 to ask questions were men.  I don't know why that irritates me, but it does.  It was OUR event!  Plus they each wanted to ask about specific choke points in NYC. They had obviously come for the rest of the Summit and slipped in to this so they could ride their hobby horses.  Annoying!

I think women sell ourselves short.  The panel on "community based advocacy" was more about what divides us than unites us. It wasn't a "how to manual" on getting other women involved, but more of a
"there wasn't a group like me, so I formed one." When we focus on how we are different, we lose sight of how so much we can and should work together to benefit all of us.

There should have been a panel on how each one of us, as mothers and sisters and daughters and spouses are also advocates. When women demand safety, EVERYONE in society benefits. When we have a women's event that focuses on retail (fluff), it's fun, but it tells the rest of the biking world that they need not take us all that seriously in other areas.  There should have been a panel on Safe Routes to School.  There should have been a panel on women in Fundraising efforts for different causes.  In other words, the serious stuff.  All the "serious stuff" will be later in the week -- but many of the women who attended were only able to come Monday.

Oh well.  Here are some photos from the pop-up shop.


Life in a Small Town said...

There had been quite a bit of publicity for cyclists around here a couple of years ago. But, that was after a cyclist died after getting hit. So sad that that's what it takes for people to get educated on sharing the road.

Rootchopper said...

I can't help but note the irony in your words. It takes a mayor with cajones to make a woman successful! Irony aside, you make a good point. Big change whether it's in suppport for cycling or overhauling public education requires a firm commitment from elected leaders (whether they be male or female).

SouthLakesMom said...

Rootchopper, cajones are drawers, cojones are .. well, you know.

Yes, the point of the mayor having some chutzpah is that he was willing to stand behind her. That shouldn't be unique to men -- sadly, it's largely unique to that man!

Thanks for the comment, though! All of us cyclists need to stand together and lead with our expectations of courtesy and equity!