Biking has taken off dramatically in the past few years in Boston, and Jess Robertson has been right in the middle of it. I asked her about her advocacy work and a new, for-profit bike venture she and a friend are launching.
You’re helping your friend Kathryn Carlson with a bike-related Kickstarter project. Give me your elevator pitch.
Kathryn (on the left in the photo) and I are typical busy women who happen to go everywhere by bike. As anyone who rides a bike can attest, one of the hassles of urban biking is figuring out how to carry your stuff—and having to carry it with you when you get off your bike. So Kathryn designed a lockable bike trunk called the Buca Boot that you can use open for bigger things like grocery bags, but which also locks so you can leave stuff in it when you walk away. It’s also beautifully designed, which is an area where the bike industry in general has a lot of room for improvement. The idea is that by making it a little easier for people to choose their bike for everyday trips, we’ll get more people on bikes more often! The Buca Boot is on Kickstarter right now, and we’re hoping to raise enough to set up the first round of manufacturing. We need to raise another $35,000 by Oct. 23 or we don’t get a penny, so we need all the support we can get!
Speaking of bike innovations, do I have it right that you were involved in the launch of the Hubway bike-sharing program in Boston? Have you been surprised at how fast it has taken off?
I had the privilege of helping launch Hubway both at my old job working for the Boston bike czar Nicole Freedman and in my current job at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. I’m thrilled at how well Hubway has done, and it’s exciting that more stations will be added each year. Frankly, I’m not surprised that it’s taken off because the thing about biking in Boston is that as soon as you try it, you realize it’s so much faster, easier and more fun than any other way of getting around! The beauty of the bike share is that it’s a gateway drug for biking—it allows people to try it out without making a whole lifestyle adjustment.
There’s a mayoral campaign in Boston right now. Are the two candidates talking about issues like bikes and transportation? Do you think it will make a difference in the election?
I’ve been incredibly impressed with all of the candidates’ attention to bike issues. I helped organize the forum sponsored by LivableStreets Alliance, Transportation for Massachusetts and a number of other groups, and it was an amazing experience to see all of the candidates on stage talking about bikes and other transportation issues in a way that would have been impossible just a few years ago. I love the idea coined by a certain Wall Street Journal editorial board member of the “all-powerful bike lobby.” Of course, in reality, we’re far from all-powerful, but cyclists tend to be pretty passionate and engaged, so I hope we can show it at the ballot box.
I’ve heard you make a point of biking in your work clothes whenever you can. Does that include skirts and high heels? How does that work?
I don’t do it to make a point so much as I just hate to change! I’m not the type who goes straight to work and straight home, so whatever I wear has to work for the office, wherever I’m headed in the evening, and the bike rides in between. I love skirts and heels and wear them on my bike all the time. Certain skirts are easier than others to bike in, but pretty much any heels work, since you actually pedal with the ball of your foot. The key is to look for clothes with a little bit of stretch. And if you’re worried about getting sweaty, just bike slower!
*Photo credit: Nathaniel Fink
Four Questions is a weekly interview column featuring interesting people connected with the Greater Boston Jewish community. Find past columns here. Have an idea of someone we should interview? Email Molly!
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