Becoming an Advocate through Bicycling, for Bicycling: Kelley W. of Women BikeDC
I’m over 50, and getting back into biking as a significant part of my lifestyle has led me into a whole new area of serving my community and region as an advocate. I’ve learned about infrastructure, Safe Routes to School, bike master plans, and I’ve met a whole new group of people in each arena of interaction that have enriched my life.
Even when I run into a bike-hater, I’m challenged to be the advocate– to win his/her heart and mind– or at least try to defuse the anger. This volunteer advocacy recently turn into a paying job. It’s something I never thought I’d be doing at this point in life, but I’m doing it because it’s fun.
It sure was great to be on vacation the last two weeks, but I missed publishing the interviews that I have been collecting for the Women BikeDC series. Through these interviews I continue to learn more and more about all the great women who live and ride here in the D.C. metropolitan area.
Kelley and I go back a while, although we have yet to meet in person. She was one of the first to participate in the winter challenge I host, the Errandonnee. A resident of Fairfax County, Kelley works with Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling, to make that part of the greater D.C. area a safer place for cyclists of all ages. Thank you, Kelley, for being part the Women BikeDC interviews!
Tell me a little about yourself and when you started riding.
I started riding as a little girl in Midwest City, Oklahoma. There’s a family photo of me in my cowgirl boots on my bike. (Editor’s note: Thank you for sharing this delightful photo with us!)
What sorts of things do you do by bike?
I run errands, I ride with friends for fun, and I do a number of charity rides.
How has riding a bicycle influenced your life?
Being a bicyclist makes me a better motorist. It helped me teach my children to be better drivers, and it helped me hold my ground with them when they wanted to go somewhere and thought a car was the only choice for doing so.
And so importantly, it helped me get to know women across the political, race, gender, everything spectrum with whom I might never have had an opportunity to connect. Thus, it has opened my eyes to some issues I’d never considered, and expanded my viewpoints in ways I wouldn’t have forseen.
What features do you think make a city bike-friendly and why?
What makes anyplace more bike-friendly is a two-pronged approach. First, we need to educate everyone from elected officials to police to motorists to cyclists about the safest and most civil way for us to all co-exist.
Second, we need to provide infrastructure (and maintain it) that allows cyclists to make informed choices about where they should want to ride at their experience and comfort level.
What do you like about riding in the D.C. area?
How could our area improve for cyclists?
I live in Fairfax County, and I think the area in which we could best improve is education.
Too many cyclists are arrogant and too many motorists are ignorant. That’s a dangerous combination.
What do you think are barriers or things that prevent women from riding?
The same things that keep women from trying new things: fear of looking stupid, being thought stupid, not fitting in.
That’s why I love the WABA Women & Bicycles group. We have tried very hard to be continually inclusive and supportive of one another. We all enjoy a little snarky humor, but not at each other’s expense.
What suggestions do you have for employers who want to be bike-friendly?
Figure out a way to encourage your employees to ride that includes shower facilities, transportation benefits (for wet and cold days), and high fives for those who are trying to normalize biking as a transportation choice.
How does it feel to be a woman who rides in an area where women are less than 26% of the riding population?
I don’t pay any attention to it. I just ride. Yesterday when I was out on the W&OD I think we saw a ratio of 4:1 women to men riding — so it might depend on time of day, type of riding, etc. ALL of them were smiling.
What are the issues you deal with as a woman on a bike, or is it something you think about?
The only issue I deal with on a bike that men don’t have to is the issue of feminine hygiene. Otherwise, I’m in the same position of being vulnerable in traffic, overlooked at intersections, and run over by jerks.
Tell me about your bikes.
I have a 24-year-old Bianchi steel bike. They used to call them city bikes but we’d call this one a hybrid now. I use it for errands. I also have a Cannondale Synapse road bike and a pink folding Citizen bike.
I love my Bianchi for our shared history and its durability. It’s the old gray mare in my stable. The Cannondale is my go-to bike because it’s light and responsive. It’s the thoroughbred.
And the pink folding bike is what I used to teach and it’s just fun — like a pony. It’s such a bright pink that I get constant comments and questions about it when I’m on the Metro with it folded. That opens up opportunities to talk about biking as a lifestyle.
What bike accessories do you consider must-haves?
I use a Fly6 camera/taillight every time I’m on my bike.
I always carry spare tubes, lifters, a hand pump, money, phone and ID. Other than those, unless I’m riding at night, anything else is optional.
What’s the best adventure you’ve ever had on a bike?
I think riding with my friend Amy is usually the best. It’s not all that adventurous but we have such a great rapport and similar pace.
Every time I go into D.C. to ride with some of my biking women friends there I feel like it’s an adventure because it’s out of my ‘normal’ riding.
One word that summarizes your bicycling experience?