Women on Bikes Mean Business: Heading to DC

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Despite years of immersion in all things bicycle, I have yet to partake in the annual circus known as the National Bike Summit.

This year, that’s changing. Next week I head out to DC, a trail of giant carbon footprints in my wake, to join the fun. The NBS is a festival of wonkery, consisting of wonky panel sessions and keynote talks by the biggest wonks in advocacy, and followed by everyone splitting up and laying out the wonk for their congressional leaders.

This year the summit’s theme is “Bikes Mean Business,” which I expected meant the whole thing would focus on making the business case for bicycling. Based on a look at the program also seems to be largely focused on inviting bike industry leaders as well as tying in the racing crowd.

The National Bike Summit is famous as the place bike advocacy leaders get together, meet each other, and learn and decide on legislative strategies for the next year. It’s also been famous for another reason: “90% men” is a refrain I often hear in conjunction with attendance; also it’s been described to me as not very racially diverse. As a result, for years most of the bike advocates many congressional leaders have met could be all-too-easily stereotyped and dismissed as elite hobbyists seeking boondoggle funding; this year that will begin to change. The organizers have worked hard to mitigate this homogeneiety this year, bringing in prominent speakers with many different perspectives, and launching a Cycling Opportunity Grant Fund so that smaller organizations like community bike co-ops and lower-income advocates and organizers can attend.

It’ll be interesting to see what the summit brings — but I predict that the real moving and shaking and partying and decision making is going to happen before the Summit starts, on Monday, March 4th at the 2nd annual National Women’s Bicycling Forum, themed, appropriately, “Women Mean Business.” Many of the most stoked and motivated new advocates in bicycling happen to not be white guys, and the women-oriented (though hardly women-exclusive) events the League has been organizing in conjunction with major bike events like this have proven to be incredibly productive ferments.

I should also mention that I’ll be there not just to chat with everyone and make M/F tally marks in my notebook during sessions (though I’m very much looking forward to both those activities). I’ll be the featured author, stepping into the tight, clippy shoes filled by BikeSnobNYC last year, selling and signing copies of Everyday Bicycling.

I’ll also be slinging books — that one and all the others I can stuff into my suitcase — at the pop-up women’s business showcase all day Monday, along with a score of other exciting bike entrepreneurs, makers, and business-minded visionaries.

Finally, I have the exciting privilege of saying some motivating and radical words at the opening party for DC-based WABA’s new Women + Bikes program that Sunday night (to which I believe there are still a few $5 tickets left).

Oh yeah, and if you’re at all involved in bike tourism or rural cycling (or if, like me, you’d simply would like to hang out and have fun conversations with people who are), my friend and colleague, guidebook publisher Ellee Thalheimer is organizing a Bike Tourism Happy Hour on Tuesday after the legislative pitching sessions.

On top of all this, the ninth issue of Taking the Lane will be out in the next few days. If you’ve ordered a copy, backed the Kickstarter project, or are a subscriber and will be in DC for the festivities, I’d love to deliver your copy in person — drop me a line if you’d like that.

See you there!