2018 Blogging in Review

January: I started 2018 off with a post on a topic I often return to: Kindness Matters. I was then perhaps less than kind in taking apart some sloppy reporting and misunderstandings of crash data in A Bit of a Rant on Data + Data Rant Continued: What a Tangled Web + Slice and Dice Data Rant: Who's Really Number One?

One of the highlights in January: Attending the TRB Annual Meeting for the first time after years of conference envy created by the #TRBAM content I saw via Twitter. A second highlight: Discovering that my social media work had become data points in a research project.

February: As "The Grey" continued (what passes for winter in Seattle) I chose to think back to bike rides I've enjoyed and look forward to more with Washington Counties Challenge: A Statewide Bikespedition To-do List, then updated my musings on modal advantages with Bike, Transit, Car: Three Transportation Perspectives from Seattle.

March: Bike challenges get rolling in March thanks to errandonnee and I spent some time pondering the nature of public commitments, which really worked for me this month:
Oh So Challenging: 'Tis the Season to Track Your Riding
Keep that Streak Going: #30DaysOf Something that Matters to You
Errandonnee 2018: The Initial Plan
Keeping Another Streak Going: #30DaysOfYoga
Errands by Bike Are a Breeze (and Sometimes Breezy): Errandonnee 2018

April: Why 30 Days of Biking? (Or More) -- because Surgeon General Warning: Bicycling Can Be Habit-Forming and because Beating the Bus, and Other Bicycling Benefits. A couple of posts on the WSDOT blog about getting ready for National Bike Month: Bikeways Aren't Just for Bicyclists and Clean Sweep: Trail maintenance on the list to prepare for National Bike Month, major events.

May: I rolled in Bike Month with a game -- Play Bike Bingo! Great Excuse for a Bikespedition and a report on 30 Days of Biking 2018: Rolled All April. And then it was vacation time on a bicycle tour with my sweetheart, with a side of Reclaiming Yoga.
On the Road Again: Getting Ready for a Washington State Bike + Ferry + Train Vacation
Day Two: Mukilteo to Port Townsend
Day Three: Port Townsend to Port Angeles
Day Four: Port Angeles to Lake Crescent
Days Five and Six: Lake Crescent to Victoria, BC

July: I looked back on the bicycle tour with Bike Tour Planning: (Relationship) Lessons Learned So Far and examined one aspect of what crash statistics tell us in The First Question Is Always WHY? on the WSDOT blog.

August: Too many instances to count led me to write Event Planning 101: It’s Transportation + Accessibility Information, Not Parking Information. In a gentler mood I looked at how my reading habits have evolved with technology in How I've Been Reading.

September: This month was packed with travel to conferences so if you want to know what I was thinking and learning, search Twitter on @barbchamberlain and any of these hashtags: #bikeshareconference #walkbikeplaces #aashtoAM (and check out my November post below). Meanwhile I did squeeze in a call to update our usage in Hey (We’re Not All) Guys! Why I Don’t Use “You Guys”.

October: Social media takes so many hits that I decided to provide a different take with A Little Love Note to Twitter. Just in time for the State Trails Conference I published another goals list, Trails in Washington State: A Bikespedition Goal. Toward the end of the month I couldn't resist updating 13+ Reasons Bicycles Are Perfect for the Zombie Apocalypse (and Other Disasters).

November: Thanks to Better Bike Share Partnership and the North American Bike Share Association, video from the national bikeshare conference enabled me to create a transcript of my closing plenary speech in Give Your Power to Truth: What Story Are You Writing for Your Life?. As we rolled into the Season Of Overeating an evening hosting #bikeschool on Twitter inspired Happy Holiday + Awesome Alliteration.

December: We're back into The Grey, although it's strangely sunny in Seattle today with blue skies. Given the usual winter wetness this month I offered up how-to winter bicycling tips in Wheeling through Winter, Riding in the Rain: Bicycling Gear ABCs to Keep You Rolling. My Bike Style Gift Ideas: Three Products I Love and Why I Love Them post is good any time of year -- tuck it away for inspiration around birthdays, Mother's Day, Valentine's, "Just Because Day" gift-giving.... And like many others I put together some of those Big Thoughts for the end of the year in #BikeIt: What’s On Your List? and More or Less.

Looking back on the year reminds me of posts I meant to write (like a list of books I loved this year) and ones I started but didn't finalize, like some thoughts on bicycling in New Orleans from my trip to Walk Bike Places. That's a good one to run some grey day to cheer me up with memories of bopping along on a bikeshare bike through the French Quarter, eating beignets with Naomi, listening to live jazz, and other great experiences. For now I'll leave you with this moment of Zen from a bike ride on the north bank of the Spokane River.

More or Less

It's that time of year.

You know, the time of year when we pretend that an arbitrary mark on a human creation for tracking the movements of the earth on its axis and around the sun means we can become a different person.

A whole new you. Shinier. Better. Healthier. Calmer. SOMEthing-er.

As a teen I made lists of the many ways in which I was going to upgrade myself to some impossible external standard really only achievable via airbrushing and lies.

Not that I think there's anything wrong with setting goals or trying to change or improve. But "Live Your Best Life" is a pretty high bar. Exhausting, really. Some days it's a win if it I lived My Pretty Darn Good Life, or even My Reasonably Acceptable Life Given that It's Only Tuesday.

And I'm one of the very fortunate ones. I have someone to love who loves me back, children who bring me joy and some -- ahem -- insights into my tendencies, a job I enjoy that I'm good at and in which I make a difference, a solid home, easy access to healthy food, clean water to drink and hot water in which to bathe, transportation choices, an extended family and friends who can give help if I need it -- on and on. So much goodness. So many things that make my life easier rather than harder.

Mock road signs on a pole. top sign: White background, arrow pointing right, word MORE in black. Bottom sign: Orange background, arrow pointing left, word LESS in black. Blue sky with puffy clouds in background.
I'm not going to make resolutions with a capital R. As Betsy says (I quote Betsy pretty often), if you think of something you want to change you could just do it now, not wait for January 1 as if that date has some kind of magical quality.

I am going to make some lists of More/Less.

More forgiving. Less absolute.
More realistic. Less all-or-nothing.
More pragmatic. Less puritanical.

Like this:

MORE              LESS         
Salad                 Sugar
Moving             Sitting
Mindfulness     Impulse
Kindness           Judging
Sleep                 Late-night reading

This is a start and doesn't include every idea I had in thinking about this structure. What would you put on your version of this list?

Related reading

A Little Love Note to Twitter

I know, I know, Twitter can be a poisonous realm filled with evil trolls.

But it brings me good things in a celebration of serendipity and the spread of good ideas that I don't find elsewhere.

Some examples that inspired this post:

I follow Andrea Learned (@andrealearned) and have for years. I found her when I lived in Spokane, worked in communications, and was building my women's bike blogs list, among other things. We had biking and communications in common. I followed her.

Then I moved to a job in Seattle (for which, by the way, Twitter provided some of my brand-building and influencer identity). I met Andrea in person, we became friends who occasionally get together for bike rides and coffee, and I realized just how much of a leader she was in bridging the worlds of sustainability, bicycling, social impact, green business, and online influence.

So I follow her, retweet her, and look at who she recommends and amplifies. This recently gave me a "you are there" series of tweets as Andrea participated in a climate-action bike ride at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco.

Andrea shared a story recently that taught me how few influencers/changed opinions it takes to turn the tide on something you care about by sharing a link to this Fast Company piece: The magic number of people needed to create social change. The magic number? 25 percent--just one in four.

The whole notion of hashtags as a way to link people with common interests illustrates how Twitter can bring strangers together around a shared idea. A few examples from my interests, and there are many:
  • When I look at the spread of concepts like #CrashNotAccident, with people calling out media coverage that doesn't follow the AP stylebook and makes it sound as if a driver hitting someone was somehow inevitable or unavoidable, I know it's worth engaging to keep up the drumbeat.
  • More recently #DriverNotCar has emerged--an especially important distinction as we begin to have self-driving cars tested on public roads. The next time you read an article about someone injured or killed while walking or bicycling, look at whether the reporter actually says the driver did it or whether all the actions are attributed to the vehicle.
  • Andrea started the use of #bikes4climate to highlight the value of bicycling as carbon-free transportation. 
  • Every Thursday night from 6-7pm Pacific time #bikeschool takes place: A "guest prof" asks bikey questions, people chime in with answers. I regularly serve as guest prof and it builds such community that when a #bikeschool regular came to Seattle on a visit, several of us got together for beer and met in real life for the first time.

Another phenomenon I can attribute directly to Twitter activity: The number of people I meet at conferences with whom I can forge a strong and immediate connection. When I introduce myself if the response in a tone of recognition is, "You're Barb Chamberlain?!" I know to answer with, "You must be on Twitter." The answer is always yes.

Why? Because I live-tweet conferences, briefings, any setting in which I'm able to use Twitter to disseminate information relevant to my work and my passions. I type like the wind and I'm good at picking out sound bites--or what we used to refer to as sound bites before they became tweetable comments. A few examples from September 2018, which was a somewhat over-conferenced month for me but one full of great learning and connecting:
#WalkBikePlaces (which was attended by more good live-tweeters than many I go to)

If you've been avoiding Twitter because you know it's abused by bots and ranters, you don't have to let them scare you away. It can be a space in which to connect, share and learn. And there's always the function that lets you mute certain keywords for a much more...civilized experience.

Wondering where to start? I've compiled some lists around various interests, particularly active transportation and equity. Andrea has a big batch of lists focused around sustainability, climate change and corporate social responsibility. You can follow a list or just look at it to pick out a few people you find interesting. You can always unfollow later if you change your mind. It's not like Facebook, where people (should) only let you connect if they know you in real life and then get their feelings hurt if you unfriend because you're not all that interested in pictures of their grandchildren.

At its best, Twitter lets you learn from and connect with total strangers. If this post encourages you to give it a try--or to come back to an account you started years ago but haven't been active on--give me a shout at @barbchamberlain to let me know. Then we won't be strangers.

Related Reading

Hey (We’re Not All) Guys! Why I Don’t Use “You Guys”

Let me put my English degree and years of copy-editing experience to work and start with a handy little grammar lesson: In most instances when you would say, “You guys” you can say “You” and the sentence works just fine.
  • Wait staff to diners: What would you guys like for dinner tonight? Would you guys like to see a dessert menu?
  • Social butterfly to a bunch of friends: Where do you guys want to go tonight?
  • Emcee to an audience: Are you guys ready to give it up for Famous Guest Name Here?
  • Anyone, to any group anywhere: Are you guys [verb]-ing?
This has been grating on me for a while now between hearing it live, on the radio, and from podcast hosts. (Side note to podcasters and announcers: Run a transcript of your last show and highlight every occurrence, then come back. I'll be here.)
I’ve been working to purge my own use, I hope with a fair amount of success. I’ve read a number of articles about the inherent sexism in having a male-gendered term--because oh yes it is--used as a collective. Each one reinforces my feeling that we need to address this default setting.

The capper came just last week. I will let the highly male-dominated conference I was attending remain nameless, along with the male emcee.
I had just finished discussing this very topic with the people at my table--four women, five men, although two of the men were having their own sidebar conversation and probably didn’t hear my little lecture.
We had talked about how someone bothered by this in the workplace brought it up only to be told that they were “too sensitive”. I think we were in general agreement that this created an unwelcoming climate at the same time we’re trying to recruit a lot of people and are actively seeking to diversify the workplace.
I work in an agency whose headquarters and regional offices are essentially big concrete boxes full of engineers--most of them men, many of them approaching retirement age. Some of them participate in STEM outreach and mentoring and we have interns and recent graduates in the workforce.
Do you suppose the young women being mentored want to be referred to as “guys” or think they have an equal chance of advancement if the agency’s default setting is one of guy-ness? I mean, it already is full of guy-ness by virtue of who’s there now so we need to try extra hard to be inclusive and welcoming.
All I know is that when the emcee congratulated two (senior executive) women receiving an award by saying, as they exited the stage, “Congratulations, you guys,” the other women at the table and I all made eye contact and nodded. There it was again.
We’ve worked through similar changes before. We’ve come to recognize that using words that only include some of the people in the room reflects the implication that some people belong there and some don’t.
Many of us are working to overcome that history--to move away from default settings that privilege some people as the norm and mark others as the exception. You wouldn’t look at a room full of people who embody a variety of races, ethnicities and cultures and say, “Hey white people, where should we go for dinner tonight?”
I’m not suggesting it’s easy. Like any habit, changes in your word choice will require effort. This is a lot of historical baggage we’re packing around. (And if you’re a man you have pockets in which to carry this stuff. Women mostly don’t.)
Seriously, folks, if women had been in power throughout the ages would we be addressing groups of all genders by saying, “You gals”? And if we were and you were a man in this system how do you think you’d feel about that?
Let me give you one more reason to purge “guys” as a collective term. Some people are born in a body that means their family and friends refer to them as a guy. They go through difficult work to represent themselves as who they really are, and their true self isn’t a guy at all. How do you suppose it feels to have people still calling you a guy at that point?*
Here’s a list for you. Practice a few times so these become a reflex. Some are better suited to following “you”, some work better after “hey” or “okay” or “so” or some other little throwaway word you use to signal that you’re about to say something. Or you could, y’know, just say what you need to say.

One more thing to know: It doesn't require that many of us making the change to get society to shift. Just one in four, according to this study at University of Pennsylvania.
Useful Collective Terms***
  • Folks
  • People
  • All
  • Y’all
  • All y’all (for a bigger group)
  • Team
  • Friends
  • Family
  • Colleagues
  • Group
  • Everyone
  • VERB-ers, VERB-iers, VERB-ists:** If you’re engaging in a specific activity this can be useful--partiers, gardeners, balloonists, card players.
  • NOUN lovers/aficionados/VERB-ers or NOUN participants/attendees: Food lovers, birdwatchers, stamp collectors, workshop participants, conference attendees
Age-specific as appropriate (and it often isn’t):
  • Kiddos (only for kids)
  • Young people (only to young people--no need to jokingly referring to old people as young people as if there’s something wrong with being old)
  • Elders
Now, if you’re in a meeting of all guys, or a bunch of people named “Guy”, by all means use “guys”. (At which point you might also want to bear in mind that you’re now in a meeting that doesn’t represent the perspectives of the majority of people in the world. So there’s that.)
We are all learning, every day, how to treat each other with kindness, dignity and respect. Our words matter and can move us toward or away from a more inclusive world.
If acknowledging that you've unintentionally included some and excluded others with your words feels too hard, maybe check your values orientation a little more closely. No, wait--scratch that “maybe”. Just do it.

Several Footnotes
* Obviously some people making this transition are delighted to be referred to as a guy. Somehow I don’t think when it’s used in this careless collective that it’s meant to include you specifically on the basis of your gender. They aren’t thinking about gender or inclusion at all--that’s the underlying problem.
** You will find me giving the exact opposite advice about VERB-ers if I’m talking about usage in transportation. I tell people not to use the terms “bicyclist” and “pedestrian” to refer to people biking or walking. This is because I strive for people-first language to remind everyone that we’re all people no matter which modes of transportation we use.
If I were starting off on a walking or biking tour I’m most likely to say “OK, group/folks/everyone, let’s get going”. It wouldn’t be the end of the world in that context if I said “OK, walkers/riders, let’s get going”. But if I’m editing a policy document I’m in people-language mode.
*** My extra-cranky final note where I lose a bunch of you because you think I’m being too picky: I don’t include terms for groups of people on the list above that you might expect to see, such as “tribe”. I am not a member of any tribe and don’t think it’s okay for me to appropriate that word, whereas if you are a tribal member referring to others it's completely fine. I don’t use “posse”--they used to hang people, remember? And so on down a list of collective nouns that either don't apply or carry a burden of history I don't want to bring into the room.
Basically I try not to use any collective referring to a specific group defined by its religious beliefs, race, ethnicity, or some other characteristic or practice I don’t share. If I do it’s because I don’t actually know that word’s derivation, at which point I hope you’ll share that historical information with me so I can update my practice. I will be genuinely, sincerely appreciative.
Related Reading
Any Terms to Add or Avoid?
  • What collective words do you use in place of “guys”?
  • Any you avoid because they represent a group definition that doesn’t apply to you or the people you’re addressing?