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Feeling the (Pedal) Love in California
When the League decided to dive into unknown territory and host the first National Women's Bicycling Summit last year, I was entering uncharted waters — but with some very capable navigators. Not only did we have a key partner in the Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place conference, but I'd also started hearing about a new initiative in the host city of Long Beach: Women on Bikes SoCal.
Led by Melissa Balmer (pictured right), the initiative was focused on showcasing the style and sophistication of women who ride, by sharing stories, compiling professional photography and organizing the nation's first all-female League Cycling Instructor seminar. With the help of Balmer, Elizabeth Williams, Alexis Lantz and so many other area leaders, we were able to host a wildly successful first event — and launch the League's Women Bike program.
Earlier this month, the tables were turned. At the California Bike Summit (read more about my trip here), it was my pleasure to help Balmer launch a new initiative: Women on Bikes California.
At the national level, as part of our Women Bike Communications Committee, Balmer has brought keen insight on bicycling as a design and media darling, inspiring and challenging us to focus on getting our Women Bike message far beyond our niche circles and endemic magazines. So it's no surprise that media plays heavily into the new Women on Bikes CA project.
As Balmer emphasized in her presentation (below), it's all about sharing the love of bicycling; highlighting the impact bicycling has in transforming our lives; and creating creative collaboration that will enhance our storytelling tactics and elevate the voices of women statewide.
According to Balmer...
The initiative will bring a creative twist to mainstreaming bicycling with a storytelling approach highlighted in their new website PedalLove.org. Personally engaging stories, captivating original photography, photo essays, and an upcoming series of “Pedal Love” videos will showcase the bike as a tool for optimism and illustrate how ordinary Californians are making extraordinary changes to their lives by bike. The growing array of voices on the site already features eight talented women from diverse backgrounds ranging from age 25 to 60.
To raise the skill sets, visibility and connectivity of women passionate about being on the forefront of the active living conversation, Women on Bikes California will host a series of new media + leadership trainings called “Active Living Plugged In.” These new trainings are focused at cultivating the talent pool and opportunity for women looking to excel as champion communicators and leaders of active living in California in the new media age. The trainings will also hope to spark cross collaboration opportunities for innovative projects, programs and strategies with California’s bike industry, other active living industries, health, technology, tourism, entertainment and design fields. The the first two trainings are slated for Long Beach and Silicon Valley within the first half of 2014.
I couldn't agree more. I can't even count the number of conversations I've had with advocates or other partners in this work about the need and desire among female leaders to be strong communicators — not just in sharing their work, but claiming the power of their own stories and promoting themselves in a professional and confident way. (In fact, look for sessions at the 2014 National Women's Bicycling Forum on this topic!)
"The voices and experiences of women who bicycle are not often showcased in mainstream media or even media focused on bicycling," says Alexis Lantz, board chair for the California Bike Coalition. "Women make up half of our population and sharing their experiences and creating communities with streets that are safe and appealing to women and families is vital to creating a more sustainable, healthy, and livable California. I'm extremely pleased to help lift up the many diverse voices of women who bicycle, and to help encourage more women in California and beyond to bicycle for everyday transportation, recreation and fun by sharing resources through the Pedal Love project."
Learn more about the Pedal Love project here.