Meet the Women & Bicycles Program’s Roll Models
After officially launching our Women & Bicycles Program, we’re ready to unveil the program’s 10 Roll Models! You likely already know this program is a season of workshops, rides, and meetups for women who already ride bikes to join together with women who are interested in bicycling. The Roll Models provide a critical link between these two parties, so we’re incredibly fortunate to have 10 women who are dedicating their time and energy to getting their peers on bikes. Mentorship is the core aspect of Women & Bicycles: Throughout May and June, Roll Models will host friendly, facilitated roundtable discussions with the help of the Women & Bicycles workbook. Throughout the season they’ll follow-up with these soon-t0-be bicyclists to the best of their abilities, and be the resource to keep them rolling. But our official Roll Models aren’t the program’s only mentors. We encourage all WABA supporters to reach out to women in their lives who might be interested in the program and encourage them to participate. The best way to do this is to get them signed up for the Women & Bicycles Bulletin to find out about upcoming events. Check out short profiles of all the Roll Models below the jump. Lacy Wilhoit Washington, D.C. I have only been riding my bike for about two years, but became a firm believer in transportation via two wheels when I relocated (for the second time) to D.C. without a car. I ride my bike practically every day to and from work and to any weekend or evening activities I might be involved with. I feel like it gives me the freedom I crave before and after work to think of nothing but the “rubber on the road” and how quickly I can beat the car commuters! I definitely experienced barriers, mostly in the wardrobe department. I am strictly a dress-and-wedges type girl, and I had the common misconception that in order to ride a bike, you had to wear a kit, or at least athletic gear to even get started. Boy, was I wrong! I have perfected what I can and can’t wear, but also maintained my personal style. It was challenging at first, but now it’s second nature. I feel that as a Roll Model, I can open up a lot of new areas to those involved. I live in Northeast Washington and work in Southeast. I think there are a lot of people who just don’t realize how easy it is to hop on a bike and go. I would love to get most of my friends on bikes. It would be a challenge for me! — Gillian Burgesse Arlington, Va. The bike is my preferred way of getting around. I started biking as a kid, doing “stunts” on my brothers’ hand-me-down BMXs. I was a bike commuter after college around D.C., but dropped it when I moved to New York City. After a few years of “city living,” I started biking again to train for a triathlon, and realized how much I missed being out on the road. When I moved back to the D.C. area, I started bike commuting again, this time from Arlington to D.C. When I was pregnant with my first, I biked for about 5 months on a hybrid. With my second, I used an ebike to bike all the way to the day I went into labor. I also take advantage of bikeshare to get around D.C., for both work and pleasure, to allow me to take one-way trips and not worry about locking up my personal bike. Once we started having kids, my husband and I have worked biking with kids into our lives. We have a bike seat on the front of our Dutch-style bikes, and recently acquired a recumbent trailer bike. I love taking our toddler out to the park or to run errands on the bike—it even gets her excited about going to the store. I’m looking forward to being a mentor. I think a mentor is somenone who is easy to talk to and someone that others want to ask questions of because they’ll listen without judging answer those questions clearly with useful information. — Sondra Frank Washington, D.C. I started bicycling regularly a year ago after I won a WABA bike giveaway contest as part of the East of the River Program. I typically ride a couple days a week, commuting from Ward 7 in D.C. It started out slow, and took a while to become comfortable, but now I am officially a bicyclist! There were a couple bicycling barriers for me at the beginning. I faced a fear of riding on the city streets. I’m still learning to navigate them safely but I feel a lot more confident these days. Also, if you want to call it a barrier, I struggle with the notion of wanting to look “cute” while riding a bike and ensuring that I am always safe and wearing a helmet. — Elizabeth Willis Fort Washington, Md. I started riding to get healthy and lose weight. I was getting close to 50 and was well over 200 pounds. I started riding on some off the bike paths around D.C. and have fallen in love with biking. I often ride from my home in Maryland to Fort Belvoir and home again. I truly believe there are many women out there that have forgotten how fun bike riding can be. I have used biking to maintain my weight and be a very healthy, happy person. My biggest barrier to bicycling was the fear of cars and the fear of just getting out there and riding. When it has been awhile it can be scary. Learning about all the bike paths in this area saved my life. As a good mentor, people have to be able to relate to you. I am not a super-athlete I do not ride super-fast, but I sure do enjoy the trip. I am sure there are many more out there that just haven’t realized how much fun bike riding can be. We just need to open up a conversation, address concerns, and be an encouraging force with each other. — Elizabeth Lyttleton Washington, D.C. I rode a bike to get around my small town in Southern Virginia as a pre-driving teenager. I rode a bike around Beijing as a student in the late 1990s and to work in Australia in the early 2000s. I commuted to work in downtown D.C. in the mid-2000s. In all that time, I rode fairly inexpensive hybrid bikes. Almost two years ago, I bought a long tail. And it changed my life. All last school year, I commuted from Eckington to K Street, then at the end of the day from K Street to Brookland to pick up my kids (5 and 8) from school, then back to Eckington. We rode all fall and all winter, and we stopped riding when I got too pregnant to safely ride such a heavy bike in the heat of summer. Now the bike is our favorite way to get around town. We all need mentors, especially when it comes to bicycling. A good mentor is encouraging, engaged and interested. Being a mentor isn’t about “look what I can do,” it’s about “look what you can do!” Demonstrating is more powerful than preaching. Helping folks come to their own solutions is more important than telling them what you think a solution should be. A mentor demonstrates and supports folks as they figure out how to make things work for themselves. — Angie Hermes Mt. Rainier, Md. My first bike was pink and purple and came equipped with training wheels. I loved it, moved onto bigger bikes, and rode around my neighborhood constantly through middle school. My first summer home from college I built my own bicycle at a local bike co-op in Tucson. I was involved in some bike co-ops during college in Los Angeles, and used my bike as my primary mode of transportation. Since moving to D.C. about a year ago, it’s been an adjustment to bike in cold weather, but on warmer days and in the spring, summer ,and fall, I use my bike to get most places I go: commuting to work, out socially, and even on a couple overnight bike tours. The first time I got back on a bike as an adult, I was petrified to bike in traffic, especially in urban traffic. I was fortunate that I got involved with a local bike co-op early in my re-entry to cycling, so I felt equipped to do basic repair and maintenance on my bike. Other barriers I face are related to costs. I think overall cycling, especially commuting on my bike to work, saves money, but some of the upfront costs are a real barrier. What makes a good mentor? Listening skills! Oh my gosh, there are so many cycling enthusiasts who will over inundate you with information (I’ve been one of them!), make cycling seem way to0 costly, time-intensive, or overwhelming. Just sit back, listen, support, and then meet people where they are at! Not everyone wants to bike up the Shenandoah Mountains, or buy fancy-schmancy clips, or even go on silly costume group rides. And that’s OK. Mentorship is about finding out what where the other person is and where they want to go, leaving your expectations for and of them at the door. — Erin Casgren-Tindall Washington, D.C. I’ve been biking to work in Alexandria, Va, from D.C. for four years or so. I’ve gradually worked up to biking rain or shine, light or dark. I’ll still Metro when it’s icy, but that’s about it. Commuting is what got me biking and then I expanded to biking with a few girlfriends on weekends. Through the Tweed Ride and the Mount Pleasant Cruiser Ride, I met a bunch of new bike friends and all aspects of biking took over my life. I experienced a couple barriers to bicycling. Riding with the boys is intimidating. Showing up sweating and in full bike gear to a fancy bar for an after work happy hour can be difficult. And of course there’s the fear of running into your boss’ boss wearing spandex after biking on a hot day. What if it rains? What if you forget something? What if you want to go somewhere after work? What if it gets dark? A mentor meets people where they are and helps to encourage them to move forward at their own pace to become what they want to be. A mentor is available, honest and positive. — Lolly Walsh Washington, D.C. I have been biking as my main form of transportation since 2005 in D.C. Since then I’ve lived and bike-commuted in Pittsburgh and San Francisco. Now I’m back in DC. Like many, I experienced barriers to bicycling. It was difficult finding bicycles that fit me, finding bicycles that fit my needs for commuting, hauling, and pleasure riding, and constantly being talked down to by guys who think they know everything. I think a good mentor primarily needs to be able to listen and really hear what people are saying and perhaps even what they’re not saying. Being friendly and accessible is valuable, too. — Kathleen Herndon Alexandria, Va. My primary experience is in mountain biking, road biking, and cyclocross. However, I do commute periodically to work (I’m more of a fair-weather, long-daylight-hours commuter). This is where I have as much opportunity to grow that aspect of my cycling as the other women. There were a couple initial barriers in my bicycling experience. My first visit to a shop was intimidating, especially since the guys working there never really offered to help me. On top of that, the small selection of women’s items were in the very back corner. A lot has changed since 2001, but I know it is still not easy for many women to get into cycling whether it is the barrier of not knowing anything about bikes, who to talk to about getting into it, safe routes, access to shower facilities for work, or places to go. I’m looking forward to opening up a new world to people! — Laurie Lemieux Greenbelt, Md. Bicycling has changed my life—literally. I’ve been riding since I was a child, but I got more seriously into bicycling about 7 years ago when I bought my first “real” road bike. I bought my husband a nice bike so he could keep up with me. I started commuting to D.C. from Greenbelt 2 years ago and now ride about 100 miles per week. Last spring, my local, woman-owned bike shop was in danger of closing. After much discussion with the owner and pondering of life goals, I resigned my full-time nursing faculty position at a local university and bought the bike shop (I am a co-owner). I’m still a women’s health nurse practitioner (I commute 33 miles roundtrip on bike to see patients one day per week). With my husband I help lead weekend rides out of the shop for all levels of riders. Cycling makes me happy and I want to share that joy with everyone! It’s clear the primary barrier to cycling is our car-dominated society. Huge roads with high speeds are difficult and dangerous to ride on and sometimes impossible to cross. It seems like laws favor drivers over cyclists. Once you get to a destination, it can be difficult to find a safe place to park your bike. We do have some really nice off-road trail systems, but they are not necessarily connected to one another so people drive their cars to get to the trail (even if it’s not far away) or may not ride at all if they can’t figure out a safe way to get to the trail. Cycling is great recreation, but many of us also cycle for transportation and commuting. Until our society (especially our legislators) see cycling as a means of transportation, we’re going to continue to face barriers to safe bicycling. A good mentor leads by example and offers helpful suggestions and guidance when needed. When I mentor, I clearly outline my expectations, set goals and objectives with the mentee, provide some materials with helpful information to support the program, and then make myself available on a regular schedule and as-needed basis. As a college professor, I made my courses difficult, but I made myself available to students via office hours and extra study halls. I was known as tough but fair – I think that’s a pretty good description of a good teacher or mentor.