Stop Senator Rand Paul From Cutting Transportation Alternatives Funding

Just last year Congress passed a new transportation bill, MAP-21, that dismantled dedicated funding for biking and walking by combining Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School, and Recreational Trails into one and cutting the funding by 30 percent. The saving grace was that the bill included a local control provision to ensure that mayors and communities could access to these dollars to support local transportation priorities.

Now Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky wants to wipe out what’s left.

Senator Paul has introduced an amendment to the Transportation Appropriations bill to prohibit any money from being used for Transportation Alternatives. Paul’s amendment would redirect that money towards bridge repair.

While we agree that repairing our bridges are important, both for safety and economic development reasons, so are our local economies. Dedicating the small amount of Transportation Alternatives funding to bridge repair couldn’t fix our country’s bridges in 50 years. And, taking that small amount of funding away would dangerously undermine efforts in our cities, towns and counties to provide safe and efficient transportation options for everyone. With rates of bicycling and walking fatalities on the rise, that is a trade we can’t afford to make.

Maryland and Virginia residents, please contact your senators and ask them to save Transportation Alternatives—and the local control provisions that help build bikeable, walkable places—by voting NO on Amendment 1742.

The Senate hopes to finish this bill today or tomorrow. Act soon!

Thanks to the League of American Bicyclists for mobilizing this campaign to save local bike and pedestrian funding.

Ride for Mother’s Day And Women’s Cycling Day

 Mother's Day Picnic Ride

 

Ride with us in celebration of Mothers of the world and women who bike throughout the world. This Sunday our Women & Bicycles program is joining  BikeArlington and Black Women Bike DC to commemorate Mother’s Day and CycloFemme, the global celebration of women bicycling.

The Mother’s Day Picnic Ride begins in three locations throughout the region and we’ll all meet up at Hains Point for celebratory laps and picnic snacks. To get a better look at the ride routes check out our event map. This is a family-friendly, co-ed “sun dress” ride. We’re inviting the whole family to share the bike love and for the men out there, we encourage you to show your support by wearing your favorite sun dress!

To learn more and share with friends, visit our event page.

Ride with the Marlyand group
Please join WABA at the Silver Spring Metro Station at 12pm. We’ll go for an hour-long leisure ride through the city and meet up at Hains Point. After the picnic, you’ll have the choice to take the Metro home, or return to Silver Spring around 3:30pm.

Ride with the DC group
Meet up with the Silver Spring convoy at 12:45pm at the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza (14th St NW and Park St Nw)

Ride with the Virginia group
Please join BikeArlington at the Ballston Metro Station at 12pm. We’ll go for an hour-long ride on some of Arlington’s off street trails and bike lanes through the city, and we will end the ride at Hains point. After the picnic, you’ll have the choice to take the Metro home, or ride home with us.

New to bicycling?
Fantastic! We’re so glad you can join us. Group rides are great opportunities to hone your bike skills through experience and through conversation. We will start and end the ride with a quick skillshare on bicycling and city streets.

What to bring
Your bicycle and helmet are required for this ride. We also suggest bringing water, sunscreen, a picnic item to enjoy by yourself or share, clothing (your sun dress!) that will keep you comfortable depending on the weather, and bring your friends and family. We will have a bike pump, and basic repair tools at the start of all the rides.

 

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What is Cyclofemme?  They’re a socially-driven grass-roots celebration of women on bikes, “We are of a growing community, for a growing community, and 100% volunteer-based. Our annual Mother’s Day ride unites riders, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity or bicycle preference to share in the joy of cycling.”  CycloFemme is a day of action, a day to follow through with our pledge to get more women on bikes, and a day to hail the growth of the bicycle movement.  In just one year CycloFemme has gone from 163 registered group rides throughout the world, to 227 rides, and we’re so happy to join in on the celebration. #WeRideTogether

Successes for Cycling in the 2013 Maryland General Assembly

Franklin's Bike Parking

In the Maryland General Assembly, our efforts to promote and defend the interests of bicyclists were reasonably successful this year—especially compared to how things might have turned out. There were no major advances specifically for cycling this year. But WABA and its members and supporters helped stop a bill that would have been very harmful to bicycling. We also helped a coalition of transportation groups to persuade the legislature to increase funding for transportation for the first time in 21 years.

Here is a rundown of the legislation that we followed this year in Maryland.

Bikes on sidewalks
The Maryland code prohibits bicycling on sidewalks, unless the locality enacts a law to legalize it. Delegate Aruna Miller (D-Montgomery) has introduced a bill the last two years to reverse the presumption, so that bicycling on sidewalks would be legal unless the locality prohibits it. Before the legislative session started, we notified Delegate Miller that WABA would not take a position on such a bill this year. Local legislation legalizing sidewalk riding has already been enacted by Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, so it was unclear whether this bill would have much of an impact in the Washington area other than in a few municipalities. We doubted that we would be able to devote time and energy to this bill. HB 160 attracted little attention, and received an unfavorable report from the House Environmental Matters Committee.

Mandatory helmet law
Delegate Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore), who chairs the Environmental Matters Committee, introduced HB 339, which would have required adults to wear helmets when bicycling on any highway, including trails. As soon as the bill was introduced, WABA immediately went into high-gear to do all we could to stop it. Hundreds of our members and supporters sent emails to delegates on the committee asking them to oppose the bill. But it appeared to be an uphill battle because about half the committee had sponsored it.

As Shane Farthing and Greg Billing explained, mandatory helmet laws could undermine the success of a bikesharing system in the Maryland suburbs. It would also force people to choose between breaking the law and not bicycling on occasion, when wearing a helmet is not feasible. Some advocates are also concerned that the effectiveness of helmets has often been overstated on government web sites.

WABA has long been one of the strongest advocates of helmet use in the mid-Atlantic region. We require helmets on all rides. We have long facilitated the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute (although it raises its own finds). During the 1990s, we strongly advocated a mandatory helmet law for children under the age of 16, which was eventually enacted. But it is not always a good idea to pass a law that requires adults to do things for their own good. We did not support a law requiring all adults to ride a bike either.

We were fortunate that Delegate McIntosh is an avid cyclist and genuinely supports cycling, while disagreeing with us on the question of a mandatory helmet law. She heard the passion with which bicycle advocates from both Baltimore and the Washington area opposed her legislation (Bike Maryland took no position). Although our logic did not persuade her on the helmet issue, as a good politician she concluded that she would rather work with us on matters where we agree than against us on the helmet bill. In late February, McIntosh decided not to push the helmet bill further this year so that we could work to increase funding for the state’s cycling infrastructure.

Transportation funding
Because Maryland has not raised the gas tax since 1992, the funds available for new transportation infrastructure have been dwindling. Last year, Governor Martin O’Malley proposed to extend the state’s 6 percent sales tax to gasoline, but neither chamber passed the bill.

It was important to increase the funds for transportation this year, because otherwise, federal funding for the Purple Line would be unlikely. Yet prospects did not look good during the first two months of the legislative session. Then, Virginia increased its sales tax to fund transportation near the end of its 60-day session. Shortly thereafter, Maryland’s governor, speaker, and senate preesident announced a plan to increase the gas tax by an amount equal to roughly 1 percent of the retail price of gasoline for each of the next three years.

With the helmet bill behind us, we strongly supported House Bill 1515. Hundreds of our members and supporters wrote their legislators to indicate their willingness to pay higher taxes to increase funding for transportation. The bill passed. As a result, the state will be able to proceed with its Capital Transportation Plan, which allocates about 7 percent of the funding to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

Safe-passing bill
Like the District of Columbia and many other states, Maryland generally requires drivers to leave at least three feet of clearance when overtaking a bicyclist. But the Maryland law has several confusing exceptions, including one for narrow highways. No one knows whether that exception includes standard highway lanes in no-passing zones, or only genuinely narrow highways such as one-lane bridges. Bike Maryland championed House Bill 445, which would have removed that exception. Although we endorsed the bill, our focus on the helmet bill made it impractical for us to do anything more than lend out name to their efforts, and the bill received an unfavorable report from the Environmental Matters Subcommittee.

Contributory negligence
The Maryland Court of Appeals is considering a case that could, if successful, repeal the doctrine of contributory negligence. Maryland is one of only five states that retains this legal doctrine, under which a plaintiff who is even minimally at fault cannot successfully sue to recover damages caused by someone else’s negligence. This doctrine is very unfair to cyclists, who may lose the ability to pay for significant medical bills or the loss of earnings after a severe accident.

Last fall, the Maryland Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on whether to replace the doctrine of contributory negligence with comparative fault in the case of Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia. The case involves a volunteer soccer coach who smoked pot before practice, tried to swing on a portable goal, and fell on his face. He sued for damages from the soccer league for failing to warn him about this hazard, but the jury found that he was contributorily negligent, so he could not recover damages.

If any such bill has a significant chance of passing, we will work to include an exception for bicyclists who collide with motor-vehicle drivers.

Jim Titus is a member of WABA’s Board of Directors from Prince George’s County.

Photo by Flickr user Mr. T in DC

Maryland Residents, Please Attend a Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan Update Tomorrow Evening


Maryland residents capable of getting to the University of Baltimore tomorrow evening should plan to attend a meeting about the state’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan update. The plan hasn’t been updated since 1992, and it’s critical that Maryland cyclists contribute their input on what can help make the state a better place to ride a bike.

Details on the meeting are below. For some background information, listen to this podcast from WYPR.

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On Thursday, March 21 5:00 p.m. please join the Maryland Department of Transportation for a public meeting about the Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan update. This meeting will provide information about recent progress, current conditions, and discussion of goals and key needs.

You may also join the meeting remotely via an online meeting and/or call-in phone number. Details, instructions and a link to the online meeting are available at: www.mdot.maryland.gov/bikewalkplan.

What: Public Meeting regarding the Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan Update
Date: Thursday, March 21, 2012
Location: University of Baltimore, 11 West Mount Royal Avenue, Baltimore; room 001 and 003 of the William H. Thumel Sr. Business Center (Building 9 on the campus map)
Time: 5-8 p.m., presentation to begin at 5:30 p.m.

Discussion Topics:
Current conditions for biking and walking
Progress since 2002 Plan
Input on draft goals and objectives
Input on key priorities for supporting biking and walking

The meeting location is one block south of Penn Station. Street parking is available and a parking garage is located one block west at 131 W. Mount Royal Ave. Limited bike parking is available in front of the building and additional bike racks are located across Mount Royal Ave at Gordon Plaza.

Please visit www.mdot.maryland.gov/bikewalkplan to learn more about the plan update process and to complete the bicycle and pedestrian needs survey.

Thank you for your participation!

Image via TBD via MUTCD

What You Get as a WABA Member

WABA Bike Boxes

This bike box could be yours to borrow.

Whether you have been a WABA member for years or just joined, you benefit in countless ways—like access to an array of enticing member benefits. To ensure that you don’t miss out on these awesome benefits, we wanted to remind you that as a WABA member you get:

You also get discounts from our community business partners (when you present a current membership card or discount code). Those include:

  • Annie’s Ace Hardware: 5% off one item under $50
  • Bike and Roll: $10 off bike rentals and/or bike tours
  • Bike Escapades: $150 off bike touring trips (plus $150 donated to WABA)
  • Brighter Days Collective Dog Walking & Pet Sitting: Get the cost of your WABA membership taken off your dog-walking or pet-sitting bill
  • Car2Go: Free Car2Go membership, plus 30 minutes of free drive time. Contact membership@waba.org for discount code
  • Czech Active Tours: $50 off bike rentals
  • Embody Pure Fitness: 15% off personal training packages, plus a free fitness evaluation
  • Flow Yoga: 15% discount on all yoga classes
  • Gottaswing: 20% off beginner dance classes at D.C. locations (for first-time students)
  • Lunar Massage: Free membership to Lunar Massage
  • Rentabikenow.com: Save $5 on a bike reservation. Contact membership@waba.org for discount code.
  • Results Gym: Discounted gym enrollment
  • Tranquil Space: Receive unlimited 15% discount on 1-,6-, or 10-class yoga passes
  • YMCA: Reduced enrollment and 10% off monthly dues at D.C., MD, and VA locations. Discount does not apply at the new 14th & W NW location
  • Zipcar: Half off first year annual fee ($30). Contact membership@waba.org for discount code.

Are you a business interested in offering a benefit to WABA members? Contact our Membership Coordinator Megan Van de Mark at membership@waba.org or call 202.518.0524 x203.

Why Maryland’s Proposed Helmet Law Would Make Cyclists Less Safe

On Tuesday morning, the Environmental Matters Committee of the Maryland House of Delegates will hold a hearing on House Bill 339 to require that every person operating a bicycle in Maryland wear a helmet. This bill is bad policy.

Mandatory helmet laws cause fewer people to bicycle, and when fewer people bicycle, cycling becomes less safe. So much less safe, in fact, that decreased ridership increases the individual cyclist’s risk of injury more than wearing a helmet decreases risk of injury.

This does not mean that bicyclists should not wear helmets. We encourage bicyclists to wear helmets. However, there are several reasons why people who are deeply committed to bicyclist safety oppose mandatory helmet laws.

Mandatory helmet laws decrease ridership
Numerous studies of places that have enacted helmet laws have shown this to be true. The most commonly-cited study—Dorothy Robinson’s “No Clear Evidence from Countries that have Enforced the Wearing of Helmets”—examined data from New Zealand, from Nova Scotia, Canada, and from several states in Australia. In each place, the mandatory helmet law significantly decreased ridership, from 20% to 44% with an average of 37.5%.

(One can debate whether Maryland can expect a decrease of this magnitude. There is no local data available, so this analysis uses the average of 37.5%. But even if the decrease is only 20%, the lowest Robinson observed, even half of that, the result is the same.)

Lower ridership makes bicycling less safe.
We are defining “safety” as the likelihood of a bike-auto crash. By saying that decreased ridership makes bicycling less safe, we mean that a decreased rate of bicycling within a population is correlated with increased crash rates, and vice versa.

The leading article on this topic—Peter Jacobsen’s “Safety in Numbers: More Walkers and Bicyclists, Safer Walking and Bicycling“—reviews data on biking, walking, and injury rates in 68 California cities, 47 Danish towns, 14 European countries, and the United Kingdom.

Across the independent sets of data from these many jurisdictions, Jacobsen finds a consistent, inverse, curvilinear relationship between bicycling and injury rates, determining that “the total number of pedestrians or bicyclists struck by motorists varies with the 0.4 power of the amount of walking or bicycling respectively.” Expressed simply, more people biking leads to fewer per capita crashes while fewer people biking leads to more per capita crashes.

Jacobsen also derives a formula for how this affects the individual cyclist: “Taking into account the amount of walking and bicycling, the probability that a motorist will strike an individual person walking or bicycling declines with roughly -0.6 power of the number of persons walking or bicycling.” In other words, as more people bicycle, the per capita risk to each bicyclist of a crash decreases; if fewer people bicycle, the per capita risk to each bicyclist increases.

Helmets do not make cyclists as safer as commonly thought
For the individual, of course, the story is different. Wearing a helmet is likely safer than not wearing one. This is true for bicyclists; it is also true for people who are skydiving, rock climbing, sitting under an oak tree, or taking a bath. Individually, we make our decisions based on our own risk tolerances and values, and many of us choose to wear helmets and encourage our loved ones to do so.

But at the broader level, where we ought to analyze legislation and public policy, how much safer will a helmet make a person in a bike crash that leads to a head impact? This is a topic of debate and uncertainty, but as research methods improve we move further from some of the magical thinking that took hold due to early estimates—derived from emergency room data rather than population data—that suggested helmet effectiveness rates of 85% and above.

Generally, those estimates came from retrospective studies that looked at people with head injuries in emergency rooms and compared the numbers who lived and died, and whether they were wearing helmets when they were hit. When more recent studies have attempted to compile these data into meta-analyses with more informative sample sizes, their results do not approach the long-accepted 85% level. Some show a smaller effect; others, none at all. In fact, in population-level studies focusing on hospitalization rather than emergency room visits, helmets have no discernible, statistically significant effect on hospitalization rates. (Jacobsen 2012)

Recent studies that have focused on overall health, rather than simply crash mortality rates, have shown that the individual and public health benefits grossly outweigh the costs, by a factor of 20:1. (De Jong 2012)

The mandatory helmet law in Maryland will increase danger for Maryland cyclists
Assuming that the helmet law will decrease cycling by the 37.5% average in Maryland, the total Maryland cycling population, post helmet law, would shrink to only 62.5% of the current cycling population. Assuming also that Jacobsen’s safety-in-numbers effect holds true in Maryland—as it has consistently throughout California and across Europe—the number of motorists colliding with people bicycling will increase by roughly 17.1% per capita (1-0.6250.4=0.171)

For the individual, these assumptions mean that the likelihood of injury from a crash with a motor vehicle would increase by roughly 33% (0.625-0.6=1.326)—regardless of whether the individual wears a helmet. The increased risk comes solely because mandatory helmet laws take people off bicycles, and fewer people on bicycles makes the remaining bicyclists less safe. Substantially.

Maryland does not keep much data on bicycling, but one piece of data that we do have is that in 2010, there were 734 reported bicycle crashes in Maryland. Looking only at this data—and assuming ridership decreases by 37.5% from the helmet law in Maryland—we might expect only 459 crashes instead of 734.

However, this expectation is wrong. Due to the decreasing “safety in numbers,” we would instead expect to see 537 crashes, or 78 additional crashes directly attributable to the mandatory helmet law. So even though the total number of crashes might decrease, that is not because the law has made cyclists safer; it is because substantially fewer people are riding bikes, and those that still ride are measurably less safe, because of the law.

Discouraging cycling runs counter to Maryland’s other priorities
The state of Maryland has launched, or is poised to launch, two programs dedicated to encouraging cycling. The mandatory helmet law would undermine the success and safety of both.

First, knowing the overall benefits of biking to public health and well-being, transportation, economic development, and other public priorities, the state of Maryland initiated a campaign to get more people riding bikes. Maryland’s Department of Transportation introduces the campaign on their website with:

Governor O’Malley’s Cycle Maryland initiative is an effort to encourage more Marylanders to get out and ride, and to make bicycling a true transportation alternative. Cycling is a great way to connect to your community, support a cleaner environment, encourage a healthier lifestyle, reduce household transportation costs and enjoy Maryland’s magnificent landscape.

With the mandatory helmet law reducing ridership, Maryland will be left with more people to figure out how to move, and will have to treat more people for health problems associated with sedentary lifestyles.

Second, Maryland has contributed funds to expand the popular and successful Capital Bikeshare program to Montgomery County. Due to the nature of bikesharing, users are less likely to wear helmets, more likely to be casual rather than experienced users, and more likely to be operating in urban environments with motor vehicles. So perhaps the legislators proposing this mandatory helmet bill mean to ensure the safety of those riders, before bikesharing arrives in the state?

However, again, consider the data: Capital Bikeshare users have logged over 3.4 million trips, with an approximately 38% lower helmet usage rate than the general population. (Kraemer 2012) There have been zero fatalities and only one head injury. That is roughly one crash for every 88,000 miles ridden! Yet by driving potential cyclists away, a mandatory helmet policy would undermine the likelihood of success of the program in Montgomery County, Baltimore, and other areas statewide.

That safety record speaks for itself and shows that biking is not an inherently dangerous activity. Mandatory bicycle helmet laws falsely portray it as such, and in doing so create a false sense of danger that limits ridership and undermines the many positive impacts of mass cycling for Maryland.

“Contributory negligence” makes the law especially harmful
And finally, some believe that this law is acceptable and benevolent and will not have these impacts because there is no fine for violation. But this law has other, even more dire consequences for violators.

Maryland, like the District and Virginia, is a “contributory negligence” jurisdiction. That means if the victim of a crash contributed in any way to her own injury, she can claim no civil recovery for her damages. In Maryland, violation of a law is negligence per se.

Thus, it is possible that a cyclist who rides the bus to work on a rainy morning but chooses to take a bikeshare bike home when the weather clears, and suffers permanent brain injury when a drunk driver veers into a bike lane and strikes her, could be denied any civil recovery as a result of not wearing a helmet.

Is this the transportation future we want in Maryland? Is this the sort of public policy we hope to encourage?

Conclusion
In Maryland, we can anticipate a mandatory helmet law to reduce bicycle ridership by 37.5% (along with its accompanying public health, environmental, and economic benefits), per capita crashes to increase by 17%, and the per capita risk of a crash to increase by 33% for every person riding a bike in the state of Maryland, regardless of whether he or she wears a helmet.

In a broader sense, these laws are a form of victim blaming—telling bicyclists that it is our responsibility to avoid the risk of injury by padding ourselves, rather than the state’s to design a transportation network capable of moving non-motorists with a decent level of safety and efficiency.

WABA opposes a mandatory helmet law in Maryland because it is bad policy based on accepted, tested, and peer-reviewed data—not just some libertarian philosophy or desire of cyclists to “feel the wind in our hair.”

Fundamentally, we do believe that the legislators proposing this mandatory helmet law hope to do what is best for bicyclist safety, but they have significantly erred in determining what will, in fact, be best. They have the power to impose new risks on each of us who rides a bike, even when we wear helmets. We hope they will consider this information seriously and decide that a mandatory helmet law is a bad policy for the state of Maryland.

If you’d like to voice your opposition to Maryland’s House Bill 399, you can do so here.

References
De Jong, Piet. 2012. The Health Impact of Mandatory Bicycle Helmet LawsRisk Analysis. 5 (32): 782-790.

Jacobsen, Peter L. 2003. Safety in Numbers: More Walkers and Bicyclists, Safer Walking and BicyclingInjury Prevention 9 (3): 205-209.

Jacobsen, Peter L. and Harry Rutter. “Cycling Safety” City Cycling. Ed. John Pucher, Ed. Ralph Buehler. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012. 141-156.

Kraemer, John D., Jason S. Roffenbender, and Laura Anderko. 2012. Helmet Wearing Among Users of a Public Bicycle-Sharing Program in the District of Columbia and Comparable Riders on Personal Bicycles. American Journal of Public Health 102 (8): e23-e25.

Robinson, Dorothy L. 1996. No Clear Evidence from Countries that Have Enforced the Wearing of Helmets. British Medical Journal 332 (7543): 722-725.

This post is crossposted on Greater Greater Washington and Baltimore Velo.

Photo by Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious on Flickr

Women & Bicycles Bulletin #1

_DSC0730

It feels like we’ve been talking about our Women & Bicycles program forever. We’re preparing to finally, finally launch it officially in March—and we’ve got a lot to do before then. We sent out the first Women & Bicycles Bulletin to those who signed up for our email list today, and we’re reposting the information here. If you’d like to receive these updates (they’re bi-weekly notices about what’s going on in the program) in your inbox, sign up here if you haven’t already. Otherwise, read on!

A brief review of the Women & Bicycles philosophy: This program is designed to create opportunities for helpful exchanges between two different groups, women who already bicycle and women who are interested in bicycling. To do this, we’re sponsoring a season of workshops, rides, and meetups, all of which will encourage skillsharing. This type of community-based guidance has worked for ages, but it’s a new approach to getting more people on bicycles; WABA’s program is the first of its kind in the country.

Here’s some news and ways you can get involved:

Become a Roll Model
We are looking for 10 women to serve as the program’s bicycling mentors, known as Roll Models. For more information on the role of Roll Models, expectations, time commitments, and the many benefits of getting involved, click here to visit our Roll Model Application. Take a look, pass it along, and apply! (Please submit by Friday, Feb. 22nd.)

W&B Logo _ Cruiser

Our Logo
We released our logo a few weeks ago. Some people love it, some don’t heart the hearts, and some have questioned the utility of the logo-bike’s wheels. We appreciate the feedback! Women & Bicycles is intended to initiate a regional discussion about perceptions of gender and bicycling. We’re keeping the logo: It originated from a doodle that program coordinator Nelle has drawn on notebooks, dry-erase boards, and thank-you notes since she started biking.

Interact With Us
We’ve set up a Facebook page that we hope will become a consistent resource for all women who bike. It will serve as a place to ask questions, post ideas, upcoming events, new discoveries, and share general bicycling cheer. Click here to join. It’s a private group, but we encourage you to invite your friends.

And we’re on Instagram! Check us out, follow our account (“womenandbicycles”), and tag your women-and-bikey photos with #womenbikeDC. Your photos will be posted directly to our website to show the program in action.

Women & Bicycles Launch Party, Presented by the League of American Bicyclists
We’re throwing a party with Women Bike, the League of American Bicyclists’ National women’s outreach program. It’s also the kick-off to the second annual National Women’s Cycling Forum, part of the National Bike Summit. Join us for drinks, hear updates on the program, learn about what the League’s doing, and interact with women from all across the U.S. who bike for transportation. Click here to learn more and register for the Launch Party.

Register for the National Women’s Bicycling Forum
The day after the launch party is the National Women’s Bicycling Forum, the opening event of the National Bike Summit. The Forum hosts groups and individuals who work throughout the country to get more women on bikes. Check out the program and you’ll notice there are many D.C.-area bike advocacy stars in the line-up. Click here to learn more and register for the Women’s Bicycling forum.

We hope to see you online and in real life soon!

Women & Bicycles Bulletin #1

_DSC0730

It feels like we’ve been talking about our Women & Bicycles program forever. We’re preparing to finally, finally launch it officially in March—and we’ve got a lot to do before then. We sent out the first Women & Bicycles Bulletin to those who signed up for our email list today, and we’re reposting the information here. If you’d like to receive these updates (they’re bi-weekly notices about what’s going on in the program) in your inbox, sign up here if you haven’t already. Otherwise, read on!

A brief review of the Women & Bicycles philosophy: This program is designed to create opportunities for helpful exchanges between two different groups, women who already bicycle and women who are interested in bicycling. To do this, we’re sponsoring a season of workshops, rides, and meetups, all of which will encourage skillsharing. This type of community-based guidance has worked for ages, but it’s a new approach to getting more people on bicycles; WABA’s program is the first of its kind in the country.

Here’s some news and ways you can get involved:

Become a Roll Model
We are looking for 10 women to serve as the program’s bicycling mentors, known as Roll Models. For more information on the role of Roll Models, expectations, time commitments, and the many benefits of getting involved, click here to visit our Roll Model Application. Take a look, pass it along, and apply! (Please submit by Friday, Feb. 22nd.)

W&B Logo _ Cruiser

Our Logo
We released our logo a few weeks ago. Some people love it, some don’t heart the hearts, and some have questioned the utility of the logo-bike’s wheels. We appreciate the feedback! Women & Bicycles is intended to initiate a regional discussion about perceptions of gender and bicycling. We’re keeping the logo: It originated from a doodle that program coordinator Nelle has drawn on notebooks, dry-erase boards, and thank-you notes since she started biking.

Interact With Us
We’ve set up a Facebook page that we hope will become a consistent resource for all women who bike. It will serve as a place to ask questions, post ideas, upcoming events, new discoveries, and share general bicycling cheer. Click here to join. It’s a private group, but we encourage you to invite your friends.

And we’re on Instagram! Check us out, follow our account (“womenandbicycles”), and tag your women-and-bikey photos with #womenbikeDC. Your photos will be posted directly to our website to show the program in action.

Women & Bicycles Launch Party, Presented by the League of American Bicyclists
We’re throwing a party with Women Bike, the League of American Bicyclists’ National women’s outreach program. It’s also the kick-off to the second annual National Women’s Cycling Forum, part of the National Bike Summit. Join us for drinks, hear updates on the program, learn about what the League’s doing, and interact with women from all across the U.S. who bike for transportation. Click here to learn more and register for the Launch Party.

Register for the National Women’s Bicycling Forum
The day after the launch party is the National Women’s Bicycling Forum, the opening event of the National Bike Summit. The Forum hosts groups and individuals who work throughout the country to get more women on bikes. Check out the program and you’ll notice there are many D.C.-area bike advocacy stars in the line-up. Click here to learn more and register for the Women’s Bicycling forum.

We hope to see you online and in real life soon!

WABA Members Get to Work It Out

“Membership with Benefits” is a blog series in which we highlight a different WABA member benefit each month. Last month we featured Tranquil Space and Flow Yoga, two Washington-area yoga studios. This month we’re featuring Results Gym, Embody Pure Fitness, and the YMCA.

With the start of a new year, many of us make fitness-related resolutions. Whether we hope to lose weight, eat better, or simply feel better in our bodies, the beginning of the year is a great time to start a new fitness routine. However, the chillier temperatures can sometimes dissuade us from wanting to hop on our bikes to achieve those goals. Luckily for members, some of WABA’s discount partners offer indoor exercise opportunities.

Fitness

As a WABA member, you receive discounts at Results Gym, Embody Pure Fitness, and the YMCA.

  • Results Gym offers discounted enrollment at its Capitol Hill and downtown locations. It provides personal training, nutrition services, rock climbing, hydroworx training pool, cardio theater, a variety of classes (yoga, cycling, abs, karate, dance, etc.), massage, squash and basketball courts, and more.
  • Embody Pure Fitness, located in Adams Morgan, offers a 15 percent discount on any personal trainer package. It specializes in boot camp workouts, kettlebells, TRX, nutrition, and rehabilitation services.
  • YMCA of Metropolitan Washington, at its D.C., Maryland, and Virginia locations, offers reduced enrollment and 10% off monthly dues. It offers aquatics, youth and adults sports, fitness, yoga, dance, childcare, and more. This discount does not apply at the new 14th & W NW location in D.C.

Spend more time improving your health, but save money while doing so.

Now that’s a member benefit!

Why We Don’t Support Mandatory Helmet Laws

Last night, we asked you to take action to oppose a mandatory helmet law introduced in the Maryland House of Delegates’ Committee on Environmental Matters. In response, some of you asked for additional information on the “debatable” effects on bicyclists’ safety and the negative impacts on cycling that a mandatory helmet law would have.

We vocally and overwhelmingly approve of helmets here at WABA. All of our staff and volunteers wear them, we require participants to wear them at all WABA events, and we teach how to wear them properly in all WABA education classes. Helmets provide an important last line of defense in the safety equation during a crash. When everything else has gone wrong, helmets have saved many bicyclists from more serious injuries or even death. We don’t get on our bikes without our helmets and we strongly encourage every cyclist out there to wear one.

However, mandatory helmet laws requiring all bicyclists to wear helmets are not effective at increasing helmet usage without significantly affecting ridership. There are many studies that show helmet usage increases when laws are passed—but critically, not without a negative effect on overall bicycle ridership. In Australia, ridership dropped 37.5 percent between 1985 and 2011 after such a law was passed. During the same time, population growth was three times higher than the growth of cycling, meaning following the passage of a mandatory helmet law, there was a net decrease in bicycling.

These laws negatively impact bicycle ridership by throwing up one more barrier (financially and behaviorally) to bike riding. Therefore, a potential bicyclist will be driven to choose another mode of transportation. Additionally, a recent New York Times article quoted Piet de Jong, a professor in the department of applied finance and actuarial studies at Macquarie University in Sydney: “Pushing helmets really kills cycling and bike-sharing in particular because it promotes a sense of danger that just isn’t justified—in fact, cycling has many health benefits.” Jong has studied the public health impacts of bicycling and has concluded that the positive health benefits outweigh risks of helmetless riding 20 to 1. In a country in the midst of an obesity epidemic, encouraging a few miles of bicycling everyday could lead to a considerable reduction in overall healthcare costs. And as jurisdictions like Montgomery County consider bikesharing programs, it’s important that those programs are accessible. Mandatory helmet laws in Maryland could potentially kill the momentum for bikesharing, as the law would promote a sense of danger for cycling, ignoring the obvious overall health benefits.

And finally, these laws are merely an easy “fix” for legislators that distract from larger safety issues—such as the lack of safe, separate and comfortable places to ride. Adults and kids need safe spaces to ride on our roads that are separate from cars. We at WABA believe there are better legislative ways to keep bicyclists safe, such as better and more targeted enforcement of current traffic laws (especially distracted driving), increased bicyclist education, and, most importantly, the construction of separated bicycling facilities.

Helmets are an important part of keeping bicyclists safe and WABA enthusiastically supports their promotion and use, but mandatory helmet laws do more harm than good.

The Maryland House of Delegates is considering removing the “under 16″ age requirement of its current mandatory helmet law in HB 339 to require all bicycle riders to wear a helmet. Please take a minute and contact the members of the Committee on Environmental Matters and ask them to oppose HB 339.