November 01, 2013
Kate enjoying some off-road riding. (Image: YannPhotoVideo)
As a way to introduce you to the people behind PeopleForBikes, we do a short interview on the first Friday of every month. The theme? Bicycling firsts. Last month we interviewed our government relations manager, Nikki Javurek. This month, we turn our four questions to our marketing + communications manager, Kate Powlison.
What is your first memory of bicycling?
Bicycling was my ticket to freedom…to buy food. My earliest memories of bicycling involve riding my blue L.L. Bean mountain bike one mile to Barner’s Farm Market to buy penny candy (gummy snakes and candy cigarettes) or to Theresa’s Deli to buy a meatball sub and Hershey’s peanut butter cup ice cream. Bicycling was how I got my hands on junk food I couldn’t find at home.
Kate test riding one of her first bikes. I guess I was used to carrying groceries from a young age.
When did you first fall in love with bicycles?
When I arrived as a freshman at college, I wasn’t sure where I fit in. I was supposed to be on the soccer team, but I wasn’t in shape enough or interested enough to be very good. I had received a road bike for my birthday earlier that year, so when I saw there was a cycling team on campus, I decided to check it out. Collegiate cycling struck the perfect combination of a welcoming team atmosphere and an individual endurance sport that I participated in on my own terms. Riding a road bike also allowed me to explore the beautiful area around campus in a way that my feet or car couldn’t. It helped me develop relationships with people outside the college that I value to this day. By the time I graduated, I owned a fleet of bikes and was 100% addicted. Bicycling gave me both a deep independence and a special community, which is still why I love it.
Taken a few months after I started road biking. I was out of shape but I loved it! (Yes, my college mascot was a purple cow.)
When did you first know bicycling would be part of your career?
Because I came into bicycling from the recreational and competitive side and never lived in a community where normal people got around by bike, I remember the exact “Aha!” moment when I started to realize the full scope and power of bicycling. A professor gave a presentation to my senior seminar on transportation bicycling in Muenster, Germany (where he grew up) and Madison, Wisconsin (where he went to grad school). He told us about his involvement with advocacy efforts to make bicycling safer in those places, and explained how the design of an urban place can affect the way people get around and interact. I started to understand how bicycling is far more than just exercise or racing—it’s a tool for building happier, healthier communities. A few months later, I was bike commuting every day to my first job in Boston. Within a year, I was working at PeopleForBikes.
Speaking to students at Colorado’s Heatherwood Elementary, where up to 8 out of 10 kids bike or walk to school! (Image: Amy Thompson)
What is your favorite thing about bicycling?
I never stop finding new things to love about bicycling. There is a long, long list that I add to every day. A common theme to the many things I love about bicycling is this: it simply makes life better. Anytime I’m on my bike, whether I’m riding to work or out on the trails, life is better than it is when I’m not riding. I feel better, I’m happier, and even when things go wrong, they really aren’t that bad. Any day that I get to ride my bike is a good day!
Riding the entire 2012 Tour de France course, the hardest thing I’ve ever done on a bike. (Image: Robertson/Velodramatic)
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