I had just started setting up the registration table for the National Women’s Bicycling Summit when Emily Finch arrived. She was the first — and she was nervous.
A couple of months ago, when I asked the car-free mother of six if she’d be willing to speak at the event, she joked: “So let me get this straight: You want me to leave my husband with six kids in a house that operates like a giant vortex for neighborhood children and their accessories, come to a town with the word ‘Beach’ in it and talk to adults about bikes? Done. I’ll be there. Can I leave now or is it too early?”
Still, as a non-traditional “advocate” Finch felt a bit out of her element at the event. To counteract her fear of public speaking she created a video for her portion of the panel on Family Biking and Car-Light Living… and, for many, it was the highlight of the Summit. The applause and cheering following her presentation (below) rang out through the entire first floor of the cavernous convention center.
“I’d read everyone’s bios and was completely freaked out about speaking in front of a group of people about bicycles when I don’t know anything about bikes; I don’t even know how to fix a flat!” she says. “By the end, though, I kind of had this epiphany: I realized that I was actually a bit of a strange bird in the bicycling movement. I’ve made strange choices, like having six kids and staying home with them and cleaning all day. And I am so very happy with my choices, and don’t feel the need to be liberated, in a sense, from them, and yet my bike has brought me unspeakable happiness and joy.”
“I realized that I wanted to continue to spread the message that biking is soooo much fun (and realistically, sometimes a pain in the ass) to women like me, women you might expect to be the last type of people to get on their bikes, kids in tow,” she adds. “So basically, I left the Summit with the realization that my voice is important. Before the Summit I was really, really ready for the aftershocks of the BikePortland article to flatten out, so I could get back to life as I knew it. Now, I’m ready to continue the conversation, so to speak. The Summit was just so helpful in that it brought a diverse group of women together, with a common love for all things bicycle, and I think we each went home with a renewed sense of purpose in sharing our vision in our communities and the world.”
Stay tuned for more from the Summit…
Carolyn SzczepanskiCarolyn joined the League in March 2012, after two years at the Alliance for Biking & Walking. In addition to managing the League's blog, magazine and other communications, Carolyn organized the first National Women's Bicycling Summit and launched the League's newest program: Women Bike. Before she crossed over to advocacy, she was a professional journalist for nearly 10 years.