Bicycle Brown Bags–and Women on Bikes

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m totally behind the times here, but it turns out that the Portland Bureau of Transportation hosts a lunchtime brown bag talk every month, all about bicycle issues! Apparently this has been happening since January 2007, so that will show you how behind the time I am.

But today I actually knew about it and made a point to go since it was all about women on bikes, a topic near and dear to my heart. April Streeter, author of Women on Wheels, talked about some historical ladies of Portland, including a woman known as “Liverpool Liz” who in the 1890s owned a saloon/brothel at NW 2nd and Davis. Apparently she bought her ladies a fleet of bicycles, the theory being that they could ride them around the city and bring the customers to her establishment. I wish I could remember the description Streeter read us of what they wore to ride their bikes, because it was hilarious–all I remember is that it involved streamers.  (Though I did find a bunch more information about Liverpool Liz on JD Chandler’s blog, definitely worth a read if you’re into Portland’s colorful historical characters.)

It was a rad talk, followed by some pretty awesome discussion, capped off by the fact that one of my long-lost friends of Community Cycling Center origin unexpectedly showed up too. It definitely made me think that I should go to more of these brown bags. Not just for the information, even, but for the democratic exchange of ideas and the sense of community (it was seriously so awesome to run into my friend there, though, in retrospect, not that surprising:)

But it wasn’t just the talk that was awesome. April Streeter plugged her new book, of course, but also mentioned her website, Girls on Bikes, which is part of her attempt to “normalize” cycling in the US. That’s the truly awesome part, the realization that there are ladies working to make cycling normal. I kind of feel like she might be my secret soulmate, actually, except for years ahead of me on this one. But it’s a nice site, with an interesting blog, and I’m super psyched to know that there are other rocking ladies out there working on this stuff. If nothing else, the brown bag was totally worth it for that reason: more inspiration to get out there and make it happen.

 

(In case you’re interested, the complete brown bag schedule can be found on the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Active Transportation website; the next one is Thursday March 21, always from noon-1pm.)

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