By Lisa Deaderick
The San Diego Union-Tribune
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Skii Fleeton takes some time to talk about her bicycle advocacy work in the United States and abroad, her passion for cycling, and this weekend’s “Women Ride IB” event.
The San Diego Union-Tribune
Skii Fleeton became really passionate about advocating for bicycle safety because of her kids.
“Honestly, just from taking my kids to school on the bike and seeing how dangerous a school zone can be with so many cars. That is how my passion really started and that is how my alter ego, ‘Bicycle Mum,’ was born in 2012,” she says.
Although she’d always been a supporter of general bike safety, her experience with her children kicked it into a higher gear, and when she and her family moved to San Diego in 2014, it wasn’t long before she joined bicycle-related committees and associations, working on boards and outreach and other projects.
As membership and marketing coordinator for the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, an organization that encourages bicycling and works to make the activity safer on the road, she’s also coordinating the second Women Ride IB event to encourage more women to ride.
Fleeton, 42, lives in Chula Vista with her two sons and their dog. The Australian native took some time to talk about her bicycle advocacy work in the United States and abroad, her passion for cycling, and tomorrow’s Women Ride IB event through the South Bay.
Q: Tell us about the Women Ride IB event.
A: Women Ride IB was an idea that the staff came up with last year. Empowering women to ride bikes in their own community allows for more families to ultimately get out, too. If a woman is comfortable, she will allow her children to do the same thing, and people, especially children, learn by example. Empowering women and families to enjoy their surroundings in a safe and fun way, instead of being fearful, is just the first step in building healthier and more sustainable communities for all.
Q: Why Imperial Beach?
A: Imperial Beach is a no-brainer. Bikeway Village, along the Bayshore Bikeway, is a beautiful hub to take off from for people who ride. It has all of the amenities that a good bike hub should have and maybe you will see the resident flamingo on the tidal flats as you ride by!
Q: Why is this event focused on women?
A: Women are the center of any community. Making women feel comfortable and safe ensures that we are not only engaged, but we are also there to empower and support others that come along with us on our journey. The more we empower women to get out onto the roads, the sidewalks, the trails and the parks, the healthier we will all be, and it will be easily repeated within their families. It is an instinct of most women to want to help and raise each other up, which is why I do what I do.
What I love about EastLake in Chula Vista …
I love that it has just about everything that my family needs. We moved here so that my oldest could train and race at Chula Vista BMX. We are in fabulous school districts, the supermarket is close, there are plenty of parks, mountain bike and hiking trails (we need more), multipurpose trails, wide sidewalks and maintained bike lanes. Nowhere is perfect, but with more advocacy, we can certainly make it better.
Q: What kinds of women-dedicated programs are you hoping to fund as a result of this event?
A: I started the “Women & Bicycles: San Diego County” page on Facebook a few years ago in an effort to connect more women/trans/femme-identifying bike riders in a very organic and non-confrontational way. I am really hoping that we can offer a very San Diego-centric “Women & Bicycles” program that is focused on a peer-to-peer experience, allowing women who ride, the ability to participate in advocacy, education, and lead the way in our bicycle movement here. Currently, we really lack a diversity within the group of people who are making the decisions about how we access, build, and use active transportation and multi-modal mobility. We need to change that paradigm immediately.
Q: Why is bicycle advocacy important to you?
A: Riding bikes should not be a blood sport. It is ridiculous that we give so much power to, and have laws weighted toward, folks who drive three-ton steel boxes, and we automatically blame the people who are injured or killed by distracted, intoxicated and uncaring drivers. Crossing a street should not be life-threatening. Going to school should not be scary for kids. Being forced out onto the road should not qualify you to have a target on your back. We need better education of law enforcement. We need all urban and city planners to be pedestrians, bicyclists, scooter and skateboard riders in order for them to properly design school zones and streets. All roads need to have their speeds reduced, and right and left turns on red lights should become illegal, allowing people to cross safely and unhindered. Adequate and equitable public transportation needs to be in every suburb, with adequate and timely connections throughout the county. Vulnerable road users deserve the utmost respect, the time, and the space to move with adequate safety.
Q: You’ve done a lot of traveling internationally and you worked on infrastructure and safety projects to encourage this kind of transportation. What can you tell us about some of the projects you worked on?
A: Before I started working for the coalition, one of my projects involved getting bike racks for a local school because the school district would not pay for them and the school could not afford them. The principal was very bike-friendly and wanted to do bike-to-school events, but she couldn’t do it without bike racks. So, I procured private funding within a week and organized for school district-approved racks to be ordered and installed at the school. Then, with regular bike-safety assemblies, we got the kids fired up to ride to school. I taught them bike safety, gave out helmets, and had mountain and road trials, and BMX riders do a show. On National Bike to School Day, the school had nearly 300 kids ride, when they never really had an opportunity before. It was epic and it is still rolling strong!
Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
A: “You cannot pour from an empty cup.” As women, we take on so much emotionally, financially, socially, as well as physically and spiritually. Sometimes, we need to just stop and breathe so we can be the very best that we can be. We also need to remember that we don’t have to be perfect all the time, or present, or completely functioning. It is OK to have “off days.” It really is OK.
Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?
A: I am a trained vocalist, and I like to sing when I am riding my bike.
Q: Describe your ideal San Diego weekend.
A: My ideal weekend is spent with my boys, most likely riding the Bayshore Bikeway. We generally stop in Coronado for lunch and ice cream, then ride back home, get the dog, and take him to Coronado’s dog beach. That is our happy place!