Do What You Can, With What You Have, Where You Are: Show Up

By Megan Hottman

In the course of one week, I had two awesome opportunities to get involved in policy-making and aspects of bike advocacy and transportation and safety.

The first was June 4-6 with People for Bikes on a Women’s Fly-in to DC. There, 30 women from the bike industry along with female staff members of PFB, descended upon Capitol Hill to meet with elected officials and their staff, to advocate for bikes. Specifically, we had 3 asks (detailed below). PFB facilitated the meetings with our state officials (and their staff and interns). As well, we had the chance to network and connect as women in the bike industry who are working hard to effect change not just in transportation but across the cycling industry.

Our 3 asks, as outlined in our PFB materials:

Support bike funding priorities in the 2020 reauthorization of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. Every six years, Congress must reauthorize transportation funding. That happens in the FAST Act, which covers long‐term funding for maintenance and new projects on highways, railways, bike infrastructure and more.

Our main priorities of the FAST Act include:

● Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP)

● Federal Lands Transportation Program (FLTP) set‐aside

● Safety

Modernize the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP)

TAP is the largest federal funding source to help communities build bike infrastructure for on and off road bike facilities, recreational trail projects, safe routes to schools, and protected bike lanes. We are asking for increased funding and modernized funding mechanisms to empower local decision makers to direct TAP funds.

Federal Land Transportation Program (FLTP) set‐aside

As cycling becomes more popular on federal lands, we support a 5% set‐aside for bike and pedestrian infrastructure within the FLTP. This would help address the need for safer bicycling and walking on federal lands and would help to prioritize all modes of transportation, including those that are non‐motorized.

Increased funding for safety data

There is a lack of safety data for cyclists. We support expanding data to include injuries as well as fatalities to help with safety planning and prioritizing infrastructure.

This was a tremendous experience! From the chance to connect and network with lady bosses across the bike industry, to the chance to meet our elected officials and their staff members in person, to the chance to really sit down and think about, and articulate, what we are asking for on behalf of the cycling advocacy world, this was a priceless and valuable experience!  As someone who represents injured bicyclists, and who is always advocating for safer cycling and better/more infrastructure for cycling, I felt like this trip was my first real opportunity to influence the people in our government who make those decisions.  It's one thing to preach to the choir, to rally for things online or on socials, but it's another thing entirely to board a plane and spend a few days meeting with decision-makers.  I truly believe it's on all of us to #dowhatyoucanwithwhatyouhavewhereyouare … and this trip was a wonderful chance for me to do JUST that.  I'm so grateful to PFB for this gratifying experience and hope to join in again soon! 

-Megan Hottman

Back home in Golden, I saw signs around town notifying residents of the Golden Transportation Planning meeting on 6/11/19. So, I made a point to attend - because truly, if we don’t vote, we don’t have a right to complain, and if we don’t show up, we don’t know how or where to voice our opinions.

Sure enough, the meeting was ripe with opportunities to weigh in on specific transportation issues and even to show how we’d vote with our hypothetical budget dollars. I took the opportunity to raise 3 specific issues/asks and to write extensive comments on my comment card.

My post on FB about the event sums up this experience:

In short, these 2 experiences reinforced/reminded me that we cannot sit around and gripe about the state of affairs in bike advocacy and bike safety if we are not willing to put our time, talents, money and energy into these causes. I encourage everyone who rides a bike, to find a way to get involved- from a local nonprofit or cycling organization, to a national organization like People for Bikes, to attending local committee and community meetings, to taking part in a PFB DC Fly-in … showing up is a big part of moving these conversations forward and it takes ALL of us to make a change.

Not just the “they” — it takes each of US.

Cheryl's Story: Conquering fears and inspiring others!

We first met Cheryl in 2012. She was hit by a car while riding her bike, and she hired our firm to represent her.  Following the close of her case, she joined our cycling team, and began racing road races and criteriums.  Unfortunately, she suffered a bad crash last season during a race, and her injuries prompted surgery and a lengthy recovery.

Cheryl is the consummate ambassador, teammate, friend, and source of inspiration.  She reminds us that we can let setbacks keep us down, or we can fight back and turn them into sources of motivation and fuel for our fire- in whatever endeavor we pursue.  Please - enjoy her story!

*With huge thanks to Cheryl, Justin Balog, and the Dirty Kanza! (Click on the image below to enjoy the video!).

Cheryl was hit by a car and injured. Then she healed, tackled bike races, and was injured again. Dirty Kanza provided her the perfect come-back story and goal- watch this, and be inspired.

Golden Will Host First-Ever Women's Race At USPCC

"Local cyclist Megan Hottman is counting on the Golden community to roll out the red carpet for the pro women cyclists riding into town for the inaugural women’s race in the upcoming USA Pro Challenge.

“They get to come here and race hard,” said Hottman, a racer and former competitive pro, “but also be recipients of Golden hospitality.”

Click link to read entire story in the Golden Transcript!

My 1st National Bike Summit

I wrote this blog post on a notepad during my flight home last night.  Scribbled page after page until the paper ran out.  Unpacking and getting caught up on work, I've been writing and rewriting this post in my head.  Even as I now sit down to type my blog post I find that it could be both very very short, or very very long.  I could recap for you the breakout sessions and speakers, my takeaways, my lessons, the people I met, the things we did... I could try to put all that magic on paper (or the blogosphere, as it were) ... But stated simply, the summit and what it meant to me boils down to this: 

Bikes can solve many of our problems.  More people on more bikes riding to more workplaces and schools, nationwide and worldwide, could legitimately cure many of our issues.  

Whether it's a young school girl in Afghanistan who can't walk 3-4 hours each way to school so she drops out in 4th grade ... or whether it's a working mom in an inner city trying to save money by minimizing her transportation costs... whether it's the nation's obesity increasing at alarming rates (along with diabetes, depression and more)... or whether we are talking simply about putting joy back into people's lives by pulling them from frustrated car-smog-anger-filled commutes ... 

The Act of Bicycling Holds the Keys to our Successful, Healthful future.  

I come to bike-lifestyle via bike racing.  For the past decade, biking for me has been training for racing, or racing, to achieve my performance-related goals.  Towards that end, I incorporated commuting to my jobs in Kansas City and here in Colorado from Lakewood/Arvada to Boulder, as a way of staying fit for racing while working full time (I did not see a way to get the miles in otherwise).  But candidly as a bike racer, it was never my intention to use a bike for transportation.  The last thing I'd feel like doing after hard intervals, or a hard 3-4 hour training ride, is to come home and then take a commuter bike to the store for groceries.  Instead, after all that hard bike training, I have historically hopped in my car to run around for the other areas of my life.  (Ironically logging many of my car miles going to and from bike races all over the state and country).

I could count on one hand the number of times I've straddled a bike in the last decade wearing something other than lycra and clipless pedals.  Riding in jeans or a skirt? It hasn't even crossed my mind.

As my work has increased and my bike racing has taken its rightful spot lower down on my priority lists in recent years, I have been using an old commuter bike to ride to/from the office and to run for groceries.  We live in a small town -Golden -which sits just west of Arvada and essentially is a suburb of the greater Denver Metro area.  Yes, we are somewhat removed from Denver-proper: 

When I decided to open my office in Golden, I stragecially chose a location just 4 miles from home. I've changed my dentist, hairstylist and doctor, from previous offices that required 20-40 minute drives, to those here locally in Golden -both to decrease drive miles as well as to patronize local businesses.   But I've failed to take it that one step further - to commit to riding to those appointments, despite their location of 5-8 miles from home. (As an aside, my home bike shop since 2008, Treads, is actually my farthest destination, requiring a 30-40 minute drive or 1-1.5 hour bike ride.  Are there shops here locally I could patronize?  Yes of course. However I'm wicked-loyal when it comes to bike shops and bike brands. So this is my one outlier destination).

Yes I live in a relatively "suburban sprawlish" area and no, I would not want to live in a city/urban environment. I like my wide open spaces.  With those wide open roads however, comes a bigger challenge to use my bike for my lifestyle needs.  Difficult?  Yes.  Impossible? No.  When I draw a 5-mile radius circle around my house, nearly everything business-wise I need is within the circle.  I needed a nudge.

Enter: the 2014 National Bike Summit...

I arrived Sunday afternoon and took part in the media training session, and then all day Monday took part in the exhilirating Women's Bike Forum (and was an exhibitor in the women's pop up shop).  At times it felt we were preaching to the choir, but at times it also felt progressive.  Determined.  Spot on.  The speakers were amazing.  The vibe was amazing.  Women on bikes... what an empowering and world changing movement, so elegantly simple, yet apparently wraught with obstacles.  I can't do the experience justice in words.  Suffice it to say, I met really wonderful women in the bike movement and I left buzzing with energy.  

Monday night kicked off the Bike Summit over dinner with some really funny speakers including the head of Great Britain's Bicycle League.  This rolled into a fantastic Tuesday with an agenda JAM-packed with good stuff.  Of course I was drawn to the "scofflaw-cyclist" panel and the "enforcement" panel - both involving issues of bike laws, enforcements, and bike lawyers.  Fascinating to hear other lawyers doing and saying many of the same things I've been preaching.  And to hear other groups are educating law enforcement, just as I'm aiming to do in our first-annual BOW event on April 18th!  It was great to have affirmation that cyclists are wrongfully cited in other states too, not just here.  And it was enthralling and HILARIOUS to take part in the discussions about bike backlash.  Again - lots of preaching to the choir, but also, lots of brainstorming and constructive discussions.  And did I mention, networking with folks around the country who are all just as passionate about these issues as I am??  AUH-mazing.

Setting aside my generalized glowing adjectives for a moment, the rubber really did hit the road for me at the summit.  I realized that bike racing is a small percentage of the bigger bike picture and that to truly demonstrate the principles I hold so dear, more of my transportation must be via bike moving forward.  Starting now.  I created my VOW list as soon as I boarded the plane:

The first and most important VOW I made is to drive less than I ride.  Because of where we live (in the suburbs as I mentioned above, which is not changing anytime soon) and also because of our weather here in the winter (freezing temps and frequent ice) I don't know that my husband and I will be able to make the jump to 1 car.  I know many do it with harder commutes and who have kids and all kinds of other obstacles.  I'm just being honest.  It's a goal - but we're taking baby steps.  The second goal is #onelesscar.  We technically have 3 cars- one is the cycling team car used by the team my firm sponsors.  It's going back this week.  I consider that a pretty big step -as the car is a great marketing tool complete with decals and bike racks for bike races:

But one less car is the goal.  So - team car is going back.  

Because I'm a small business owner I already track vehicle expenses and vehicle miles.  Last year I drove just under 12,000 miles total.  As a bike racer, I've always tracked bike miles using my Garmin and Strava.  So the data collection process is already established.  Now it's a matter of counting miles each week, and restricting driving mileage to at or less than cycling mileage.  Cut out useless trips.  Ride more to places.  Save the driving for bad weather and absolute necessities.  Small steps - prompted in my life by the National Bike Summit.  

After making my VOW list I dove headfirst into a book I'd purchased at the summit called Bikenomics by Elly Blue.  Positively fascinating.  Stats and stories were absorbed by my already open mind following the summit.  I inhaled the book flying home.  I recommend everyone read it.  Think how happy we could be as a nation if we pulled people out of their harried car-coma-induced states and put them on bikes.  Weight loss, stress reduction, energy, fresh air, positive emotions and just heightened consciousness.  Bikes provide that to us.  I became intoxicated with my post-summit buzz and Bikenomics.  I couldn't sleep last night.  I am fixated.  

Ten years ago I had a hunger for bike racing.  Over the course of a decade and especially the past few years, my desires to compete and win have waned.  I was looking for a new "goal."  I have been hit or miss in my training -versus the old Me who would never dream of taking a day off!  And suddenly post-summit I find myself re-invigorated with the bike - not necessarily in the racing sense, though I intend to keep competing... but in the lifestyle sense.  I know I'll make mistakes.  I know it'll be hard.  I know sometimes I'll just want to hop in the car.  But if I took away one lesson from the summit it was this: change starts with me.  I cannot advocate for more bike lanes while logging 12,000 miles in my car each year.  I cannot ask other women to join me in riding to the grocery store if I'm not doing it.  I can't say we aren't spreading our message quickly enough until I share my riding bliss by buying a GoPro Camera and using it and sharing my movies.  I can't inspire others without leading by example.  

The bike revolution is coming.  Technically, tt's already begun.  It's no longer a rich, white man's sport.  It's a way of life for people of all walks of life.  (Pun intended).  We can't afford more/newer/bigger roads.  Many big citites can't provide more parking.  Our cities are swollen with traffic. As one speaker said, "if you're not at the table, you're on the menu."  I say - we don't get to sit at the tables of the policy makers and leaders when we aren't living the cycling lifestyle first hand.  

So I challenge you - ride more than you drive, sell a car, teach a new person how to use their bike as a means of transport, learn your public transit systems and your bike share programs inside and out, resist the norms and get creative.  I've asked the women in my neighborhood- most of whom don't ride -to grab their bikes and join me for a ride to our nearest grocery store.  It's flat, short and easy.  I'm going to persist until they accept my invite, even if just once.

National change starts one rider at a time.  Bike racing is great, but bike living is...well- it's a whole 'nother world.  I challenge you to start today.  What are your VOWs? 


So I'm happy to report I've met all of the afore-mentioned goals!  I did in fact turn in the team car pictured above.  It was a great little car but it only sat 4 people and towing the trailer was NOT fuel efficient.  It resulted in us all typically driving separately to team races and that's simply NOT green, and Not showing proper bike love to my VOWS!  So... I decided if the right fuel-saving option came along, I'd consider it.  And sure enough -a Dodge Sprinter DIESEL van came along... and we bought it for the team.  We can now fit 6-10 people AND 6-10 bikes and average 20mph... thereby saving fuel for the long bike trips AND hanging out as a team.  

Women on Bikes!!!

On February 10-11, I attended the Colorado Bike Summit.  This was my third year attending, but my first year involved in a role beyond just that of participant.  This year I was asked to serve as a moderator of a small group during the Women in Cycling break-out session. We were asked to discuss the barriers (real and perceived) that keep women from riding bikes, and also how best to put the FUN back into riding for women! 

My group was amazinginly diverse, with male and female representatives from New Belgium, PrimalWear, Gates, PeopleforBikes.org, communication and real estate companies, Campus Cycles, and more.  We had great discussions related to these topics and my biggest takeaway was that women like to be asked.  They prefer to be invited.  Rare are the women who go barging in unhindered; more commonly, women wait to be welcomed in -often by another woman.  This is perhaps based on the sentiment that women do not want to seem presumpuous or overbearing (or want to avoid rejection by waiting until they are affirmatively asked to come in, to be a part of the cycling environment).  I also realized that women respond best on a one-on-one basis, i.e. one woman sees another ride her bike in to work and strikes up a conversation at the office about how she packs her clothes, what route she takes, where she stores her bike, how she showers or gets dressed, and more.  Bringing women into cycling is going to happen one new female cyclist at a time, they aren't going to come by droves.  I think as bike industry folks, marketers and so on, people need to change their approach.  

We women already on bikes need to own more responsibility -we especially need to extend the invite to women at work, in our neighborhoods, church groups and elsewhere, one future-cyclist-at-a-time.  

We women already on bikes need to own more responsibility -we especially need to extend the invite to women at work, in our neighborhoods, church groups and elsewhere, one future-cyclist-at-a-time.  

Another fascinating element to this session was the discovery of amazing Women-Bike-Oriented resources on the League of American Bicyclists website. Check out this AMAZING link!!  And even cooler, check out this publication called WOMEN ON A ROLL -WomenBikeReport(web).pdf - chock full of awesome stats and infographics.  I encourage everyone who is interested in getting more women on bikes to review this!  

So what are we going to do about it??  How do we invite more women in -not to race, but simply to ride?  Here's what I'm doing: 

#1-Let's put our $$ where our mouths are and invest in this concept.  I'm thrilled to announce that my law office will now sponsor (in addition to our racing team), a Women's Commuter Team.  Geared towards women who have not ridden, or who have ridden for recreation but never as a form of transportation, this team aims to equip ladies with the gear, knowledge and know-how, so they can turn their bike into a way of getting to work or grabbing some groceries.  

#2-Host fun, no clacky shoes, no chamois allowed ride events! Get rid of the fancy bikes and fancy outfits.  Make riding welcoming.  Our law firm is going to start hosting "spandexless" rides (and clinics) where ladies will be invited to wear their "normal" clothes and regular shoes to pedal around the town of Golden socializing and networking.  Please join us for these events, whether you are a regular rider or maybe you haven't ridden a bike since you were a child!

I hope you'll join me and make it your personal mission to get at least one new female rider on a bike in the very near future!