Each year, the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition (SBBike) honors women who have made significant contributions to area cycling. The Velo Wings Awards ceremony takes place as part of CyleMAYnia, a month long celebration of all things cycling. This year’s recipients are being celebrated for their commitment to advocacy and increasing bike safety.
The awards are the brainchild of bike coalition Education Director, Christine Bourgeois. “Biking is such a male-dominated sport. We are always seeing men on podiums, but I am surrounded by amazing women in the cycling community; ladies biking across America, ladies competing in the Olympics, ladies working to make positive changes in infrastructure. We should celebrate the people who are doing so much for the biking community.”
Traditionally, the awards have been given to three recipients; however, this year’s list includes five. “I see our list getting longer and longer,” says Bourgeois, who notes that the growing number of women in cycling is also being recognized at the national level by bike companies and conference organizers.
For recipient Lori Lee Collins, better biking is a key to creating stronger, safer communities. The Carpinteria Elementary teacher has been volunteering her time to teach youth biking for over five years. “I am really trying to bring all things biking-related to Carpinteria,” says Collins, who is working to connect local schools and area organizations to increase resources. “By implementing bike education programs we can help the environment, help families stay healthy, and have fun.”
Charlotte Belyea and Tammy Saurman also volunteer to bring bike education to children. The two teachers collaborate to increase safety among Santa Maria teens through Pedal Power, a six-week course covering road rules and basic bike maintenance. Says Belyea: “We teach them traffic safety and rules of the road. It’s really like pre-Drivers Ed for these kids.”
Many of Belyea and Saurman’s students come from low-income families. Graduates of the six-week program receive a free bike, helmet, lock, bike map, and lights. “These are things that they probably would not have access to otherwise,” says Saurman, “they are really grateful and proud.”
Award recipient Holly Starley has merged her passion for social equality with her talent for writing. “I love writing about the committed, intrepid dreamers, people who have worked for many years to help improve cycling infrastructure and culture,” she said. Starley has created 18 editions of Quick Release, SBBike’s newsletter, as well as numerous cycling articles, all with the same end goal in mind. “Bike advocacy is about equity. It’s about making sure that everyone has equal access to safety on our public roads.”
Cynthia Stahl volunteers her time to create images that educate and inspire. The graphic artist’s work can be seen this month in the beautiful bike flags flying over State Street. She has spent many hours creating artwork for bike newsletters, flyers, and posters. Stahl says she wants her art to help “highlight the amazing work of the SBBike staff and large volunteer force.”
On May 13, these five women will take the stage to be recognized for their outstanding work. Their ongoing contributions will support a safer, more connected Santa Barbara community.
The Velo Wings Awards takes place on Saturday, May 13, from noon to 1 p.m., at Bicycle Bob’s of S.B. on 320 S. Kellog Ave. For more information, visit sbbike.org/velo_wings_2017.