Q&A: Jess Mathews of Consider Biking

By
From the May 1, 2014 edition

Consider Biking’s outreach coordinator Jess Mathews is taking back the street — for cyclists.

The Columbus native advocates for transportation alternatives, and has been working tirelessly to make Columbus safer for cyclists and pedestrians. From organizing “girls only” bike rides like “2 Wheels and Heels,” to hosting the second state-wide Ohio Women’s Bicycling Summit on May 3, Mathews is determined to disarm intimidation and get Columbus moving.

I graduated with a science degree, but being a cycling advocate is my calling. I honestly never thought I’d be doing this, but I think about bike advocacy and safety all the time. It’s constantly on my mind. I lived in San Francisco and used my bike for everything. When I moved back to Columbus, I got involved with Consider Biking, and eventually was asked to be part of the staff. Now I organize a women-only bike ride called “2 Wheels and Heels” to get women cycling, and I am hosting The Women’s Bicycle Summit on May 3. Columbus has a long way to go, as far as education and infrastructure to make biking more accessible, but every day I see more people out riding. That shit is dope.

Women are taking on a prevalent role in the cycling world. For a while, the cycling world was dominated by men, but more and more women are becoming active within the community. Female mechanics are showing up everywhere, and are helping to disarm any intimidation that might keep a woman (or anyone else) from riding. I think bike shops are realizing that riding is for everybody, not just people who want to race competitively.

CoGo rocks the house. CoGo being available is an amazing thing for Columbus. It gives people a chance to try biking in the city without the commitment of purchasing a bike. I love watching people come out of the Convention Center, hop on a CoGo and explore the city.

Columbusstreets aren’t equal. Cyclists and pedestrians need to be vocal and reclaim our space. Roadways don’t just belong to drivers, though the infrastructure heavily favors cars. In the past three years there have been some major improvements with drivers being more cognizant of cyclists, but there will always be some asshole yelling, “Get back on the sidewalk!” We need to make it safer, because people want to ride, but they are too damn scared. The people with the power to change these things are ready, I think they just need a push.

Alternative transportation options are beneficial to everyone. Columbus is full of young, creative professionals, and those people will keep their talents here if we offer them options, including transportation. In the last three years, evidence has shown that offering transportation alternatives helps cities grow. When you have 100 people or more riding to work on a bike instead of using their car, that is a vibrant city where people want to live.

Photos by Meghan Ralston