LONG BEACH, CA (BRAIN)—Melissa Balmer is heading up a new website to showcase the female bike culture in Southern California while also encouraging more women to get on a bike. “We want to double the number of women riding bikes in So Cal by 2016,” she said.
WomenOnBikesSoCal.org combines advocacy with digital storytelling. The content consists of personal “bike love” stories authored by women from all walks of life in Long Beach and other Southern California cities. Three columnists also will regularly contribute on the topics of health, business and fashion as it relates to cycling and women.
The cover or homepage image of the November/December edition features Long Beach’s Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal, who’s been a key driver of bike infrastructure and advocacy locally.
WomenOnBikesSoCal.org is an initiative of Long Beach nonprofit Bikeable Communities. The advocacy organization had been dormant for a while, but gearing up over the past year and a half with a new, active board. As a city, Long Beach has made major inroads in becoming a bike friendly community, garnering a bronze-level designation from the League of American Bicyclists, and the media has taken notice, Balmer said. Next September, Long Beach will host the Pro Walk/Pro Bike Conference.
“Now we want to use style and fashion to engage a broader audience,” said Balmer, who went car-free in 2007 and has been riding her bike or taking mass transit as her means of transportation. Balmer said she’s been inspired by the “cycle chic” movement in Copenhagen and thinks Southern California cities also have a diverse bike culture with similar stories. “We have the hipsters, the fixies, the young urban couples with new bikes,” she said.
Among the first projects on her list is creating a sponsorship program for 12 women to become certified League Cycling Instructors. Only 20 or so women have that training in Southern California and fewer than that want to teach bike safety courses. Balmer said Women on Bikes is raising money to offer that training by next May.
She also wants to create new bike training programs that are cost-effective and don't require a big time commitment. In addition to its emphasis on bike safety, Women on Bikes So Cal will host fashion-forward rides and events to promote the idea of bikes as part of daily life.
Balmer said the website is mostly a labor of love for herself and the website’s contributors, but she hopes it will become a print quarterly magazine that would attract advertisers who want to reach this untapped audience of casual and everyday riders.
To visit the site, click on link next to the headline.