As I passed one of the volunteer marshals during the Gear Up Girl ride, she shouted, “Where’s your helmet?” It was a clear reminder that the majority of Australians still view bicycling as sport and recreation in addition to the number of road bikes and Lycra-clad participants.
I was wearing a dress and sandals and riding a Dutch-style e-bike for the sixty kilometre ride, one of three rides possible. I saw five other ladies on upright bicycles. One was my friend Sara who was riding a Harry vs. Larry Bullitt cargo bike with her kids. Another, was my friend Sam. One was riding a beautiful hunter-green Papillonaire bicycle. There was an older woman who was wearing Lycra and another wearing every day clothes.
I chose to ride an e-bike during the sixty kilometre ride to make a point. Many people have commented that riding an e-bike is “cheating.” I disagree. A friend of mine has likened it to walking except having a greater range. I choose to ride an e-bike in the summer to make it possible to wear my office-appropriate dresses and heels. I want to get to my desk at a reasonable time instead of having to shower, dress, make-up and hair again. When I was deciding which distance to ride during Gear Up Girl, I asked myself, “At what distance do people view riding an e-bike as a legitimate form of transport?” Many have argued that bicycles are not suitable for Australia because of the vastness of this country. When I finished, I had used half the battery power and felt (and was told that I looked) fresh.
I enjoyed being an ambassador for Gear Up Girl for many reasons. It was fun. I had never ridden to Cronulla before. I had time to enjoy myself while my husband looked after our kids. Mostly, I enjoyed it because of the conversations that I had and the opportunity to influence the women around me. The e-bike, dress, sandals and makeup were too unusual to ignore. Many asked how the e-bike works. I explained how the Gazelle Orange Comfort has four different “boost” settings. I had it on “Eco,” the lowest setting, for most of the ride as I wasn’t sure of the battery’s range. At the last rest stop with six kilometres to go, I had sixty percent battery power remaining to power the motor. Most of the the sixty-kilometre-crowd had already finished. I had slowed down to ride with my friend Sara when we met at the Canada Bay rest stop. We played “I Spy” together with her kids. Consequently, when I arrived at the last rest stop, I selected “Turbo,” the maximum amount of boost, to make it to the finish quickly as I was scheduled to present my seven tips for stylish bicycling.
During the ride, especially the stretch from the last rest stop, I thought about the participants of Gear Up Girl. Choice drives human behaviour to action. Knowledge can take us a bit further. Some of us are too scared to ride in Sydney traffic. Understandable. But did you know that you can always choose a path that takes you away from the busy main roads? Some of us sweat “too much” to ride all year. An e-bike is an option to consider. An expensive haircut or style getting wrecked by a bicycle helmet is no fun, I agree. Have you considered speaking with your stylist to have your hair to fit with your lifestyle not the other way around? I believe that being open to new ideas and new ways of doing things is something that makes life more enjoyable and creates more opportunities. I found the women riding in Gear Up Girl to be truly exceptional. They leave a legacy, having completed the ride, for their partners, children, and friends of health, passion, a pursuit of excellence, doing something beyond the “norm,” getting off the sofa and accomplishing something for themselves.
As individuals, we leave a legacy for those around us. A passion for bicycling. Fulfilling one’s potential. Self-expression in art, writing, speech. How to tie your shoes properly. How to make the right decision for yourself. As parents, the need for a positive legacy is even stronger and the imprint immediate. But we can only go so far as individuals. I believe that leaders have a greater responsibility. I took my responsibilities seriously as an ambassador for Gear Up Girl. I wanted to show women in an authentic way that there are options to incorporate the bicycle into one’s life with ease.
I have a question for the leaders of the New South Wales government. Are they doing the best that they can for the people of this state beyond purely financial means? I believe the difference between the citizen and the leader is the potential size of the legacy that is left behind. As people, we contribute to society as best we can. What will the legacy of the New South Wales government be from 2015-2016 and beyond? Hopefully something better than the precedent that is being set at present.
Happy Considered Bicycling!