Saturday, February 12, 2011

Women are Bike Activists Too

An article on LA bike activist Stephen Box's campaign for city council came out in the LA Weekly this week. The author, Hillel Aron, appears to have decided to make the piece a slapdash attempt to cover the history of the bike movement in LA. For whatever reason, he painted a picture of an effort led by men, for men.

LA actually has a remarkably diverse network of people striving to improve conditions for cyclists. This is what makes our movement stand out in a country full of cities undergoing similar struggles to shift toward alternative transportation. This is the story that I will be telling in my dissertation on bikes, bodies, and public space in LA. Race and class are bigger components of the story, but, as the publication of Aron's erroneous article shows, it's not like we be living in some gender-neutral utopia.

I have had the privilege of working closely with women in the bike movement in LA since fall 2008. I have worked with them as staff at the LA County Bicycle Coalition, as neighbors at the LA Eco-Village, as like-minded bicyclists working to change LA. Beyond that I have heard stories about them bringing people together through Critical Mass, the Bike Kitchen, and Midnight Ridazz. All of these women failed to make the cut into Aron's article. Women in Aron's story happen incidentally, as hapless bureaucrats unable to be effective, or as the wife of the main character. I am quoted talking about CicLAvia, but my quote refers only to that event, not its context in the bike movement.

Bikey stuff in LA isn't just a dudes club, so it shouldn't be portrayed that way.