The 2012 Women’s bike summit was  small but two years in the making since the original idea. Added on to the last day of the larger Pro-Walk/Pro-Bike conference on urban planning, the difference between the two events was possibly not as large as it should have been. Between the two the women’s summit was far more diverse, inspired and populated by a younger crowd of passionate mostly women already deep in the challenges of affecting positive change.  Here’s how it went down:

– A keynote address from Leah Missbach Day, co-founder of World Bicycle Relief;

It is undeniable that world bicycle relief is a great and worthwhile cause, but it was a complete WTF for an audience excited to find out more about impacting local communities.  Leah Missbach Day is clearly a talented photographer and amazing humanitarian doing great work, but she was not comfortable speaking in front of a large audience and it created a confused atmosphere that downplayed the enthusiasm in the room.

– Six break-out sessions, on topics like equity and car-free families

These were great, but overly packed and attendees had to choose only 2 sessions to attend. The Women in Bicycle Sports session included 11 women involved in everything from junior’s to olympic level racing, triathalon to road, mountain, xc, track and the Race Across America. Inspiring, but too much all at once. What was the take away? That women are doing everything, but it’s still a small world.

The sessions were great – timely topics with women who are actively engaged in their roles who want to educate and involve more people in growing development, sport, business, transportation issues and more. Topics included: “Beyond Spandex, Towards Social Justice: Women Redefining the Movement, Family Biking and Low Car Living, Making Our Communities Work for Us,; Women and the Political Process, Young Women Who Ride, Media and Marketing; Who’s Selling Cycling to Women?” It would have been great if each session was livecast and the speaker’s bios and contact information were available to attendees. The experience last week felt like a mad game of musical chairs.

Filled to capacity seating

Cycle Chic: Past, Present & Future-

After the sessions most people headed out to the promenade where there was a poorly planned “VIP” catering option and some beer tickets. Everyone else was on their own. After attending the official conference where food was pretty good and available (plus being gluten intolerant) it was a bummer to have to go through lines to check into an outdoor event without food and only beer to wait an hour or two for a fashion show. Networking should have been better organized so that people could have connected and a significant portion of whatever money was spent on the fashion show should have been better allocated to having healthy snacks and drinks for people after a long day of conference activities.

Long Beach’s bicycle advocates are really in love with the “fashion theory,” as Elly Blue puts it, and in particular with Copenhagen Cycle Chic‘s Mikael Colville-Andersen, who was paid to attend and speak at both ProWalk/ProBike and to introduce the fashion show that even borrowed the term “Cycle Chic” in hommage to the image and brand.

I’ve personally made a strong case that for all the good that fashion can do for cycling, the philosophy that Cycle Chic enforces by railing against helmets and all uses of spandex are inappropriate, out of context and at worst dangerous when shifted from the cycling nursery of Copenhagen to the thunderdome of American cities. But that’s more depth than need be addressed here. Plus at a week long convention with absolutely nothing fun to do, held captive in hotels and food courts, it’s amazing how one can build bridges.  Here we are, exploring beyond the confines of the convention center to actively promote Orange 20, an independent bicycle shop in Los Angeles:


Now if that’s not the ultimate example of fashion bringing people together, I’m not sure what is.
– The Cycle Chic Fashion Show

Full disclosure: I have designed, manufactured and promoted a line of women’s apparel designed for lifestyle bicycle riding. And I hate bicycle fashion shows. In general, they don’t impress me on the level of fashion as art, they don’t educate sufficiently on how to wear what with biking, they don’t clearly promote brands or products and it more closely resemble a state fair than a runway show.  It’s possible to do something amazing, but no examples come to mind. Some have been innovative in certain ways. Meh.

That said there was a giant, gorgeous long walkway that was dramatic, epic even. What came out of it… less so.

Most female models were wearing platform stiletto heels, walking or paddling around on beach cruisers. Men seemed well styled, but most attendees were either shocked or underwhelmed at how the female models were either wearing outfits that look like a Frederick’s of Hollywood outfit or …Banana Republic. There were 5 make up and hair artists credited in the flier, perhaps that’s where we should have directed our attention.


- Social event and bike ride!

Held early Friday participants finally got a chance to ride around lovely Long Beach and gawk the impressive infrastructure and planning that’s happened in the last few years. Arguably more than what the current system needs are but an excellent example of the motto, “if you build it, they will ride.”

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