March 16th, 2011

Women Who Rule the Biking World

Photo Credits (clockwise from top left): Unknown, Rad-Spannerei, Unknown, John Von Pamer, Randy Harris, Dustin Jensonn

All right, so women don’t really “rule” the biking world as the title suggests, but something is definitely going on.  At PUBLIC many of our customers are women and we have many on our staff – so it’s altogether fitting and proper for us to acknowledge National Women’s History Month.

Recently The Daily Beast asked me to contribute a piece on meaningful developments in the US biking industry. The editor couldn’t help but notice the recent media attention on bicycles and assumed that there must be some technological advancement behind it. I came to the conclusion that the opposite was the case. The wave of new bicyclists seen on the streets has almost nothing to do with new technologies.  It has everything to do with the bike being repurposed and rediscovered for daily social activity, health, fashion, community, local culture, and general well being.  As a result, women from all walks of life are participating in the biking movement, and in some places they are the most influential bicycle advocates.

Guys World

Eurobike, A Guys World?, photo by Rob Forbes

The prominent role that women play in the industry may not always be immediately obvious. If you judged by the percentage of guys working in bike stores, managing bike companies, or attending bike shows it would appear that the biking industry is like the auto industry; largely a man’s world. But dig a little deeper and you’ll see that women today are driving many of the major changes in the industry and advocacy, especially in the realm of how bikes fit into our communities with social purpose. This tradition of modern urban advocacy begins with Jane Jacobs who is something like the Mother Theresa of the Livable Cities movement. Her seminal book The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) is a classic read for all students of urban design and a textbook on why grassroots efforts are needed to keep our communities in tact.  She goes at the top of my list of women who make a difference.

Here is my list of fifteen women who are making a significant and positive difference today. It’s constructed of only women I’ve met (with the exception of Audrey Hepburn), so is thoroughly personal and absolutely incomplete.   Please bring other names to our attention and we’ll make them PUBLIC.

Janette Sadik-Kahn
Sadik-Kahn is the current Transportation Commissioner of New York. Her work extends beyond the NYC city limits, as she is recognized internationally for improving the rights of pedestrians and bicyclists. In 2010 we sat down with her for an interview.

Barbara Bigolin
As the CEO of Selle Royale, Bigolin took the company to the next level by bringing together the finest and most legendary names in bike accessory design: Brooks, Selle Royale, Fizik, and Crank Brothers.  At the recent Eurobike show, her new high performance racing shoes under the Fizik brand were the most inspiring new piece of product design.

Carol Coletta
Coletta is the CEO of CEOs for Cities and a powerful advocate for the Livable Cities movement. Follow her on Twitter to appreciate her contributions.

Leah Shahum
As the head of the San Francisco Bike Coalition with over 12,000 members, Shahum is a tireless advocate for improving the biking infrastructure of San Francisco and an eloquent spokesperson for urban biking.

Ulrike Saade
A legend in the biking world of Germany, Saade heads up the world-class European bicycling movement.  Recently she led the VeloBerlin exhibition business operations and on-site organization.  Test your German with this YouTube.

Mia Kohout and Tania Lo
Momentum, the bicycle lifestyle magazine, transpired from the publishers, Kohout’s and Lo’s dream to shift transportation culture in North America from car-centricity to a balance of public transportation, appropriate car use, walking and bicycling.

Vanessa Marie Robinson
A Brooklyn-based designer shares her love of bicycles on the blog, For the Love of Bikes.  Robinson’s design eye and inspirational visions of bike friendly cities align well with PUBLIC’s mission.

Sky Yaeger
During her time as Product Manager at Bianchi from 1990 to 2006, Yaeger helped spark the fixed gear movement with her work on the influential pista design. Her designs for Swobo established a fresh point of view in the city biking scene.  Here is a great interview with Yaeger.

Christena Mackay Gibbs
Gibbs owns the hip Manifesto Bikes in Oakland – a rallying point for urban riding in the Bay Area.

Julie Hirschfeld
Hirschfeld is the owner of Adeline Adeline, a NYC bike shop that has brought the Manhattan fashion world into bicycling culture.

Circe Sher
Sher added a new spin to the hospitality industry in Sonoma.  Her hotel, h2hotel includes bicycles among the basic amenities offered to its guests during their stay. h2hotel is offering PUBLIC fans a $25 dining or spa credit for every night booked by clicking this link.

Liz Lambert
Lambert started Bunkhouse Management, an Austin based company that developed several of the most unique boutique hotels in the world, each of which provide bikes for their guests.

Missy Park
Title Nine is an online retailer of women’s gear that aims to bring functional, athletic apparel to every day use.  Park’s background in biking led her to start up Title Nine.

Shelia Moon
Biking is not just for spandex clad athletes.  With fashion and function equally in mind Shelia Moon started the cycling apparel outfitter, Shelia Moon.

Audrey Hepburn
We just like to get a photo of her in wherever we can.