Aaron Naparstek: the Evolution of an Advocate from Honku to StreetsBlog and Beyond (Part 1)

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Aaron and his son in the controversial Prospect Park bike lane. Photo from naparstek.com.

In the past decade, New York City has seen a remarkable transformation from one of America’s worst bike cities to one of its most progressive. Like any political movement, the change was a confluence of many, many factors. And Aaron Naparstek seems to have his hands in a whole lot of them. From Honku–a neighborhood campaign centered on haiku about traffic–to work with Transportation Alternatives to founding StreetsBlog, he has played an important role in New York City’s evolution towards walkable, bikeable, livable streets.

In part one of this far-reaching interview, Aaron discusses his current work as a MIT Visiting Scholar and his recent Loeb Fellowship at Harvard, his roots in neighborhood activism and streets advocacy, and the foundation and growth of StreetsBlog, an influential advocacy journalism outlet in the livable streets movement. Part two continues next week with our discussion of pivotal moments in the history of New York City’s bike advocacy, the work necessary to continue its growth as a bike-friendly place, and the successes and shortcomings of modern American bike advocacy at large.

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Bill Schieken: Cyclocross Passion and the Art of SVENNESS

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Photo by Sean O’Donnell.

Cyclocross lends itself to obsession. Participants either love it and go all in or hate it vehemently. Rare is the middling cross racer with a lukewarm attitude. Bill Schieken of In The Crosshairs falls squarely among the cross obsessed. He is best known for SVENNESS, a web series that recaps the major international cyclocross races and breaks down racers’ technique and strategies. (The title is a play on Sven Nys’ name and a nod to his dominance and nearly-unparalleled bike handling skills). But SVENNESS is just the tip of Schieken’s cyclocross iceberg. He also launched a similar web series, Like a Vos, that’s focused on women’s racing, runs a cycling team, wrote a cyclocross skills book, is a photographer, announces races, is a race series director, and occasionally finds time to actually race. I spoke to Bill about the evolution of In the Crosshairs, SVENNESS, Skills, Drills, & Bellyaches, his history with racing, and much more.

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A Throwback to My First Bike Camping Adventure

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Every week, the #ThrowbackThursday meme fills my Twitter and Instagram feeds with photos of friends’ childhoods, drunken college antics, and old vacations and adventures. That stream of remembrance got me thinking about some of my own past bike adventures. I decided to do my own version of Throwback Thursday and tell the story of my first time camping by bike.

I took my first bike camping trip in May of 2009. I’d built up a Long Haul Trucker the previous winter and spent the spring commuting on it between Silver Spring, Maryland where I was living at the time and my newspaper internship in Bethesda. No less prone to daydreaming about bike adventurers then than I am now, I often passed time at my internship thinking up potential trips and chatting about them with my fellow intern and would-be bike tourist, Jeff.

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The earliest incarnation of my touring bike.

It was Jeff who inspired me to finally make one of those proposed bike adventures a reality. A few days before Memorial Day Weekend, he told me he and his girlfriend Ava were planning an overnight bike trip along the C&O Canal and invited me to come along. Their plan was to ride to the hiker-biker site nearest the White’s Ferry crossing, camp, take the ferry across to Virginia the next morning, then ride back to DC on the Washington & Old Dominion trail. I was on board and set about borrowing a tent from a friend in DC and a decades-old foam sleeping pad from my roommate so that I could join the ride.

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Nelle Pierson: Innovations in Advocacy to get more Women on Bikes

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Nelle Pierson at the 2012 National Bicycle Summit. Photo from the League of American Bicyclists.

Washington Area Bicycle Association (WABA) Outreach Coordinator Nelle Pierson is only in her mid-20s, but she’s already making a big impact in the bike advocacy world. The Alliance for Walking and Biking named her Advocate of the Year at the 2014 National Bicycle Summit. Bicycling Magazine recently listed her as one of 14 bike advocacy innovators. This is in large part thanks to the work she’s doing with WABA’s Women & Bicycles Program, which she launched and continues to spearhead. Through it, Pierson is working to get more women on bikes and help narrow the pervasive bicycling gender gap. We discussed her work with WABA and the Women & Bicycles Program, her quick rise in the advocacy world, her long history with bikes, and some of the underlying issues of the gender gap.

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Martina Brimmer: Swift Industries and the Empowerment of Adventures by Bike

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Photo courtesy of Martina.

Martina Brimmer is the force behind Seattle-based pannier and bag company Swift Industries. She’s also a dedicated bike tourist, adventurer, writer (she is a co-contributor, along with me, to the forthcoming bike touring guide Cycling Sojourner Washington), teacher and more. She and her partner, Jason Goodman, launched Swift Industries out of their home in 2008. It’s now a full-fledged business with full time employees and customers worldwide. I sat down with Martina in the Swift studio to talk about the challenges, successes, and growth of the company, her bike adventuring, her literary project Tough and Tender, and much more.

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