(photo courtesy of Alison Dewey)
Meet Alison Dewey. A thirteen-year employee of the League of American Bicyclists’ national headquarters in Washington D.C., Alison oversaw the creation of the League’s Bicycle Friendly America suite of certifications (Bicycle Friendly Community, Bicycle Friendly State, Bicycle Friendly Business, and Bicycle Friendly University). She also ran the National Bike Challenge (the first of which was in collaboration with the Kimberley Clarke corporation as an outgrowth of its Bicycle Friendly Business program).
Alison now serves as the League’s Education Director. She oversees and updates materials for the League’s Smart Cycling curriculum for both adults and youth as well as its new Bicycle Friendly Driving course and free, publicly-accessible educational tips, videos, and class-finder.
Additionally, Alison is in charge of training for an elite group of coaches (about 23 nationwide right now) who then train the League Cycling Instructors (about 6,500 to date — with about 3,000, including me, currently active), who then offer diverse bike education opportunities throughout the USA. Talk about a ripple effect!
Alison also likes to teach classes herself, with a focus on youth (photo below provided by Alison). In short, just about any bike education in the USA right now has Alison’s fingerprints on it — which is why I chose to kick off this month-long “You Go, Girl” series with her. (I also recently survived a hit-and-run and Alison extended a particular kindness to me.)
I asked Alison how she first got involved with bike riding and advocacy work. She told me that although she rode a bike while in college, it was when she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal that she experienced the transformational impact of using a bike as everyday transportation*. Alison said:
“Riding a bike in the Peace Corps was a great way to connect with people, and provided me with a freedom I couldn’t find in other ways.”
After Alison returned to the USA and began a master’s degree program at Boston University (where my younger daughter is currently an undergraduate and a BlueBikes bikeshare member), she bought a bike at Bikes Not Bombs and got a job at a bike shop named Landry’s, which sent her to her first National Bike Summit and paid for her course to become a League Cycling Instructor. She eventually moved to D.C. with her husband (who had a job opportunity there). Fun fact: The first bikeshare system in the USA launched in D.C. the year that Alison was hired at the League of American Bicyclists there.
In addition to her national work, Alison served on the board of Massachusetts Bike and the bike master plan committee for the county where she currently lives in the D.C. metropolitan area. Now a mother of three daughters between the ages of nine and thirteen, Alison and her husband are preparing them for a 140-mile bike ride from D.C. to Pittsburgh on a rail trail called The Gap. The girls commonly ride twenty miles on their own. Alison told me:
“I’m conscious of illustrating to them how much they can do. If you work hard, you can do a lot.”
Alison has worked hard, and managed to keep the joy in her journey. She paused a moment and then shared with me, “You know, at least once a month someone says to me, ‘Alison, you look so happy. You look so alive.’ I laugh because, of course I do — I just arrived on a bike!”
Her advice to you?
“I encourage you to get on a bike. It really kinda sells itself.”
Tap in every day in August for my “You Go, Girl” series showcasing 31 Women in 31 Days who are making it more welcoming to ride bikes in the USA. If interested, you may enjoy my book, Traveling at the Speed of Bike, where I share with you the journey to become a League Cycling Instructor (and more) in a country-at-a-crossroads. All proceeds from the sale of my book help more women and girls ride bikes.
* This just makes me more excited for my Peace Corps Uganda service. I was due to leave in June 2020, but am delayed until at least August 2021 due to COVID-19. Just like Alison, I am part of the agriculture cohort, and I will be issued a bike to use as transportation.
Series to date: