Raising money can be a tough gig. To build a bicycle-friendly America, we need the financial resources, but making the ask isn’t always easy — or successful. Over the past few weeks, though, I’ve been inspired by two women who turned their passion and dedication for cycling into significant funding for local bike projects.
First, here in the nation’s capital, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association is launching a new Women & Bicycles program. (The League’s Women Bike program is working closely with WABA, so, don’t worry — you’ll hear plenty more about this innovative pilot project in coming weeks and months!) Of course, to implement the program the organization needed to raise some cash. Inspired by the effort and wanting to help in some way, Megan Jones — a WABA member, bike commuter and triathlete — came up with a self-professed “crazy” idea: The Hains Point 100. While everyone else was kicking back, spending a cozy pre-holiday weekend eating cookies and wrapping present, Jones would ride 100 miles to raise money and awareness for the Women & Bicycles initiative.
Now, I’m privileged to live just a few blocks from Hains Point — a three-mile, low-traffic, paved loop that hugs the Potomac river. It’s an absolutely divine place to ride, but 100 miles? 33 times around? Even the glittering water and glimpses of the Washington Monument get old on that many go-rounds — especially when the temperature is barely inching into the upper 30s.
But, in literally a matter of days, word of the effort rippled across the metro region. Dozens of people committed to come and ride all 100 miles — or just a few laps — with Jones. Shortly after the fundraising needle passed $1,000, a private donor came forward with a $4,000 match challenge. By the end of 2012, the Women & Bicycles campaign had far exceeded that, banking more than $10K for the new effort. I only made it 10 laps before my frozen toes cried mercy (that’s me being swallowed by my ginormous blue scarf in the picture above), but Jones did all 100 miles with a smile on her face (and a Women Bike button on her jersey!).
Then, a few days later, Frank Peters of cdmCyclist, shared the story of April Morris. In September, the deaths of two women bicyclists on two consecutive days in Newport Beach, Calif., reverberated across the country. Both local residents and bicyclists from across the region came together in grief, concern and an impassioned desire to make their streets safer. April Morris led the charge to turn that outpouring into action.
Morris, who lives in nearby Anaheim but bikes Newport Beach streets, worked with the city council to set up a memorial ride for the two women who died. When she started organizing, her definition of a successful ride was 250 people. On the day of the event, the police stopped counting when they hit 1,200 riders.
But beyond riding, residents and area bicyclists wanted to do more to ensure safer streets. Again, working with the city, Morris helped to spearhead a groundbreaking fundraising campaign that combined municipal and individual donations to shore up the Newport Beach Bicycle Safety Improvement Fund. For every $1 contributed by a private donor, the city matched it 3-to-1. With dollars coming in from surrounding communities and even other states, the fund has swelled to more than $300,000.
Did Morris (pictured right) get some push back? Sure. Did she let it stop her? Heck no. “If I could do anything to prevent another death from happening on the streets of Newport Beach, that was my goal,” she told Peters on his radio show. “I do know [the two victims] would have been proud of what we’re doing and what’s happening with the money.”
Speaking of getting fired up (you knew it was coming…), show your passion to get more women riding by registering for the National Women’s Bicycling Forum, coming up on March 4, here in Washington, D.C.
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.