Elly Blue’s latest publication, “Bikes in Space,” is a feminist sci-fi zine about her favorite mode of transportation. “I realized that because I work for myself, I can do anything I want,” she says by way of explanation. The amazing truth is that she makes a living writing whatever strikes her fancy about the intersection between bicycling and feminism.
Elly Blue is currently on tour, feeding people a delicious vegan meal and talking about how biking will save the economy. What could be better? Photo: Momentum
Elly is such a fixture of the Portland biking (and blogging) scene that I always figured that she moved there specifically to be part of it. Actually, she moved there for college and didn’t really start riding much until her senior year (at the age of 27 — she started late). In 2004, when President George W. Bush got re-elected, her friends all started threatening to move to Canada and she said, “Not me! I’m going to stay right here and be a bike activist.” She hadn’t really meant to say that, but then she realized it made sense. That drunken pledge has become her life’s work.
Aside from her quarterly zines, Blue published her first book, “Everyday Bicycling,” in December, 2012 and is eagerly awaiting the release of her second book, “Bikenomics: How Bicycling Will Save the Economy.” We caught up at her Dinner & Bikes event in DC this week, part of a month-long, 27-city tour through the Northeast and Midwest.
Tanya Snyder: This is the third year you’re doing this tour. What’s the mission of the tour; what are you hoping to accomplish aside from having an awesome trip?
Elly Blue: Aside from having an awesome trip, the goal of the Dinner & Bikes tour is to feed people a really inspiring meal and bring together people in the community who are passionate about bicycling, often in very different ways from each other, often who don’t know each other. I want to create an atmosphere where people can learn and talk and meet each other and feel inspired and feel like they have the power to make big changes and pursue whatever their vision is for bikes.
TS: You said this is the first time tour has come to the east coast. Have you sampled our bike infrastructure and bike culture?
There’s suddenly this culture rising up around women and cycling that’s bringing something new and fresh and not even engaging in old, stale debates like whether we should have bike lanes or not.
EB: We don’t get to sample bike culture as much as we’d like to, in part we don’t have bikes and in part we’re on the move all day, every day. But I’m from the east coast. I’m from New Haven. We were just back there a few days ago; we did an event there.
I started riding a bike in New Haven when I was 20, and for a couple of years I rode pretty much everywhere I went, and I rode on the sidewalk. I remember having really funny encounters with police where I’d say, “Am I doing something wrong?” and they were like, “We don’t care.”
Then, once, I rode with Critical Mass. They happened to be riding on my commute path. There were nine of us, and it was a completely transformative experience. Being able to ride in the street and feel safe meant so much to me, because it hadn’t even occurred to me to do that. And then it didn’t really occur to me to do that again until I moved to Portland.