Poised pedaling, lovely locks of all lengths billowing in the breeze, wafts of wildness and blooming and pot, the sensation of sunshine warmly embracing cool, wintry-white skin that has longed for sheer exposure: nothing compares to the loveliness of summer riding!
As the skies clear and temperatures finally rise to a heat conducive to unbuffered flesh-air contact, shared city spaces and streets bud and burst with life of all kinds. Seeing people gathering, walking, biking, and just generally grasping the opportunity to experience the world beyond interiors makes this Lady’s heart well-up and ‘splode all over its wonky self.
Summertime means a public realm packed to the brim with citizens enjoying and living in shared space, not to mention an overflowing and wonderfully expanded community of active commuters just enjoying the ride.
Seeing more fair-weather Ladies (and Lady-lovers) take to the streets atop two-wheels provides a glimpse of what our neighborhoods and streets COULD be, of how much more enjoyable, useful, connecting, and beautiful streets and city centers have the potential to be. It also reminds me of what, besides the fabulous forecast, makes summer riding more enticing to those who forgo the enjoyment of riding year-round: casual accessibility.
No new-fangled, neon-yellow jackets (which ultimately don’t make a big difference in visibility, anyhoo), no waterproof glorified-trash-bag outwear, no elasticized booties or so-many-rear-lights-you’ve-become-a-land-bound-lighthouse. The temperature and physical activity dictate lighter layering, and for most people that means riding in average daily attire. For shorter, slower jaunts to the store, that often means the provocative exposure of scalps, too.
When average people look out on the streetscape, they see something they can relate to; something they could actually be comfortable becoming a part of. The gear-attire mentality does a huge disservice to us Lady’s (and Lady-lovers) trying to expand the joy of riding to more people, by making it feel like a club you need an obnoxiously bright card to be a part of. It also makes cycling seem incredibly uncool. And honestly, what young Lady-in-training wants to be lumped in with predominantly male baby-boomers in bright spandex on flagged recumbents?
All riders are welcome on the roads, and I have a special place in my heart for the geared commuter kind (my bikey heart has space for EVERYONE!), and you should wear whatever the hell you want when you ride. But when the landscape is monochromatic and aesthetically dismal, it becomes harder for average people used to wearing what they’d like and driving a steel-box they’ve customized to their liking to place themselves alongside their two-wheeled neighbors. We become more and more “other”, and less and less understood.
What can every Lady do to support her fellow riders and neighbors in their pursuit of happier, healthier streets? Ride like you’re living, not like you’re “cycling”. Increase your “picnic riding”, or slow, leisurely, helmet-free (whenever possible) jaunts to the neighborhood market, school, and other short daily trips. Encourage your friends to come along, no special-attire required.
Keep smiling, riding, rocking skirts & dresses, and loving the sunshine, Ladies!
This Lady originally wrote this article for BlueOregon.com.
They’re aggressive, sometimes dangerously so, and destroy our air quality, communities, and planet.
They’re in the way, run stop signs, and ride without regard for others on the road.
Regardless of which trench (or, god forbid, in the inhospitable in-between of No Man’s Land) you find yourself, you’re likely tired, frustrated, angry, and just looking to get home alive.
In the lengthy and unnecessary war between car drivers and bike commuters, no real progress has been made. It’s time to draw down forces and start working together towards a more prosperous future for everyone.
I often hear gripes from the bike community, admittedly at times my own, that car drivers are inconsiderate and dangerous. I have indeed been harassed on bike boulevards (streets supposedly dedicated to people on bikes), drivers laying on the horn and riding behind me for block after block, perhaps not realizing that their momentary expression of annoyance has permanently damaged my hearing. Or those, too many to count, on their cell phones, putting all road users at risk.
Or the driver who followed me for an entire mile, pulled up alongside riding slowly with his window rolled down, yelling expletives, taunting me, and threatening my life for no reason at all. Some of these interactions have made me deathly afraid, and these sorts of actions are completely inexcusable, but I’ve had just as many drivers stop to let me cross a busy street, smile and wave, pull over to apologize for almost hitting me (she was so sweet), or do nothing at all except drive the speed limit and pass me when it is safe.
I love to ride my bike. It is safer than most believe, it costs the city less in upkeep costs (so more of our taxes can go to schools, paving roads, etc.), I actually meet and interact with neighbors and strangers along my ride, plus I save lot of money every year. Not to mention I save myself years, and everyone else money, in healthcare costs by staying active. I’m no better than anyone else, nor am I worse. I’m just a person who happens to love riding my bike. I’m glad I can choose to do so, and hope more of my community members will choose to ride along, too.
Yes, cars break down roads faster than bikes and they pollute our air and water with some pretty nasty carcinogens, not to mention the detriment to the cohesiveness of communities that lie along busy roads and highways (they’re linked to increased crime, too). But in many communities, we’ve left people with almost no option but to get around by car. In fact I was a car driver until the last few years, my Ex-Husband, a dear friend and wonderful person, drives a car to get to his job where no public transit or bike lanes go, and my parents, also lovely and caring, drive, too.
Does that fact that they drive a car in a culture where most activities for the past 50 years centered around cheap oil make them bad people? Why wouldn’t one try to have understanding for people forced to pay extra thousands of dollars a year to sit in polluted air?
Bike commuting is incredibly enjoyable, and it is a failing of our government to not provide safe routes that are available to everyone in all of our communities, but since the 1950’s our government has invested in unsustainable expanses of highway and suburban development while dismantling and defunding public transit, all of which normalizes and encourages driving for trips that the automobile is not best suited.
Driving as primary transit has come about through a combination of cultural norms, government inaction, short-sighted planning, and lack of understanding of personal responsibility/impact, and that’s my point: If you live in East Portland, of course you drive your car. You likely can’t even walk your child to school, since your neighborhood probably doesn’t even have sidewalks.
And waiting behind a cyclist when you commute to work downtown, after driving that expanse because there is no other feasible option… I can understand your frustration. Violence and aggression are never justified, but frustration? Who wouldn’t feel it. In fact our roads aren’t streets anymore; their design feeds into the perceived but inappropriate unwelcomeness of people on bicycles.
And yes, some cyclists blatantly run stop signs, which is not OK (I generally end up with a rolling stop, and I think most car drivers, if honest, do, too.), but just as many and more, myself included, follow posted traffic signs. And all of us, regardless of mode, make mistakes.
Streets used to be designed for horses. Then some were designed for bikes. Then public transit. Then cars. In the last iteration, room for all other modes was wiped clean, in fact sidewalks were reduced in size to make way for parking, making it less hospitable to exercise your innate proclivities to WALK. A driver’s natural tendency to see the bike as unwelcome and out of place? It’s rooted in our poorly planned and usually myopic street design.
A SYSTEM FOR EVERYONE: PROVIDING MORE OPTIONS
People on bikes are obnoxious vagrants who don’t pay their fair share. People in cars are dangerous jerks who ruin everything wonderful about our communities.
The truth is that at these extremes, we lose sight of each other. Our anger and fear and frustration have prevented us from seeing another human being, now merely a projection of past grievances and caricature rooted in daily emotional fluctuations. Take away the car, take away the bike, and you have two members of the shared community just trying to get home alive and unmaimed.
I believe that we all want the same thing: a transportation system that is speedy and efficient, doesn’t cost too much to maintain, and gives us the opportunity to enjoy our commutes and communities. Realistically, our current system is unaffordable, and it will take people thinking beyond the car for the majority of trips, especially inner city travel, to create transportation budgets that are financially sustainable (and happen to promote public health, the local economy, and environmental protection).
But for right now, let’s rise above the few things that separate us and see our commonality. Put aside your frustrations and anger and be kind to each other out there. Drivers: try taking one or two trips a week by foot or by bike (like to the store or taking your kids to school) and be patient with pedalers and pedestrians. Cyclists: ride respectfully and respond with kindness, not anger.
I’m ready for an era of peace and prosperity, and I think Oregon is, too.
Bikes = business.
(… and joy)
The lovely Ladies (and Lady-lovers) in Oregon City have received the go-ahead from the Urban Renewal Commission to convert their deserted Amtrak station into a thriving center for bikey goodness and tourism. Wonderful!
More on the development from The Oregonian:
The city-owned station at 1757 Washington St. is vacant and is served by a few trains per day. The historic building, once the town’s freight depot, lacks any glimmer of life. There’s no inside seating, no one on duty, no snack bar, vending machines or payphone.
Meier wants to convert the building into a comfortable way station for visitors, especially those who arrive with bicycles.
The Amtrak station would be a hub that would directs people to destinations around the city and county, said Adam Beykovsky, who is working with Meier.
“The idea is to push people out into the community,” Beykovsky said.
Oregon City is “a dying if not dead mill town and we need to look at something else … envision a new picture for ourselves,”
The features of the new cycle-centric station include:
- Comfortable waiting area with informational displays for Amtrak riders
- Restrooms and drinking fountain for bottle refills
- Community bulletin board for local activities and cycling events
- Oregon City and Mt. Hood Territory tourism information
- Snack bar with desserts, cold sandwiches, coffee, and pedal-powered smoothies
- Featured local craft beers and wine tasting
- Bicycle-themed lounge with couches, television, books, maps and art
– Small retail space for bicycles, accessories, and minor repairs
– Brochures re bicycle group rides, overnight tours, train packages and bicycle rentals
-Map room with web access for trip planning and information exchange
- Office and meeting area for the Oregon City Trail Alliance and representatives from various cycling advocacy groups and tourism organizations
- Meeting area for organizing group rides and storing supplies and gear
– Kitchen area for organizing food service for group rides
– Showers for touring cyclists
Lovely! Facilitating bike commuting, travel, vacation, and fun is in the best interest of any forward-thinking, and economically competitive, town or city. Way to go, Oregon City!
I know I’ll be checking out this hub (pun-intended) once it’s up and running.
Till then, what places do you like to bike for the sheer joy of it? Sauvie Island is an easily accessible, nearby location I try to visit and appreciate on a regular basis. Ladies from other cities: what natural features and rides are near you?
Keep riding, investing in local economies, and building community, Ladies!
This morning when I awoke next to my window, bathed in hues of pink and peach and radiative heat loss, I knew my ride was going to be gorgeous, clear, and frozen.
In winter, the normally celebrated lack of cloud cover and/or presence of sunshine is a meteorological announcement of the frigid conditions outside my door. Planning my commuting garb ahead of time proves about as useful as preparing a meal for unconfirmed guests: the variability of Winter weather means decisions are made day-of lest I be left broiling in rainpants on an abnormally warm day or thawing in wet, frozen jeans.
Based on the chill and beautiful views, I started gathering necessary supplies: warm socks, scarf, hat, warm gloves (thanks, Mom & Dad!), down coat. I decided that on a day like this, cuteness need not be abandoned for spandex, goretex, nor any other highly engineered “-tex” you can think of. This Lady was braving the frozen dawn in a skirt.
I used to think through my layering, but at this point it feels relatively routine. Underwear (which, outside of added warmth in winter, are unnecessary in my opinion), leggings, wool socks, pencil skirt (practicality note: be prepared to expose a lot of thigh, or in this case, legging). On top: tank top, t-shirt, wool hoodie (Icebreaker has amazing layering that is well worth the expense), down coat, rain shell. Layering gives you a dial on your internal thermostat: stop and take shit off when you’re over heating or when you arrive, add more when sweat starts to evaporate and you begin to feel chilled. The flexibility of layering allows me to dress in lovely attire rather than spandex and “cycling” garb.
Next to-do: basic component check. The precise “not-too-squishy” squeeze of my tires to assess adequate inflation, a look at my brakes to ensure brake pads are not entirely worn (also effective: the equally precise “metal-on-metal” sound check that tells you pads need replacing), and a squirt of lube across the length of my chain (which is essential this time of year. Every month or so you should also clean your chain of winter build-up using a wet cloth, then re-lube it.). All checks out? I’m on my way.
With the weather so gorgeous, I left home early this morning just so I could relax and enjoy my ride. Occasionally taking time to savor sunshine and beautiful scenery is essential to my happiness, and this was a perfect day to do so. Riding on a bike boulevard, a glorified low-traffic road in Portland, means seeing other cyclists, especially at rush hour. Two Lady-lovers in front of me, a Lady or two behind me, occasional spandex-clad racey-types speeding past me, the obligatory tight-pantsed helmet-less rider on a fixie (which reminds me: have any of you seen Premium Rush? I had the pleasure of experiencing this gem of modern cinema with friends. If you appreciate bikes and absurdity, it’s a must watch.)… we create a temporary community. I smile at people passing and just generally appreciate the blessing of a working body and people to share the ride with.
My 5-mile-each-way commute includes a categorized climb about 3/4ths of the way in. That means my legs are burning, my heart is pumping, and some days I feel incredibly strong and empowered, other days it means incessant cursing and huffing. Today as I sat stopped at a light preparing for The Climb, a cyclist behind me grabbed my attention to compliment my blue tires. It was so sweet, and I thanked her and wished her a lovely day. This exchange exemplifies one of my favorite parts of commuting on two-wheels: how often do we have genuine interactions with strangers in our daily lives? Well, I can tell you, not often enough!
Despite the traffic, I had a relatively uneventful, beautiful commute. Just a few days ago on the stretch of my ride I refer to as “the gauntlet” (look for a post on this next week), a Lady I recognized as my regular waitress at a local diner was felled by a car cutting into the bike lane. She was in a lot of pain, but luckily OK. Cycling is far safer than most would have you believe, but incidences like that remind me to appreciate every day and every pedal I have the opportunity to experience.
Today was a beautiful ride. Ladies (and Lady-lovers), I hope yours was as well
Keep riding, smiling, and rocking pencil skirts, Ladies!
PS- What’s the best part of your commute in the winter? Leave comments and share advice below!
Good morning, fabulous Ladies! Welcome to our first post in a series we’re calling “The Commuting Chronicles”; stories and issues raised while traversing Lisa Marie’s and Annette’s daily two-wheeled commute.
Planners and city officials often bring attention to the idea of the “last mile problem”, meaning public transportation can get you within the vicinity of your destination, but the last stretch between public transit stop and end-point discourages transit use, leading to more people traveling via personalized steel-coffin. Combining bicycles and public transit? Voila! Problem solved!
In Annette’s case, “the last mile” was the inverse: a portion of her riding that felt unsafe and intimidating (and exhausting!). Read more about her conversion to riding, the anxieties and neuroses invoked by The Tram, and the joys of overcoming perceived road blocks (pun intended!).
I started using my bike for regular transportation as soon as I moved to Portland. Grocery stores, coffee shops, restaurants. But I couldn’t bring myself to ride work, the place I go more often than anywhere else.
My office is on the top of a steep hill. I wanted to ride to work, but to get up this hill I had two options: either ride up the hill next to cars on narrow roads, or park my bike at the bottom and take the Portland Aerial Tram, a beautiful pod-structure dangling frighteningly from a line. To most new commuters, the risks of riding on twisting and heavily trafficked narrow roads would make the tram an easy choice. But I’ve always been afraid of heights. I’d never tried or even thought to change that about myself; avoiding heights was simply a rule I chose to follow, limiting me in a small way. So for too long, I put off deciding between these options and just continued taking the bus.
At some point, though, I realized that this was silly. I knew this fear of heights was less than completely rational. I wanted to ride to work and didn’t want to be my own barrier to doing that. So I chose to give the tram a try.
The first couple weeks I rode the tram, I would get there after a joyful outing on my bike and then immediately switch to a state of fear. As the tram lifted into the air, I clung firmly to one of the interior poles, staring straight ahead but completely focused inward, trying to get a grip on the dizzy spells I’d experience when the tram swung back-and-forth. Based on what I’d seen of desensitization and exposure therapy on a couple disturbing episodes of A&E’s Obsessed, I was proud just to be able to ride it without drawing attention to myself, and grateful to face this fear outside of the gaze and judgment of a national audience (in any case it would have made for boring television).
During my third week of riding the tram, without thinking I scurried onto a crowded tram as the last passenger at the end of my work day. The cabin was stuffed with people, leaving me with the option of panicking and manically explaining my special need to access the pole in a sea of chill people, or just holding my ground. Social anxieties won out, and I decided to go for it. I braced myself as it swung, and felt surprisingly okay, familiar with my surroundings and the whole experience after weeks of riding the tram.
Over the subsequent weeks, I evolved to always standing without support, at times seizing a prime spot towards the front in order to look down at the city in action, or straight ahead to admire the stunning view of Mt. Hood. My awareness has gradually shifted completely from fear to appreciating the experience of riding the tram – even looking forward to the thing I’d once dreaded the most.
What’s been most surprising is how this change has opened my mind to trying new experiences I would have assumed would be too frightening in the past but have found thrilling — aerial silks and trapeze classes, snowboarding, etc. I had no idea how limiting this fear was until I’d tempered it to the level of a satisfying adrenaline rush, allowing me to stay mindful and experience the fun of these new and challenging pursuits. And I indirectly have my love of bicycles to thank for that.
Oh the things a Lady experiences… on and off two-wheels.
Keep riding and letting go, Ladies!
All the bikey Lady-porn you could ever desire! All in one place. Home decor, beautiful bicycles & accessories, essential gear, photos taken commuting around Portland, and sentiments to ride by. Check out Two Wheels & A Lady on Pinterest!
Today’s commute was a rainy one, Ladies. Fun fact: You can measure the moisture content in the air by how much my eye liner streaks post-commute (see below). But I arrived home refreshed and happy.
On Making Smart Investments in Gear
I know a lot of Ladies are hesitant to ride because they don’t have the “right” gear for a Winter commute. Although I’d like to dismiss that as silly, I just recently made the switch from riding in frigid weather while wearing yoga pants (often calf-length) to more appropriate alternatives, and I would say there’s really something to investing in some “luxury” pieces (read: full-length pants) before subjecting yourself to the elements.
Had I known at the time that I’d soon begin blogging, I’d include here a Frametastic photo compilation of my splotchy, reddened calves and me frowning as a probably unnecessary bit of encouragement for some savvy cold-weather shopping – too late for that, though, because This Lady shelled out for stylish cycling-optimized pants and warm fortified leggings.
I prioritized my limited shopping budget towards gear purchases that were the most important for safety first, then comfort items; in hindsight, striking a balance between those priorities would have made for a far more pleasant transition into Winter riding. You don’t have to be totally decked out in Gore-tex, but you’ll be able to enjoy the ride without an iron will if you do something more than wear a garbage bag as a poncho.
All Things Safety-Oriented on dark days and while riding on slick roads:
A bright front light, a blinky red back light, any add-on you like that’s reflective, and a helmet. I’ll assume that if you live in the Pacific Northwest you already have a good raincoat.
I have an ugly sporty helmet that I keep hoping will get stolen (so I can replace it without feeling wasteful). If that ever happens, I’ll replace it with this one in black:
Gloves: You may actually want two pairs to switch back and forth between while one is drying. Dry hands are a great way to start a cold, wet, ride, and wet gloves are miserable to put on. They can also help ensure a secure grip on handles.
Also Worth Buying
Fenders: Most Ladies prefer not having mud splattered across their backside. Fenders are trusty add-ons that not only reduce the likelihood of that happening to you on a rainy-weather commute, but also help you avoid being a jerk by reducing the mud-splattering on cyclists riding behind you. I didn’t know that last bit until very recently…
Water-Proof Bag or Pannier (likely also a Rack to hook it to): For work-commuting Ladies on a rainy day, a waterproof bag is the perfect vessel to bring a change of clothes and shoes in
I’ve been really pleased with the design of my Ortlieb Shopper Pannier, which has a reflective side patch for increased visibility as an added bonus.
Wool Clothes: Honestly, you’re probably going to get wet out there. Clothes made of wool are warm and dry really quickly. There’s no need to spring for bike-specific clothes, although it’s nice when clothes have been designed with the Lady cyclist in mind.
Huge Scarf: Great for keeping your neck and face warm during the initial freezing leg of the commute.
It’s snowing in Portland.
Ladies are festooned in fashionable coats and scarves; audible squeaks and rubbing arise from chains and gears collecting coats of seasonable grime; cheeks flush and noses pink from exposure; quiet snow-dusted streets bear the narrow, singular tracks of Ladies who’ve tilled fresh path through the dawn’s wintry welcome.
The added goodness of riding this time of year is above and beyond all the blissful benefits of riding in calmer weather: the chill and precipitation remind us through experience and sensation that we are human, that life is fragile, and just how much happiness and enjoyment we can experience when we learn to tolerate temporary discomfort.
When I leave my home, bundled and bracing, I’m usually in a state of continuous clenching (and sometimes a stream of muttered obscenities). But once I’m riding through the chilled air, my body warms, my mind clears, and I release into the comfort of being active; of blood rushing, heart pumping, and warmth that permeates even the coldest days. Sometimes my hands thaw, sometimes they don’t, and my nose is usually somewhere between faucet and drizzle. But by the time I arrive at my destination, I’ve accepted whatever state I’m in with a smile and a shrug.
And this is my daily reminder of reality: seasons change and weather, much like life, is unpredictable and sometimes unpleasant. When we’re enclosed in the trappings of the traditional American way of life, we start to expect simplicity. Couch to car to cubicle and back again. When do we ever really experience anything? This artificial ease keeps us from moving our bodies as intended, from thinking and exploring life beyond a surface that speeds by at 60mph. Humanity has become mislabeled an inconvenience.
But us Ladies (and Lady-lovers) out experiencing the weather, actually feeling what it means to be alive, see so much more in every person, inch of pavement, and ounce of bespeckled scenery we pass.
When I’m atop two-wheels, even the greyest Portland day is overflowing with the color of life in its dayglow brightest. And I just sit back and enjoy the ride, grinning and snotting all over myself and my city.
COMING UP THIS WEEK:
Exploring the lovely, sometimes frustrating, multi-faceted experience of the winter commute! This week we’ll be discussing riding tips, basic maintenance, and all things year-round riding.