Bta AND the Women’s Initiative
work to assess the biking community in POrtland and how it empowers women
The BTA applies for grants in 2 and 3 year increments from local and national funding organizations to fund the project "rocks" they decide are important to tackle as a advocacy group.
In the most recent funding cycle they were awarded a grant to continue some of their previous work and start an initiative to increase and support women biking.
Why start a women's biking initiative?
Women on bicycles is indicative of a safer community. More women on bikes indicates a perceived safety on the roads and Portland aspires to be the safest community for pedestrians, bikes, and mobilists.
The BTA is currently working with PBOT on a Vision Zero Campaign which strives to have zero accidents occurring on our streets. The campaign partners believe "Portland families deserve safe streets on which to walk, bike, operate mobility devices, access transit, and drive. PBOT aims to make our transportation system the safest possible and to move towards zero traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries in the next 10 years."
The Bicycle Transportation Alliance creates healthy, sustainable communities by making bicycling safe, convenient and accessible.
MY PERSONAL REFLECTION
Sometime in late summer, I decided to devote my entire Senior year at PSU to bicycle advocacy. I chose the Bicycle Transportation Alliance as the organization I wanted to work with in Portland because they are the most well-established bike transportation advocacy organization. They function to educate, advocate for, and inform the public, young and old. They would surely be doing good work and have fun projects. My degree required 240 internship hours which I wanted focused on learning about non-profit and program development.
I was interning in the education department as part of my Health Studies degree focusing on Community Health Education when I realized I needed a capstone project. My first choice of the grantwriting capstone for the Community Cycling Center wasn't being offered this term. I waited for inspiration to strike. Another classmate informed me of a capstone that let students create their own project. This was perfect because I knew there were things that I could do at the BTA. All non-profits seem to have an ongoing list of thing they would like to accomplish if they only had the bandwidth. I requested ideas for a capstone project for the BTA at a morning "huddle" where everyone currently working at the office lists their big projects for the day. When I offered up my time and energy, I was approached by the Deputy Director Stephanie Noll to do the initial legwork for the Women's Initiative and I agreed.
To be honest, at first I wasn't excited enough about the project. After an intriguing look into global health the previous term, I was once again determined to work with underprivileged and underserved populations. As a woman, I don't consider myself to be someone who needs more incentive to get on my bike. I don't feel women particularly need to bike more. Everyone (save for a few diehards) needs to bike more! And I especially don't feel women need any special treatment. I strive to be treated equally by my peers and cohort. I don't want special rides or gender specific gear. Instead I long to be included in the whole and treated equally.
It wasn't until I began my research that I realized how incredibly male-dominated the biking community is and how that needs to change. For the sake of safety on streets, for the sake of the health of our population, for the ease of infrastructure growth, for children who want to be active with their parents and outlive them, we need more women biking and we need them now. Globally and nationally women are still striving to achieve equality. We still desire equal pay for equal work. We still want the right to decide what to do with our own bodies. We still desire and long for a feeling of safety and respect in our homes, on our streets, and at our workplaces.
Through this lens, the woman's initiative became my empowerment campaign and the outreach that I did was focused on seeking the answers to questions; who was out there already doing the work, who were they reaching, what were the results, who was missing, and how could we make our initiative more successful at reaching the underserved populations. I became inspired the more I talked to the key players and stakeholders. These were people doing the great work of motivating, including, and inspiring women and they were inspiring me in return.
As I continued the outreach, I realized that I had gathered a lot of information and that I would need to summarize it to make the impact assimilable to the program manager following up my lead. This is when it dawned on me, my work was actually a community needs assessment and community profile which I learned how to conduct in Program Planning and Evaluation at PSU with Professor Ashley-Nicole Browning (PSU Teacher of the year 2015). I took this as an opportunity to practice this skill which is be a big part of my future career goals. The BTA is a very relaxed work environment which allowed me the freedom to create this project in a way that would be beneficial for both of us.
I am very thankful to the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Portland State University, and Portland Community College for giving me the opportunity to learn and grow, to challenge myself, to set goals and achieve, and to make an impact in all the avenues of life that I find most interesting. It has been an experience filled with ups and downs, and with a great deal of personal growth. It has also helped me to find my passion and come full circle to why I moved to Portland.
As a young person, I dreamed of living in a place where I could bike to school. As a young adult, I loved biking and yearned to bike commute to work. I moved to Portland when I heard about their biking culture and scoffed in disbelief that a place like that existed in the US. My home state of West Virginia is mountainous and historic, two things that make adapting infrastructure to accommodate new modes of transport extremely difficult. I realized, through the school journey, my desire to make those changes a reality for the people of my hometown. I plan to return to West Virginia and get to work extending the bikelanes and widening the roads. Im sure they will appreciate feeling more safe while biking along the beautiful country roads.
THE CAPSTONE WORK
The women's initiative is modeled after successful campaigns in Washington, DC and Philadelphia. Their programs all functioned on a theme of fostering community and developing friendships to make a fun, social, and non-threatening experience for women in the interested but concerned contingent who are ready to ride bikes. The BTA's project is still developing for the woman's initiative. It encompasses four dimensions:
My part in this project was a Community Assessment of the biking community in Portland, OR. In this assessment, I conducted interviews, discussed the project, promoted the project within and gained insight from the community. The questions resulted in an accumulation of information such as the barriers to getting women on bikes.
Some answers to this question included:
I also gathered information about who was interested in becoming a "Roll Model" and who had programs already functioning in service to women.
Business engagement for Roll Model meeting locations was not a part of this project. That didn't stop me from talking to people about it and them showing interest in having their business become involved in some way.
Some of the stakeholders, key players, businesses, and organizations that were targeted included:
Portland Bureau of Transportation
SmartTrips Sugar Wheelworks
Ride Like a Girl Gladys Cycles
Gracie’s Wrench Bike Farm IRCO
Johnson Creek Watershed Council
Mujeres en Movimiento Black Girls Do Bike
ANOTHER PROJECT HIGHLIGHT
In a conversation with one of the key players, we discussed how to create transparency and familiarity and how those help foster a sense of community and family. The most engaging idea imagined was "rider profiles" where individuals answer questions pertaining to their lives and include a representative picture of them, hopefully with their bike or at least a helmet. To include these pictures periodically on the Facebook page will help people identify other riders who look like them and empower them to feel more connected and capable of riding.
As an example I am including my own RIDER PROFILE:
Name: Terrresa (Tas)
Bike: Novara Hardtail 29er Mountain Bike, acquired super sale at REI- desperately in need of an upgrade!
Favorite Style of Riding: Ripping downhill singletrack
Favorite Place to Ride: Falls Creek Falls, WA
Coffee or Tea: Americano by birth
Riding Companion: Rita Las Vegas, my furry angel
Favorite Piece of Riding Gear: For someone as accident prone as I am, I better love your helmet. My sport sunglasses I found on the side of a cliff I had just fallen over take a close second.
A special thanks to my coworkers who helped me at the BTA Sheilagh Griffin, Stephanie Noll, Elizabeth Quiroz, William Francis, Jordan Bailey, LeeAnne Ferguson, Carl Larson, Lisa Frank, Sarah Newsom, Gerik Kransky, Amanda Lee Harrison, Marilyn Lipko, Patrick Corrigan, Thaddeus Hanscom, Megan Van De Mark, Lucy Roberts, Rachael Blustein, and the director Rob Sadowsky (whom I will thank everyday for the lecture and reminder to lock up my bike). You all helped me more than you know.