Welcome to 1×10, where we ask 1 inspiring human 10 questions about how they are using cycling as a force for good. Read on to meet the insightful and delightful Andrea Learned. She created #Bikes4Climate, and offers practical tips to help get more people (of all backgrounds and cycling experience) to commute by bike.
1. How / why did you fall in love with cycling?
I just naturally followed my siblings into riding as soon as possible around our small-town Michigan neighborhood. I was probably 5 when I got my first bike and I bet the training wheels came off pretty quickly (or, I’d like to remember it that way, given how much I love to bike now).
2. Favorite bike?
The bikes I’ve owned as an adult have always become my all-time faves. My first bike as an adult (which jumpstarted my biking as transportation) was a re-built 3-speed Peugeot Mixte (1971 orange frame!) that CityBikes, worker owned coop, in Portland made for me back in the late 1990s. I rode that thing up until 2012 – so it had seen years in Bellingham, WA, Burlington, VT (fewer real biking months, but still!) and then Seattle. My next bike, which I still have is my beloved Kona Mixte 9-speed, which has been perfect for getting around these hills (and given me decent workouts while I got around town). I now also have an eBike on loan from Trek – a Super Commuter – which has enhanced my local downtown biking reach significantly, and comes in really handy on the super dark winter evenings if I need to ride back up the steep hill to my house. I am among the many long-term city cyclists who will TOTALLY proclaim the beauties of having the “e” boost. It is not cheating. It will help more people get on bikes.
I am among the many long-term city cyclists who will TOTALLY proclaim the beauties of having the “e” boost. It is not cheating. It will help more people get on bikes.
3. What’s the most memorable ride you’ve done, and what happened?
For me, it was really the first time I took a “road ride” rather than my usual city riding. My boyfriend at the time didn’t bike around town at all, but just said “let’s ride up to Council Crest” (in Portland OR). That seemed like a super steep hill and quite far away from where I lived (I had never added up my typical city mileage, I guess). I think it’s probably 12 miles roundtrip, with a super steep section that you just can’t imagine making it up. I did fine and he taught me tips about taking the lane and “owning” your space that have been very helpful in all sorts of riding since. So, just realizing I COULD do these amazing long rides for beautiful views and some sustained cardio was a gift. From then I have lived/done road rides of the 20 – 26 mile range in some gorgeous parts of the country, mainly leaving from the door of wherever it was I was living at the time. I love it. But, my day-in and day-out is biking as Seattle transportation.
4. Who do you admire in the cycling world?
I see the daily bike commuters or short trip riders around me (and in other cities, thanks to my Twitter friendships) as the most amazing. We are collectively being an example and nudging forward behavior change (and infrastructure changes) one ride and conversation at a time. I feel really lucky to be in this passionate, committed group of city riders.
I see the daily bike commuters or short trip riders around me (and in other cities, thanks to my Twitter friendships) as the most amazing.
5. Top tip for a new rider, or a cyclist about to take on a new challenge?
I always try to remember what it felt like that first few months I was riding the streets in Portland way back when. If you get the basic lights set up and study/explore routes when you are NOT in a hurry, and then can commit to doing it for even a 1-2 week trial period (start in late spring, so you have MONTHS of good weather to make it a habit), my guess is you will be hooked. For safety, it really helps to look drivers at intersections and otherwise passing you in the eye. Even if sunglasses, windshields and such seem in the way – I’ve found that that “sense” of you drilling into them with your eyeballs can be felt. Be assertive with your angry eyes!!
6. Favorite trend or innovation in cycling?
E-bikes, hands down. I feel lucky to have been nudged by a friend to start riding a traditional bike so long ago, but I totally understand how hard it is for newbie riders to conceive of it. The eBike “boost” is just the thing to make it quickly fun and force the issue of how much faster you can get around by bike. Getting more people to ride bikes for short trips, if not commutes, is the goal and eBikes are a game-changer.
Getting more people to ride bikes for short trips, if not commutes, is the goal and eBikes are a game-changer.
7. What are you doing to use cycling as a force for good?
#Bikes4Climate is the tag I believe I started, and I use that to curate information, stories, influencers and all things good/positive about getting more people on bikes as climate action. It’s a simple thing we already have the tools to make happen, and it just involves being louder about it, emphasizing safe streets etc. I started it when I was working for a climate action NGO during COP21 around the same time the #cities4climate tag was launched. I realized then that my personal commitment to bikes (which started out of a need for commuting speed, not any altruistic climate cause) really aligned, and that helping get MORE people on bikes could make a difference. As someone whose work is more about B2B and organizational level opportunities, I’m all for calling out the city leaders and corporate leaders who talk a big game about climate action and resilience and are ACTUALLY riding a bike or proving their support in other big ways. “Name and fame” is my method – and that’s another thing I do via the #Bikes4Climate tag.
“Name and fame” is my method
8. Thinking about the work you’re doing, what do you see as the potential change for people or the planet? If you are successful, what impact will you have?
Getting more people on bikes makes for healthier, happier humans who get to work faster, and get around town with joy, all of which happens to help lower GHG emissions, particularly in U.S. communities (… in these oh-so challenging times…). Sell the happy, healthy, faster solution to people – make it easy for them to “on ramp” to biking – and the climate action impact is an incredible side benefit. On a global scale, this is one reason I love the work I do via the Global Call for Climate Action Board. Supporting and amplifying global city biking campaigns because of the air pollution decreasing benefits, while not their only focus, is an important one I can contribute to. The local (Seattle) becomes national and global, and we can bring that back to local. Helping campaigns in India makes me happy, and I feel solidarity with biking friends there as I ride around Seattle.
Getting more people on bikes makes for healthier, happier humans who get to work faster, and get around town with joy, all of which happens to help lower greenhouse gas emissions
9. How can people help?
In the broadest sense, anyone who currently bike commutes or bikes short trips can start telling/sharing their stories of LOVING it more loudly and with their many networks (personal to business). Use #Bikes4Climate tag if you are seeing things to share/have news/have our own stories/photos to add to the conversation on Twitter (and elsewhere). The whole idea, to me, is to normalize all shapes, sizes, races, dress codes, income brackets, etc.. being seen riding bikes. Then, those numbers help policy makers get with the program etc.
The whole idea, to me, is to normalize all shapes, sizes, races, dress codes, income brackets, etc.. being seen riding bikes.
10. Where can people go to learn more about your work?
Most likely place to find me is Twitter – @AndreaLearned. Second best place is LinkedIn, and you can find an archive of all I’ve written and learn a bit more about me and my deeper marketing to women career/and my social capital building/thought leadership writings at LearnedOn.com
Andrea Learned is a media and influencer relations strategist working with startups, corporations, and nonprofits to amplify their sustainability, climate action, and social impact leadership. She also created #bikes4climate and is a passionate cycling and climate change advocate.
Edited by John Kim. When he’s not out for a ride, John uses his expertise in Corporate Social Responsibility to help companies do well by doing good. Find him at firstname.lastname@example.org or VirtCyc on twitter or instagram.