Monday, May 10, 2010

Women Who Bike: Aurelia d'Andrea

One big ride from NOPA: Aurelia at the German/Czech border

Aurelia's everyday riding uniform with dog Fanny along for a great spin. Photo: Edna Johnson

BIKE NOPA and Bikes And The City spin into the second week of our new collaborative bike series,Women Who Bike. Each Monday and Wednesday we feature San Francisco women and their bicycles. Check both our blogs for the experiences, stories, and ideas that women who bike the city want to share with you. Post your thoughts and leave comments for the featured riders.

Third in a series: Aurelia d'Andrea

How do you characterize your bicycling style?
I'm definitely a cautious rider. I ride fast but only because I know these streets intimately -- and all their potholes and fissures and sketchy intersections. I've always got my eye on parked-car doors, on the cars behind me, and my general surroundings. Defensive riding is the way to go in this city.

How often do you bike and what for?
I'm an everyday rider. We've recently gone car-free, so my feet and my two-wheeler are my primary modes of transport. As a graduate student at SFSU, I do the 15 mile round-trip to campus a couple of times a week, as well as to the Farmers Market, library, and weekend entertainment venues around the city. I also ride for pure fun: we've pedaled out from our NoPa abode to China Camp and Samuel P. Taylor parks for overnight camping trips, and last summer we spent a lovely month cycling from Rome to Berlin.

What can be done to encourage more women to bike, including teens and younger?
It's important to understand that a bike should fit your lifestyle and not the other way around. You shouldn't have to overhaul your whole wardrobe to neon-yellow Lycra and skin-hugging Spandex to start cycling. My everyday riding uniform is heels and a dress. It's comfortable and practical, but people are still surprised by the idea of fashion-friendly cycling. I always explain to those who ask that it's much easier to cycle in heels than to walk in them! Also your bike can be a form of expression; mine is plastered with animal-rights and environmentalism stickers, so I get to engage in a bit of low-key activism each time I ride. If you find the idea of the city's hills intimidating, the Bike Map that the SF Bike Coalition gives away with memberships is really wonderful in terms of helping you plot the flattest routes.

How many of your best dates/friendships started with biking?
I used to be a very heavy smoker, but my husband, a long-time cycling enthusiast and bike industry expert, bought me my first grown-up bike and encouraged me to ride. Somehow, I finally quit that terrible habit while simultaneously picking up a new one: cycling! It's been many years since then, and we've definitely bonded over this shared love of riding.

I surprise people when I bike by ...
toting my dog, Fanny, in my pannier. She's clipped in for safety, and she really loves our cycling adventures a deux, especially when they include a stop in Golden Gate Park. The novelty factor of the cute dog in a basket never seems to wear off -- everyone has something to say about it!

My message to women who want to try biking ...
is to get yourself a basket and/or panniers. Riding with clunky bags or purses on your back isn't practical or comfortable, but a basket does double duty for holding groceries, dogs, your jacket, or the picnic lunch you'll be eating once you arrive at your destination.

Aurelia lives in NOPA on Golden Gate Avenue.

Catch up with the BIKE NOPA series; the first profile is here and the second here. Willing to share your biking stories? Contact me at .

Be sure to check Bikes And The City for more Women Who Bike profiles.

Percentage of Female Cyclists in San Francisco Edges Up. 29% of city cyclists were female in a study conducted by the SF Municipal Transportation Agency in 2009. The number has climbed steadily over the last few years: from 24% in 2007 and 27% in 2008.

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