Take the Lane: Championing the Cause

While attending an advocacy seminar at the 2011 National Bike Summit in Washington, DC, in March, I was reminded of one message in particular: we need champions of the cause.

Movements, whether for civil rights, women’s rights, democratic freedom, etc., have all had figureheads – individuals who, by way of their charisma, public speaking ability and dedication, attract the eyes and ears of a lot of people and bring them together under one banner. Added to that, if the examples of the Libyan and Egyptian democratic uprisings have taught us anything, the willingness of the masses to get behind a cause has much to do with the success of a movement – that’s where you come in.

David Byrne, on the cover of this issue, can certainly be counted among the notable individuals getting behind the cycling banner in North America. His work in New York City – including designing several themed bike racks – and speaking tours have done much to change perceptions about what it means to ride a bike, i.e., it’s fun and cool to bike in the city, and you don’t have to be an athlete to do it.

People like Byrne and the many other dedicated advocates of cycling in North America make our job here at Momentum easier. They present shining examples of how mainstream, popular and natural it is to choose to include biking in your transportation mix. And the more people recognize the utility and attractiveness of biking, the more policy-makers will take notice and the safer and more convenient city cycling will be.

Safety is a key issue that is causing some tensions in the bicycling community. The whole discussion surrounding helmet use often seems to come down to a “you’re either with us or you’re against us” mentality, leaving “us” without a clear resolution (or message for that matter) in sight. Reporter Elly Blue does a great job of exploring both sides of the argument, and the gray areas in between, in our feature story about helmets, p. 36.

We also have some fantastic Arts and Culture content in this issue, p. 16, along with our feature chat with David Byrne, which was covered by Arts and Culture editor Bryna Hallam, p. 34. And don’t miss our look at cycling in Minneapolis, p. 40, our MOHow about getting your bike on a plane, p. 50, Mia Birk’s load-bearing experience at a garage sale, p. 54, bikes we love, p. 46, kids’ helmets, p. 27, and much, much more!

It has been six years since Momentum Magazine re-launched as a business designed to get more people on bikes. I hope you enjoy our six-year anniversary edition.

Keep it wheel,

Sarah Ripplinger

Editor, Momentum Magazine

Originally published in the May/ June 2011 issue of Momentum Magazine and on momentummag.com.

Love Potion Number Nine

Celia Alvarez & Andres Straulino share a post-wedding embrace at the La Diana Cazadora/ Diana the Huntress monument in Mexico City, Mexico.

You know the drill. You’re pedaling along when an attractive cyclist sidles up beside you. Maybe s/he isn’t looking your way, but you notice him/ her. Or maybe s/he’s giving you elevator eyes and pondering whether pointing out your low tire pressure might be a good way to break the ice.

I wonder: Could the act of riding increase one’s chances of finding true love?

In cooler weather, the adrenaline rushes through our veins as we weave through neighborhoods and downtown centers. Could this be the “love potion number nine” of the road? After all, one of the first things people recommend when giving friends advice about finding a partner is: “Get out there, meet new people, get involved in an activity.” People who ride bikes can already check at least two of those recommendations off their lists.

Biking is a solitary affair if you pedal along by yourself. But it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of opportunities to strike up a conversation at a stoplight or when parking your bike next to an attractive individual (or bike for that matter). Take the opportunity to ask your fellow cyclist questions about his/ her ride, or stylish clothing. A compliment is a great way to spark a new relationship.

If you need more specifics about finding love in the bike lane, contributor John Greenfield has some tips for igniting passion on, beside and straddling the saddle (p. 23). Our BikeStyle (p. 24) feature shows you how you can dress to impress. We also share winter riding tips (p. 18) and gear (p. 36), and explore the world of handmade bikes (p. 28).

So what if the weather is cooler now? All the more reason to heat up your commute.

Sarah Ripplinger

Editor, Momentum Magazine


Originally published in the Jan/ Feb 2011 issue of Momentum Magazine and on momentummag.com.

Cycling’s Litmus Test

Momentum’s mission is to make cycling accessible to everyone. A big part of that mission involves extending an olive branch to women and families, mainly because there are too few of them behind the handlebars.

During a “Selling to Women Seminar,” I recently attended at Interbike 2010, four panelists: Pam Kruse, owner of Village Biking & Fitness; Elayne Fowler, marketing director of Electra Bicycle Co.; Jeff Selzer, general manager of Palo Alto Bicycles; and Leigh Carter, a senior account executive at Quality Bicycle Products, discussed how bike shop owners and employees can make women feel more welcome. The seminar room was packed with a 60-40 split of women to men, about 12 to 15 percent of whom were bicycle dealers. It was an impressive turnout, but as one panelist later pointed out, the topic of conversation has been kicked to death – it’s time for action.

Despite the fact that women make 85 percent of all consumer buying decisions in the United States, seminar moderator Diane Lees, who owns Hubbub Custom Bicycles in Chesterland, OH, said many shop owners don’t recognize the different needs of their female clientele. The same goes for hiring women. Women make up only 12 to 15 percent of employees in the bike industry, according to Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition regional communities representative Paula McConnell. Said Selzer: “We’re starved for women in this industry.”

The ratio of female to male cyclists in the bike lane is similarly out of balance. At least twice as many men cycle compared to women in the US. In contrast, 55 percent of cyclists in the Netherlands are women, 49 percent in Germany. Infrastructure plays a key role, along with the perception that cycling is a safe, a healthy and an accessible mode of transportation for everyone, including families. Encouragement also goes a long way.

As the panel of experts at the “Selling to Women Seminar” pointed out, bike shops and their employees should learn to market to women, if they aren’t already. They can employ new approaches to attract female clientele to their stores, such as running basic bike maintenance workshops for women that are taught by a female mechanic and organizing social women-only rides led by women. They can also carry women-specific bikes and accessories – bearing in mind that women like to “shop” and so need to have a selection of products to choose from. Beyond these basic approaches, as Lees put it: “Want to know one way to find out what women want and need? Ask them.”

Getting more women on bikes benefits us all. A survey conducted by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycling Professionals in the spring of 2010 found that women often shy away from cycling because of safety concerns, such as distracted drivers and a lack of cycling infrastructure. The Women’s Cycling Survey report, published in September of this year, notes that “women from large cities were most receptive to the addition of bike lanes as a means to start/ increase their cycling.” In other words, the better the infrastructure, the more likely it is that women in urban environments will bike. The more women bike, the more they will shop for bicycles and accessories, and demand products that fit their riding style and preferences.

In this issue, we reflect on some of the major events that have shaped cycling culture in North America over the past year. The images on the following pages, including the bike lane photo on page 29, demonstrate how close we are to having multimodal urban centers. The litmus test to determine the success of this movement will boil down to how many of the new converts to transportation cycling are women.

Originally published in the Nov/ Dec 2010 issue of Momentum Magazine and on momentummag.com.

Cycling’s Future

It is true that the young will inherit the earth. Whether we have cycling-friendly cities or gridlocked superhighways in the future is largely determined by the choices we make and the knowledge we impart to youngsters today.

There are so many benefits that children who cycle from an early age experience, as their parents can attest, including better health, a sense of community and overall wellbeing. Kids who bike learn to be independent and gain a sense of autonomy as they operate their own mode of transportation. They experience their communities and the outdoors while getting fresh air and exercise, which is more important in the age of digital technology and climate change than ever before.

I have fond memories of biking with my family as a child along the urban streets of Guelph, Ontario. Gazing up at the branches of trees passing above me, I felt like I was flying. Biking gave me transportation freedom: I could get to school, friends’ places and, when I got older, downtown on weekends, all without the help of my parents. I was free to choose my route, which improved my sense of direction and made me more familiar with street names and the geographical layout of my city.

Many families want their kids to experience the joys of riding. Some, however, have concerns about letting their kids bike alone to school or a friend’s place. Long-time Momentum contributor, Chris Keam, explores some of these concerns in his “Growing Up Velo” story on p. 37.

Statistics show that independent bicycle dealer unit sales of youth bikes – bikes designed specifically for ages 12 and under, including BMX and sub-20-inch wheel bikes – in Canada and the United States have stayed close to the 20 percent mark for the past decade. The number of youth cyclists in the US rose by 4.3 percent between 2007 and 2008, according to National Bicycle Dealers Association (NBDA) figures. Still, some industry experts believe more should be done to attract young riders.

Dave Overgaard, Norcoís bicycle division vice president, told me in a telephone interview that the bicycle industry needs to create bikes that fit kids properly and communities need to build the infrastructure that will encourage more kids to ride.

Robert Jones, statistics program manager for the Bicycle Trade Association of Canada, said key drivers for kids bike sales are cost, parentsí preferences and theft-prevention.

“The things that are working against it (getting more kids on bikes) are parents’ paranoia about allowing their children to get out of their sight and the fact that bikes get stolen.”

More work needs to be done to attract young riders, commented NBDA executive director Fred Clements in a June 2009 Bicycle Retailer and Industry News article. In the same issue, Jay Townley, manager of Gluskin Townley Group, made a plea to the bicycle industry to place a higher value on increasing youth ridership. “[I]f anything, it is even more important in the long-term to get more kids on bikes more often than to get more adults on bikes,î he said. ìOur future depends on it.”

Will communities continue to expand bicycle networks? Will there be plenty of green spaces? Will there be an emphasis on alternative forms of transportation? Will cyclists feel included or excluded? What the future holds comes down to the choices we make today and the lessons we pass on to the ambassadors of tomorrow. Our generation might not be around to cycle the streets 50 or 100 years from now, but our kids and their kids will.

Sarah Ripplinger

Editor, momentum magazine


Originally published in the Sept/ Oct 2010 issue of Momentum Magazine and on momentummag.com.

Embracing Change

Sarah Ripplinger IconSarah Ripplinger portrait by Terry Sunderland

You may notice a few changes to Momentum – both on the website and in the magazine.

In May 2010, we re-launched momentumplanet.com – our online storehouse of all things Momentum past and present – with the intent to serve you, our readers, better and to share our love of the cycling life with more people. We are in the process of re-populating the new site with earlier content and apologize for any disruption in your ability to access our archived material while we continue updating.

We are also in the process of shifting our regional focus to our website. Our new Community section was designed to facilitate more information-sharing between communities and we invite you to get involved and suggest stories you’d like to see there.

Change has become a driving force in the world of print media. Online platforms and free information-sharing on the Internet have pushed many print publications over or close to the brink.

One of Canada’s media giants, Canwest Global entered into bankruptcy protection in January of this year and magazine newsstand sales in the United States declined 9.1 percent from 2008-2009 and 11.12 percent from 2007-2008, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation.

Niche publications seem to be the exception. Titles such as Women’s Health, Off-Road Adventures, FamilyFun and People’s StyleWatch are seeing increases in their circulation numbers.

Momentum Magazine has been experiencing both sides of this ever-evolving media coin. On the one hand, the present conditions in the global financial market and the ascendancy of online news and information have forced us to tighten our purse strings, but, at the same time, our print circulation almost doubled between 2009 and 2010 and we are seeing more and more interest in both our niche publication and our mission to create a strong culture of self-propelled people in North America.

Although we have felt the economic hardships, Momentum is still part of the growing trend in magazines. We are adapting to the changing environment while staying focused on our mission to serve our audience by providing useful, informative – and fun – stories.

Our new website will offer community event and business listings. We also have a team of dedicated writers who update our website regularly with important news from self-propelled communities in North America, and occasionally in other parts of the world, and spread the word using social media, such as Twitter and Facebook.

If you would like to join our community news team – contact us! We are providing a space for your community news and stories and we invite you to help us reflect what is really going on around you.

As we move forward with our new online look, we will be fine-tuning and adjusting our content to meet your needs. Please feel free to “Add your thoughts” at the bottom of stories using the comment box or send us an email to let us know how we’re doing.

Each new print edition of Momentum Magazine – only six per year – contains the stories, images and information that we believe should be printed, shared and treasured. Our commitment on that front remains the same.

Keep those spokes spinning,

Sarah Ripplinger

Editor, Momentum Magazine

Originally published in the July/ Aug 2010 issue of Momentum Magazine and on momentummag.com.