Issue: 3 | January 11, 2012

Call for Proposals Continues

There are just over three weeks remaining to submit your presentation for Pro Walk/Pro Bike® 2012. Our deadline is 8pm Eastern, February 1. Details on the submission process and conference themes can be found on the Call for Proposals page.

People of Pro Walk/Pro Bike®

Meet Melissa Balmer of Long Beach, California. For the past six months, Melissa has been hard at work, recruiting speakers for the conference, developing mobile workshops, and doing those hundreds of things needed to make sure your conference experience in Long Beach is first rate. In what is left of her spare time, Melissa has been at work on the Women on Bikes So Cal initiative, which will be featured in the Pro Walk/Pro Bike® program. Last week I had a chance to chat with Melissa about that initiative, and to get her thoughts on how Long Beach fits into our grand scheme to make this country a better place for walking and biking.

Question: Why is Women on Bikes So Cal needed?
Two reasons: to celebrate and inspire. We have a fascinating, dynamic, eclectic bicycle culture that's blooming here. I feel that if we tell those stories in an engaging, beautiful, and fashion forward way we'll inspire other women across this region (and maybe this country) to either get back on a bike or try it for the first time.

There are already very well done blogs here in So Cal and across the nation doing this, but because So Cal such a sophisticated media market I wanted to take things to the next level. I want WoBSoCal to grow from a blog to a full-fledged website magazine with cutting edge digital technology.

Southern California is suffering just as much as the rest of the nation from the effects of sedentary living. We should be the Mecca of active living for all of our citizens. To make this happen I feel both women and the bike are key. We women are complex creatures. Yes, we need to feel safe and secure riding a bike, but many of us also need to feel it's a fun, cool thing to do as well before we make up our minds to give it a try.

Question: Something I noticed on my first visit to Long Beach is that many of the change agents are women. You are a native of Long Beach, is this the case?
Yes, we are very fortunate to have women playing key change agent roles here--and I feel especially fortunate to have many of them working with us on WoBSoCal. Vice Mayor of Long Beach Suja Lowenthal and Andrea White-Kjoss, COO & President of Bikestation are both spokeswomen, and April Economides of Green Octopus Consulting is our "Bikes Mean Business" columnist. Locally WoBSoCal wouldn't exist without Andrea, she started it all.

It's also vitally important to give credit to Sumire Gant, who is now retired from the City of Long Beach Public Works Department, but who was the one who quickly, quietly, and efficiently went about raising the first 20 or so million for Bike Long Beach after the City decided it wanted to become bike friendly and who brought Charlie Gandy to the City.

I also feel very fortunate to have the collaboration and guidance of the mostly female team at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (this is not to forget LACBC's Colin Bogart, he's great). They are marvelous to work with and I am very excited that Executive Director Jen Klausner and Planning and Policy Director Alexis Lanz are our cover story for WoBSoCal's January 15th edition. I hope everyone will check it out at

Question: Thinking 5 and 10 years beyond Pro Walk/Pro Bike, what is your vision for Long Beach?
If the political will continues on the course it's going, Long Beach will not only hit its goal of becoming the nation's most bike friendly city, but it will be one of the sustainable gems of the West Coast. With much less fanfare than the bike program city leaders, staff and dedicated citizens have put into play very progressive water conservation, recycling, urban community gardens and more. We also have a top-notch mass transit system, a port that is a leader in green thinking, and some very exciting urban greening and revitalization ideas in the works.

Both our City and business leadership are now recognizing the appeal of leading Long Beach's narrative as a sustainable active living minded place.

Question: I understand that you are planning some other events around the Pro Walk/Pro Bike conference. Something about bikes and fashion? Maybe this is something you'd suggest people stick around for?
I so hope they will! It's going to be so much fun. Thursday evening September 13, WoBSoCal will host the "Cycle Chic Dress for the Destination" urban bike fashion show. Our special guest is Mikael Colville-Andersen who will be a keynote at Pro Walk/Pro Bike®. Andersen not only coined the term "Cycle Chic" but also launched the worldwide movement from his blog from Denmark in 2006. The fashion show will showcase an array of California's fashion forward bicycles and top fall fashion with an emphasis on sustainably produced apparel.

We also have an array of other fun, active, arts and cultural projects in the works that happen during and following Pro Walk/Pro Bike® that will make Long Beach a "must" visit location during the conference but also during the weekend that follows as well.

Question: What excites you most about hosting Pro Walk/Pro Bike® 2012?
It's two fold. I'm excited to have my city play host and show it off, but I'm even more excited about the talent that will be coming here and finding ways to bring that expertise and inspiration to new audiences. Becoming involved in biking and pedestrian advocacy has created a mid life renaissance for me personally; I want to share it with those in need of a new career and those just starting their professional lives.

The second is being a part of the power of fashion and media conversation and the power to change hearts and minds it can bring to the biking and walking agenda. There is so much rich opportunity here to tap into.

Question: Tell me something that nobody knows about Long Beach.
It's a very charming place to live, both because of the friendliness of our citizens and the beauty of the setting. Yes we have gritty, we have industrial, and we have one of the world's largest ports... but we also have very distinctive historical neighborhoods and business districts each with their own style and flair.

My wish for those who attend Pro Walk/Pro Bike® is that they will get out and get to know Long Beach via the Mobility Tours and that we are walk/bike and mass transit friendly. You won't be sorry you did.

About Pro Walk/Pro Bike®

Established in 1980, the Pro Walk/Pro Bike® conference is the premier venue in North America for pedestrian and bicycle professionals to present their work while learning from peers in the disciplines of planning, engineering, state and local government, public health, advocacy, and public policy. The three-day conference will feature 1,000 participants and a rich mix of breakout sessions, interactive poster exhibits, mobile workshops, and plenary speakers of national and international renown.

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