Practical Feminism with Elly Blue

Elly Blue

Elly Blue is a writer, publisher, speaker, and bicycling advocate based in Portland, Oregon. Her publishing company, Taking the Lane Media, produces feminist non-fiction about bicycling. She has written, edited, and published books, zines, and other independently produced media and is also an active speaker on tour with the Dinner and Bikes project.

In addition to her writing and publishing accomplishments, Blue co-founded PDX by Bike, a business that helps people find their way around Portland by bicycle, and a nonprofit business alliance called the Portland Society.

Her first book, Everyday Bicycling, came out in December, 2012. Her next full-length book, Bikenomics: How Bicycling Will Save the Economy, comes out in February 2013.

Follow Elly Blue on Twitter @ellyblue

1) What inspired you to start producing feminist zines largely focused on bicycling?

I made the first one in 2010 when I was at a crossroads. I’d left my job editing a blog and was trying to figure out what to do next. My partner (and now publisher!), Joe, was planning to go on a month-long tour to show movies and sell books. I was at odds and ends I figured I might as well go too. I wanted to have something to sell, gift, and trade, so I wrote a long form essay venting my increasing frustration with sexism I’d experienced in the bike movement. Someone told me about Kickstarter and it all fell into place. I made zines as a teenager in the 90s, and it felt good to revisit that format in a more polished form at the same time as rediscovering my feminist ideals from that age.

2) What has been your most effective tool for connecting to other (feminist) bike activists and for finding an audience for your work?

Events! I sell and promote books and zines online out of convenience, but really love making connections in person. Joe and I have kept going on tour together every year, and now we travel with an amazing vegan chef and put on really fun Dinner and Bikes events. We are coming to flyover country this May — our schedule is getting finalized quickly.

It’s been especially rewarding to be part of the recent crop of women’s bicycling advocacy events, mostly organized by the League of American Bicyclists’ Women Bike program. The energy in those rooms is incredible, and it is exciting to feel like you’re part of a small but pivotal moment in history.

3) What are one or two pressing issues related to women’s cycling that you wish people were paying more attention to? Why?

Feminism is a big deal in cycling right now, but we really need to get away from the general narrative of women being fearful. Not that we can’t be afraid, or shouldn’t talk about it—but it makes advocacy battles unnecessarily difficult, when you’re saying at the same time that we need to invest in this edgy new kind of infrastructure for bicyclists, but at the same time that bicycling is dangerous and scary so people don’t want to do it. From a marketing perspective, fear is a dud, unless you want to sell pedal-powered tanks. Want to win women’s hearts? Make the connection between cycling and jobs.

Also, I predict that the new generation of leaders and role models in the bike movement will be women of color — that sea change is already happening, and it’s heartening to see that fact being acknowledged and amplified by the old guard, especially the League.

4) What do you love about Portland, (where you live, bike, and write)?

There are so many things I love about Portland! Bicycling here is for the most part, easy, and there’s something for everyone. We also have a really high density of independent bookstores. I love that.

5) Favorite under-the-radar writers and or blogs?

There are so many to choose from! I love reading Urban Adonia’s blog. On paper, the Dames on Frames zine comes out infrequently (you can download back issues online here). and has great content, in both Spanish and English. But most of my written inspiration lately is coming from the 1970s — I love the handmade aesthetic and the unabashedly huge, world-transforming visions of the Whole Earth Catalogs and the books they offered. That’s where I first heard of zines, from the big, white one that came out in the 1990s.

This is part of an on-going series of interviews with activists around the world who are putting their feminism into practice.

If you have any suggestions of people we should interview (including yourself), please write us at flyover[at]flyoverfeminism[dot]com.

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