Monday, February 25, 2013

Women Mean Business

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photo of Deadly Nightshades by Miguel Jacob

The League of American Cyclists have a new free webinar series. The first one was a great talk on "How to Start and Sustain a Women's Bike Club", which featured a talk by our lovely friend Sarai at GIRL BIKE LOVE. This Wednesday, February 27th, anyone around the world can join in on the topic of Women Mean Business: The Economic Impact of Women Bicyclists.  
 "Though underrepresented in many aspects of the bicycle movement, there's growing evidence that women hold the purse strings when it comes to the future success of the bike industry."
Women Mean Business also happens to be the theme of the upcoming Woman's National Cycling Summit on March 4th in the 'Murican capital of Washington DC.
"The Forum will include keynote addresses from industry pioneer Georgena Terry (pictured), Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and NYC Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, as well as break-out sessions, lunch plenary, networking and so much more."
The cycling industry may be the last one in the world to get that women have money, like to spend money, and will spend money on cycling products when given the proper chance. Even the PGA, the grand-daddy of Golf (a sport also referred to as the second board room), just announced it is targeting women to ensure the fiscal sustainability of the sport. Time has painted the picture of the growing spending power of women. Lil Wayne can sit down. Ladies are the ones making it rain.

It's time we had that talk Cycling Industry. It's not us. It's you. We have money. We want to bike. So if we aren't biking and we aren't spending, you're doing it wrong. That means you're not giving us good products, good prices and good distribution. It's not just making pink bikes with flowers. Or putting a model on a bike to pose in your ads. Or making biking to women only about being"fashionable". (I understand the irony of a Deadly Nightshade writing this.) Marketing lifestyle choices and marketing fashion apparel are different things at the end of the day.

Maybe some of you bike companies could take a hint from Elen DeGeneres.

But before products, women cycling is about advocacy and government lobbying. The car industry does that right. At Velo-City 2012,  I got to learn the hard data of getting more women cycling. It's all about safety, or perceived safety. Marisa Espinosa- Senior Manager of Service Planning, Translink BC, pointed out that their data shows that the cycling "gender gap" is also due to women being the primary child care providers in Vancouver, which means transporting young children. It means curating families and raising the next generation of citizens, and shaping the transportation choices they make in the future. Without proper cycling infrastructure like separated bike lanes, reduced car traffic speed and laws, few women are willing to look past the dangers of cycling on our car-ruled roads.

Let's take a minute to remember the late Jenna Morrison, her son, her husband, and her unborn child. Our traffic system, transport truck laws and justice system completely failed this family. How can we expect to get more families cycling when we don't address this? Ironically, cars kill more children via collisions and lifestyle diseases caused by sedentary lifestyle. (That's not even getting into environmental factors like local air pollution causing childhood asthma, or catastrophic climate change.) In the long run, we are hurting ourselves and children more by sticking to cars thinking they are "safe."

So it is a combination of solid safety infrastructure creation, and addressing the issue of the perceived safety issue. Throw in some pretty girls on bikes to make people smile, sure! I'm all for it. Let's be real for a minute; biking can be dangerous. We can fix that. Car culture, grid lock, and auto emissions are killing us everyday. Bikes can fix that.

Watch this speech by the Queen Elizabeth II - Diamond Jubilee Medal recipient Gil Panalosa. He is the executive director of 8-80 Cities, based out of Toronto. Wouldn't it be swell if our city actually took his advice? To bring it back, he talks about sustainable cities, children, the need for "complete street systems", proper road design, and the incredible force that is NYC Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

Let's do this ladies. xo

1 comment:

Kristi said...

Great Article, Meg. Thanks for articulating this point. I also want to add that the marketing/representation can go another way than just putting the 'pretty girls' on the bikes, - what about putting the real everyday women cyclists in front of the lens? In the last two years I have seen a spike in the 'bike fashion' photography - and as much as I can appreciate the technical eye and creative styling. I also can see the misrepresentation/ misdirection of what these representations could really do to push advocacy forward, and drive up the physical numbers of women cycling. Cycling as symbol is about the independence, (and change from many things, be it a car, the boring routine, the exercise regime, scenery, environmental strife etc.), and these photos are not depicting the freedom that comes with cycling. Rather many photos depict the chains we have to 'fashion'. In a recent photoshoot I loved for the 'fashion editorial' side, I also worried about what message the model, standing beside the bike in the long flowing tulle tutu, sent out. What would happen if a fellow sister cyclist got on a bike with that tutu or her version of it? The tutu could be wrapped in the rear wheel, possibly the brakes? I'm not saying we women riders aren't ingenious enough to figure out how to ride in that tutu, but the images sent out to a mass public can still have strength and responsibility in them to tell a truthful, and still sexy story of the independent woman rider.

As women we share stories and experiences through one another, through time spent together over coffee, on the phone, at work, at school, on bikes etc., so why not share our stories via the media we share? Although, 'bike fashion' is not the only thing by far that will get more women cycling responsibly and safely; it plays a large initial step. To the journey ~ <3 Kristi @ riyoko