Monday, May 31, 2010

Women Who Bike: Aida Berkovitz

Aida Berkovitz: San Francisco bicyclist in Barcelona, 2008. Photo: Aida Berkovitz.

Aida mountain biking at Lake Tahoe. Photo: Aida Berkovitz

What's your bicycling style?
I'm very knowledgeable about how to ride safely in traffic and I always signal my turns. I find that drivers will avoid doing crazy things around bicyclists when they know what we are intending to do.

When did you start biking?
I've always liked bicycle riding, ever since I was a child. I wa in college n the early 1970s when the 10-speed racing bikes from Europe became the rage. I bought my first adult bike then, the one which I still have. I rode to school every day and when I graduated and started my career, I upgraded to a new bike. Shortly after purchasing it, it was stolen from the van that was moving me from California to the East Coast. It was many years later -- after getting married, raising my daughter, and moving back to California (a span of about 22 years) -- before I got back on a bicycle.

When did you return to bicycling?
In my job as a traffic and safety engineer with the Federal Highway Administration, I became a pedestrian safety and design expert. I got elected to the Board of Directors of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) and served as president for a couple of years. I realized that I also needed expertise and experience in bicycle design as well, so I rented a bike on a trip to Nantucket. I fell in love all over again. I got home and bought myself a nice hybrid-type bike and rode around the city. After about 6 months of riding, I upgraded to a lighter bike.

How much do you ride today and where?
I probably ride about 3 to 4 times a week to run errands, visit my mother, and then I add a weekly longer ride for exercise. My car sits in the garage most of the time getting dusty. I get great pleasure now from moving quickly around town and not having to worry about finding a place to park. I love riding in city traffic and particularly love it when I can move faster that the vehicles around me.

What can San Francisco do to encourage more women and girls to bike?
I think the best way is to ensure that they have easy access to training in how to ride in traffic. Providing more bike lanes and some separate bicycle facilities also seems to encourage more women to get out and ride more often. I think the fact that bicycling in San Francisco has become stylish has gone a long way to encouraging younger women to use bicycling as their primary form of transportation.

Has your cycling led to new friendships or other relationships?
I met my husband on the Cycling Singles website in 2005; we married two years later. We ride together all the time. We find that bicycling has a certain serendipity to it. We discover interesting places and events whenever we are out on our bikes. We often take vacations with our bikes. I met my good friend Lynne Howe (profiled here) through a SF Bicycle Coalition event, and we now ride together about once a week. I also met lots of great bicycling people when I was on the board of the APBP.

I get upset when I'm biking when ...
I see bicyclists who flagrantly make unsafe bicycling maneuvers, such as riding the wrong way down a bike lane, riding at night without any lights, etc. I also get upset when vehicle drivers fail to use their signals.

I surprise people when I bike by...
being middle-aged and still riding as is I was young and slightly fearless. I also surprise people with how I dress when biking.

My message to women who want to try biking:
Take the League's Effective Riding course.* Then get out and ride with a more experienced friend, to help give you more confidence and practice.

* Editor's note: Another option is the Urban Cycling Workshops provided by the SF Bicycle Coalition.


Women Who Bike is a collaborative effort by BIKE NOPA and Bikes And The City that features San Francisco women and their bicycles. Each Monday and Wednesday check both blogs for the experiences, stories, and ideas of women who bike the city. See the other profiles in the Women Who Bike series and on Bikes and The City.

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