Four takeaways from Pro Walk/Pro Bike and Women’s Cycling Summit (from someone who wasn’t there)

Four takeaways from Pro Walk/Pro Bike and Women’s Cycling Summit (from someone who wasn’t there)

Elly Blue debuted a test for determining
whether bike ads are sexist. This one wouldn’t pass.

I didn’t make it to the big Pro Walk/Pro Bike advocacy conference and the National Women’s Bicycling Summit that were down in Long Beach last week; but I did follow it closely via Twitter and other outlets. From all the news and opinions I’ve read, four things stood out. I share them below in case you missed them too.

Mark Gorton’s calls for radical reform
Mark Gorton, the web entrepreneur and financier behind Limewire, Streetsblog, and Streetfilms, gave a keynote that brought the house down. Gorton has recently launched a global initiative dubbed “Rethinking the Automobile” and his speech certainly seemed to meet that goal. Channeling one of his inspirations, former Bogota Mayor Enrique Peñalosa, Gorton exclaimed, “Birds fly, fish swim, people walk,” and he added that making it impossible to walk in our cities is a “human rights violation.” Cities have become so auto-centric that Gorton believes, “We have crushed the ability of children to move about their own world.” To thwart the dominance and negative impacts of cars in cities, he suggested that, “We should not be building any new automobile infrastructure.”

How can we push for such dramatic change? “We [people] are the majority. Cars don’t vote,” Gorton said. He also called for a new campaign to change the way people think about transportation.

For more on Gorton, and to follow his work, check out

Cycle Chic Fashion Show created a buzz (and it wasn’t good)
As many bike conferences and large events tend to have these days, the National Women’s Bicycling Summit held at Pro Walk/Pro Bike included a bike fashion show. Unfortunately, from what I’ve heard, the Cycle Chic Fashion Show seemed to have had too much chic and not enough cycle. Karen Brooks, editor of Bicycle Times magazine summed up the feelings I’ve heard from several people:

Unfortunately, this was the one jarring note of the event—after hearing so many powerful messages of empowerment for women and girls, we were presented with a show that seemed to go for the typical shock-value sex appeal of runway fashion. Gold body paint and a bikini for riding a bike? Really? Especially when the guy models were in full-length pants and jackets (and actually riding, not walking)? I talked about it with other attendees afterward, both female and male, and we agreed that it was disappointing.

Check the fashion show as captured by Streetfilms here.

Emily Finch in her own words
Portland resident Emily Finch, whose story about giving up her SUV and toting her six kids around on a bakfiets has garnered worldwide attention, was one of the main speakers at the Women’s Cycling Summit. New to public speaking and to all the fame her story has attracted, she opeted to share a video presentation that told her story in her own words. From what I can gather, it was very well-received. Watch it below…

Elly Blue debuted her “Is this thing sexist?” test
Another memorable part of the Women’s Summit was Elly Blue’s take on how gender stereotypes play out in bike-related advertisements. Elly is known for her smart, outside-the-box take on cycling issues and her “Bike test” is just that. She’s drilled down this sometimes thorny issue into a succinct test made up of three criteria that can be applied to ads, promotional videos, and so on…

1. Are women present or represented at all?
2. Are the women presented as active subjects rather than passive objects?
3. If the gender were reversed, would the meaning stay more or less unchanged? (Or would the image become hilarious?)

Read more about Elly’s thinking behind the test on her Taking the Lane blog.

Did you attend Pro Walk/Pro Bike or the Women’s Cycling Summit? I’d love to hear your impressions and highlights…

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