Throughout her bike-minded career Andréa White-Kjoss, the President and COO of Bikestation/Mobis Transportation Alternatives has worked to bring forward the particular needs, issues and challenges of women who would like to incorporate the bicycle into their lives – especially those who are very much in need of affordable mobility options for themselves and their children. In 2006 Andrea created the first “Women On Bikes” bicycle safety training + bicycle scholarship program for at risk and low-income women in Long Beach that was funded locally by the Gumbiner Foundation. It was this program concept that sparked the idea for the new Women On Bikes SoCal initiative. At the end of May Andréa and her husband Cliff are expecting their first child so the needs of women and children in regards to the bicycle are even more on her mind now.
MBalmer: What is your first “bike love” memory as a child?
AWK: I think that one of my strongest memories is of getting my ten-speed bike for my birthday. I was probably ten or twelve and I remember it was burgundy with black handle bar wrappings – and I thought it was beautiful without being “girlie.” Soon after, my parents gave me permission to ride to the park in town. We lived a few miles out of town, in a semi-residential area with horse property. When you’re a kid you have to rely on your parents to get around, and we had to ride the bus to school. Getting permission to ride to the park on my own to go swimming in the river with my friends was such a big deal. It was such an adult and free moment that I could get myself to where I needed to go by myself. I was proud to be able to “do it myself” and “feel like a big kid now.”
MBalmer: Have any issues about comfort and access come up for you riding a bike during your pregnancy, which were “aha” moments?
AWK: I just biked down to Belmont Shore to have coffee with my husband Cliff. We were chatting on the way back about how it becomes much much harder to do a lot of things the further your pregnancy progresses; particularly exercising and getting a real cardiovascular work out. There are only a few things that don’t get harder i.e. swimming, and bicycling is one of them. Some of it is about equipment; I suppose if you were riding a fixie, or didn’t have a step through frame, it would be more of a challenge. It has surprised me how easily I’m able to continue bicycling. I’m definitely slower now, but it’s still really accessible. I ride a vintage three-speed “Bayshore” with the step through frame, and both front and back racks. It’s truly a get around bike and now it’s getting me all the way through my pregnancy!
MBalmer: You have been in the bike minded industry now since 2004? What breakthroughs for women are you the most excited about?
AWK: I have seen women actually riding bikes exploding, especially in the age category of the teens and early twenties. It wouldn’t surprise me if girls are now catching up even with young men in numbers. That’s really exciting and encouraging. In leadership in the retail and consumer bicycle industry, the big boys are still literally the big boys, but in every other aspect of bicycling women are extremely well represented, especially in advocacy leadership, where there’s probably a good 50% ratio.. At the national level, Senators and congress people are quick to point you to Deb Hubsmith with Safe Routes to School (that organization’s founder). And I think if you talk to anyone about the bicycle related consulting industry women are really well represented, with Mia Birk at the top of the list.
My hope, and the greatest potential for change to bring even more women into the bicycling arena, are the college courses that are beginning to become a part of the curriculum of urban planning, engineering and architecture schools – the concept of designing a city that is about more than where people sleep and eat and get quickly to the freeway. These new courses about livability and good urban design are the new change agents to spread the gospel about the new urban paradigm, and young women are avidly participating in them.
MBalmer: Conversely what are the areas that are taking far longer for women to make strides in than you’d hoped? Where do we still have a long way to go to make everyone comfortable bicycling?
AWK: Across the board there hasn’t been enough progress understanding the specific needs of women bicycling during their childbearing years. I’ve always had my three-speed. I haven’t been a daredevil. I don’t want to, or need to, get my adrenaline through my bicycling speed. My style of riding hasn’t changed; it’s more about my awareness that I’m going to have different types of trips I’m going to need to make. I’ll be more protective of my child than myself, and feeling safe and secure is going to become a lot more important.
MBalmer: You and your husband Cliff are both avid athletes. As you prepare to become a new parent in an era where sedentary related diseases are one of the largest threats to our youngest generation’s health and well being, do you both have a philosophy for active living that you hope your child will heed as well?
AWK: Baby Lars doesn’t have a choice (Andréa and Cliff know they’re expecting a son)! We don’t really know exactly how we’re going to do this, not having done this before, but Cliff and I are never at home sitting around – we’re out there biking, walking, running, surfing, at the pool etc. It’s going to continue to be what we do now. Our baby is going to be exposed to active living constantly. It’s not a forced example, but doing what we always do, and figuring out how to make that work with a child.
Cliff always talks about creating special little floating devices, and talking about bicycling with Lars safely, and what kinds of equipment exist to make that happen. We believe in just getting out there and doing it, trying it out. After all, Lars is going to be born already knowing the motion of a bicycle and the motion of a surfboard!