Meeting Monday : Elly Blue

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Meeting Monday will be an on going series of meeting various women in the cycling industry.  Learn about their experiences, history and what they are doing to make cycling better for all women.  If you are interested in being apart of this or have an idol that you think fits the bill, please let me know!

1st in our series is a very inspirational person to me, Elly Blue.  Elly is the managing editor of BikePortland.org, a Portland, OR based website that follows all things cycling around the city.  Originally this site was started by Jonathon Maus back in 2005,  it now is a power house in the cycling blogging community.

Q: In a nutshell what is your experience cycling?

A: I’ve been riding a bike for transportation for almost 10 years now. I ride to work, I’ve ridden to school, I ride to visit friends, I travel by bike and train. I’ve even moved my apartment by bike with a local organization.  I’ve never owned a car. It’s hard for me to get personally excited about sports like racing or mountain biking, but I love to see people make the connection between their experiences on road rides and the importance of making public space amenable to bikes.

Elly blue

Q: What is one issue as a cyclist that you would like to be fixed and what is the first step in that direction?

A: Funny you word the question this way — I’d like to eradicate the word “cyclist,” at least for referring to transportation or utility cycling. Most people who ride bikes also drive, or rely on cars in some way, and pay all the taxes and fees associated with that. There’s this idea that you’re special or different if you ride a bike, you have to be a college student or a superhuman athlete, that you can’t have kids, or a regular job, or really be a responsible person. But people who ride bikes are mostly just ordinary people, and we do all these things.

We’re hopefully moving in the direction of Holland, which was as car-oriented as we are in the 70s but today everybody rides their bike, everywhere. Schoolkids, businesspeople, socialites, grandparents, parents with young babies, even the royal family rides — and they don’t even think about it as being a cyclist, it’s just the way they get where they’re going. So as a writer and editor my first step is to change the language, take away the false “cyclist vs driver” dichotomy and refer to people as what we are — just people, often riding bikes.

Q: Do you have any goals or dreams to accomplish on your bike?

A: My goal has always been to push the limits of what’s possible for bikes in the most bike-friendly US city, so that we can set a new norm and inspire other cities to do the same. I’d like to see 30% of trips in Portland taken by bike by 2020. Right now we’re at 6%, which is the second-highest in the country. It’s a big jump, but I think it’s possible.

In addition : I’d like to see Portland become a truly world class bicycle city.

Q: What are some things that everyday people can do to encourage safer and more frequent commuting or utility cycling?

A: Getting on a bike is a big step. There are statistics from all over the world showing the “safety in numbers” phenomenon — the more people out there on bikes, the fewer crashes there are. I think feeling both vulnerable and empowered as well as experiencing first hand what it’s like to ride makes people better drivers, and not just around bikes.

For people who already bike, I’d encourage taking extra steps, one at a time, to educate yourself and get involved. Dive into the passionate online discussions about everything from what kind of bike infrastructure works best to how to signal a turn or use your bell. Read Robert Hurst’s The Art of Cycling. Talk to people. It’s also really important to address issues on a community level. This might mean organizing rides and building community, it might mean calling the city every single time you see a pothole in the bike lane, it might mean writing a well thought out letter to your mayor about the need for safer bike infrastructure. Whatever avenue you choose, there’s a massive amount of work to be done.

Photo Credit : Jim Parsons