Kate ZieglerPosted: April 11, 2013
This is Kate Ziegler, the other half of Union Jack Creative. When I photographed Jack Romano last month, me mentioned that his partner is also a cyclist, so we got in touch. After weeks of emails trying to find a warm-ish, sunny day to shoot, we just decided to go with it despite the cloud cover. In addition to her design work at Union Jack Creative, Kate works in Operations at the downtown office of the law firm Mintz Levin, and is a co-founder and site leader of Hollaback! Boston, a local chapter of an international organization working to end street harassment. Kate and Jack also happen to be my neighbors in the lovely Fort Hill neighborhood of Roxbury. Kate has been cycling in Boston for six years, starting after she got sick of waiting for the bus and of Jack getting home way before she did on his bike. She rides and commutes daily, even throughout winter, on her Mercier fixie with Weinmann wheels and a Brooks saddle salvaged from the parts bin at Bikes Not Bombs.
Kate and Jack have managed to create a largely car-free existence for themselves. They get around almost exclusively by bike, and rent cars as needed for holidays, occasional errands, and weekends out-of-town.
On cycling in Boston, Kate says,
“There’s almost nothing better, in my opinion, than leaving dinner or a show or a friend’s apartment in Cleveland Circle late at night in the summer, and hopping on a bike instead of piling onto the train or fighting for a cab.
It’s the closest thing I’ve found to teleportation. Boston is small enough that it’s really feasible to bike just about anywhere”
… and on this she finds challenging,
“I once wiped out on a watermelon rind in Chinatown, which must have been quite a sight. I think enforcement of parking restrictions in travel lanes and in bike lanes across the city would make a huge difference in the comfort and confidence of newer cyclists. Improving the maintenance of those lanes so that they’re rideable would be a boon as well.”
An interesting thing happened during our meetup. After shooting, we rode down Cedar Street towards the Southwest Corridor. While waiting at the light, a passing pedestrian asked me why I wasn’t wearing a helmet. He wasn’t accusatory, but rather seemed concerned. I thanked him for his concern, and we moved on. It’s true, I don’t always choose to wear a helmet, especially when riding to and form work, which is matter of blocks along an exclusive bike path. My general rule is that I choose to wear a helmet if I’m crossing The River (the bridges are kinda scary). Yes, I know collisions can happen anywhere, and that this rule is completely arbitrary. The reason though, is that I’m not convinced that a helmet will do much to protect me in a collision with a car or truck. Plus, I like to feel the wind in my hair. Kate elaborated on some of her thoughts on helmets after our encounter with the concerned passerby:
“I … think there’s some work to be done regarding the public understanding of helmet use and the perception of cycling as inherently dangerous. The simple fact is, helmets are not proven to prevent injury in the vast majority of car-bike collisions. Helmets are rated for low-speed impacts, like those a child might experience when biking, which is one reason we legislate helmet use for children and not for adults. I choose to wear a helmet because, frankly, I’m a klutz, and it’s not unlikely that I could take a fall from a near stand-still, but Boston chooses to perpetuate the belief that helmets are a necessity and riding without one is idiotic, as we saw with the recent “there’s no excuse” campaign. Unfortunately, though the intent was to encourage safer cycling, the effect of Boston’s perpetuation of the myth that cycling is risky behavior is to make it easier to blame the victim when tragedies do occur. We should wonder why our first response is to question what the cyclist was doing “wrong” – whether that perceived wrong is being in the road, not wearing a helmet or something else – rather than to question what adjustments to our transportation systems could reduce the likelihood of such accidents.”
Yes, yes, yes! Ride on, Kate!