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Fifteen Women Who Rule the Biking World

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.

31 Responses to “Fifteen Women Who Rule the Biking World”

  1. tom martin Says:

    Hi Rob:
    You forgot Stella Yu, owner of Velo Saddles in Taiwan. She is the person behind 80% of the saddles on the market.

  2. Leah Shahum Says:

    Wow, I’m super-honored. Thank you Public bikes for being fantastic supporters of advocacy for better bicycling & better cities! And, let me just add that ALL of the SF Bay Area bicycle coalitions are led by fantastic women — how cool is that?!

  3. Alyssa Jones Says:

    Thanks for this great list of fantastic cyclo-women!
    Missing is Georgena Terry who founded Terry Precision Cycling 20+ years ago, with the revolutionary idea that a bicycle could be made to fit a woman. Today she continues to be consumed by all things cycling and has dedicated her professional life to making Terry Precision the ultimate resource for female cyclists.

    http://www.terrybicycles.com/About-Us

  4. Circe Sher Says:

    Hey thanks Public Bikes for the shout out! I am honor to be in such company. We and our guests couldn’t be more pleased with our little fleet of Public Bikes. We hope to bring them to more of our hotel projects soon.

  5. Mark Says:

    Emma Pooley?
    Jeanne Longo?

  6. Leslie Bloom Says:

    Way to go women, great blog post promoting women in the bike scene, our presence is growing as we all work round-the-clock to make the world a better place for bikes! I can only hope to make it onto this list one day. Congrats to all!

  7. Sam Joslin Says:

    I cast a vote for Mia Birk, bicycle program manager for Portland, Oregon from 1993 to 1999 and more recently, the author of “Joyride: Pedaling Toward a Healthier Planet.”

  8. Ron Richings Says:

    Interesting list, but I don’t know how you could not include Mia Birk (and her firm, Alta Planning). Very trail-blazing and infuential, intially in Portland, Or but now throughout North America and beyond.

  9. PUBLIC Says:

    Thanks everyone. Keep these other names coming. We think it’s important to highlight more women who are making a difference. All of the ones mentioned so far are wonderful. Keep in mind our list was not meant to be exhaustive but personal – mainly women who we’ve met and have gotten to know. We look forward to meeting many of the women you all are mentioning because so many are doing outstanding work.

  10. Julie Hardee Says:

    Dang- That Julie who owns Adeline Adeline has sealed the deal for me with her cuteness. I’m going to visit them and get some sweet accessories.

  11. Sheila Moon Says:

    Thank you for the honor!

    I am proud to be one of such an amazing group of women. Of course, there would not be women who “Rule the Biking World” if it weren’t for the many amazing women who Ride Bikes!

  12. ann gray Says:

    Jennifer Klausner, Executive Director, LA County Bicycle Coalition, the hands-down smartest bike advocate you will ever meet. Only the ever-changing color of the streak in her hair keeps her from being too intellectually intimidating.

    Audrey de Nazelle whose grassroots protests led to the Velibe bike sharing program in Paris in addition to massive bike infrastructure investment by the French government.

  13. Tom Geraghty Says:

    Tara Llanes. An absolutely incredible woman, mountain bike racer, and athlete.

  14. Karen Leone Says:

    Georgena Terry, foundder of Terry Bicycles: http://www.terrybicycles.com/

  15. Ulrike Rodrigues Says:

    I met some amazing bike women on other continents. Next time I hope you expand your “world” to include some women of colour? :-)

  16. Shane MacRhodes Says:

    I’ll add Deb Hubsmith to that list too! She has nurtured and fostered the Safe Routes to School movement from the beginning and has helped create thousands of new bikers in communities around the country through her tireless lobbying and energy for the Safe Routes program!

    http://www.saferoutespartnership.org/about/contacts/Deb

  17. sarah gilbert Says:

    I absolutely agree with your thesis: technology is not the reason, the lifestyle is. but I think you’re missing a huge category of mothers who are getting all their kids on their bike from infancy, and totally changing the way many people look at bikes — from recreation to transportation. nothing says ‘I rule the bike world’ than a mother pulling two or three kids up a hill with a bike full of healthy goodies for her progeny. (and I think Mia Birk is great, too!)

  18. Elizabeth Train Says:

    I love this! Thanks, Public, for recognizing these amazing women…and for designing beautiful bicycles for us all to ride! I think it’s great that your article has caused so many people to recognize additional women who’ve made significant contributions to our industry and its advocacy efforts, as well. Thanks for providing the platform for this discussion and recognition, too! : )

  19. Haley Ritter Says:

    I’m working on Phoenix, AZ to be one of the next “Bicycle-Friendly” cities within the next 5 years, hopefully!!!!! Considering the fact that 20 years ago, Phoenix wasn’t even considered “friendly” for pedestrians, that’s a pretty huge leap forward that we can’t afford NOT to have happen. After growing up and developing during the 20th century around the almighty (cough, cough!) automobile, Phoenix must shift gears into this century where we actually CARE about the quality of air we breathe!!!! BIKE LANES AND EMPOWERMENT WITH WOMEN LEADING THE WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. Pissed off about bike lanes on your street? Get over it already. « BikingInLA Says:

    [...] women who don’t exactly rule the biking world, but close. Which is worse — angry terriers or argumentative drivers? Before engineers are [...]

  21. Vanessa Says:

    Thanks PUBLIC!
    It is such an honor to be mentioned among so many outstanding WOMEN!

    If I were to make a contribution to the list… I would add all those mothers I see biking in cities with their children. You help inspire a whole new generation ♥.

  22. Heidi Swift Says:

    Making these lists is kind of asking for it. As a blogger and list compiler, I know!
    But Mia Birk and Georgena Terry and Natalie Ramsland (one of the only female custom bike builders building custom bikes exclusively for women) are conspicuously missing, yes?
    I love Adeline Adeline absolutely to death, but including this shop owner (and, um, Audrey – whom I also love to death, by the way) above these other advocates / industry changers seems a little lopsided.
    end of day? awesome to see women recognized either way.
    and you make great bikes, so thank you.

  23. jordanpattern Says:

    As a relatively new female cyclist, I have to say it’s incredibly frustrating to see so much emphasis and attention paid to women whose real contributions to bicycling are in the area of fashion. I’d much rather see women who ride, advocate, compete, and kick ass. Those are the women I look up to, but it seems that they’re often eclipsed by the more photo-friendly fashion-first-bike-second ladies.

    Also, Audrey Hepburn? Seriously? That’s pretty insulting.

  24. Lois Moss Says:

    a few more to add:

    Carine Joannou, owner of Jamis Bicycles.

    Diane Lees, former urban retailing pioneer, author and now host of “The Outspoken Cyclist” radio program (also available as a podcast on i-tunes).

    Barbara Mizuno, marketing genius who crafted the Electra Bicycles branding and the concept of “flat foot” bicycles in a time when there were no comfort bikes or cruisers. She also came up with the Camelbak “Hydrate or Die” campaign which launched the entire category of on-body hydration systems.

  25. Diane - The Outspoken Cyclist Says:

    Lois – you are too kind. Your name too should be on this list! You’ve done so much for NE Ohio and, with the Bike Town program, so much to help new riders onto bikes. Go Lois!

  26. Jennifer Says:

    Hi-
    In Chicago there are so many women changing the landscape of cycling. I think Dottie and Trish at Let’s Go Ride a Bike get many more women out riding in Chicago and way beyond our city too.They share such a positive, uncomplicated energy about being a woman on a bike. Dottie’s ladies who bike brunch is a special place for women who ride to get together and enjoy each other’s company. Jane Healey of Active Trans, Leah and Juile of the Chainlink, Gin Kilgore of Break the Gridlock.

  27. Mariana Orozco Says:

    In México and Latin America are so many women doing the same… Check it please!! ;)

  28. Jean Chong Says:

    Congrats. to all who were on the honour roll. May our honour roll of cycling heroines and champions of a cycling life expand in the future to include others in more continents.

    Jean also at http://www.velo-city2012blog.com

  29. Free Webinar: Women Can Change the World Through Cycling | Virginia Bicycling Federation Says:

    [...] Carolyn Szczepanski, Communications Coordinator, Alliance for Biking & Walking, and columnist for Bicycling Times magazine, profiles some of the women leading the bicycling movement. Her talk is inspired by http://blog.publicbikes.com/2011/03/fifteen-women-who-rule-the-biking-world/ [...]

  30. Mia and Tania Says:

    What an honor! Thank-you!

  31. Tod Brilliant Says:

    Hoorah Circe!

    That said, has anyone done more than MIA BIRK??? She revolutionized Portland, Oregon’s approach to bicycles and now does amazing work with Alta Planning. She’s also an adviser to the amazing Post Carbon Institute… :)


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