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The Bike Jones of Mindy Surratt

Update: Learn more about Mindy in the Transportation Agency for Monterey County’s Bike Month 2017 feature in the Monterey County Weekly, “Bay View Academy Walk and Roll Program.”

B is for Bi(pedal)ism:

The Bike Jones of Mindy Surratt

Guest post by Susan Ragsdale-Cronin

Mindy Surratt doesn’t like to drive, partly because, as she says, she has the “tendency to hit immovable objects while driving at slow speeds.”

Mindy Surratt 29 April 2015

Ninety-eight percent of the time, Mindy, a mother of two, gets from Point A to Point B on a utility bike loaded with everything she needs for the day, or by jogging while pushing a similarly loaded jogging stroller. But on extra special days, or when she feels like it, she rides her unicycle.

Mindy Surratt and children by DM beach 29 Apr 2015 - 018

The cargo utility bike, referred to as “The Yuba,” has a large basket and panniers that she fills with backpacks, lunches, groceries and lots of other stuff. The jogging stroller, lovingly called “The Ride,” is kind of an organized heap of kid gear on wheels. The unicycle is just pure cool.

Mindy Surratt photo 1

Her son rides straddled on the padded back Yuba cargo rack, hanging onto a rectangular metal hoop that her husband, Tim, welded onto the frame, or tucked in-between the day’s gear of the jogging stroller.

Mindy Surrratt's son

Mindy Surratt photo 2

Her daughter rides her own cruiser. Sometimes up to a half-dozen class chums, that Mindy has taught to ride, join them on their school commutes. Collectively they are lovingly called “the bike brigade.”

Mindy Surratt's daughter

Mindy is manifesting the rewards achieved from her late nineteenth century sisters.

Women before the invention of the bicycle were either a “housekeeper and a drudge” or a “pet and a doll,” as Susan B. Anthony noted. The safety, basically the bike as we know it today, was invented about 1890. The safety was heavily marketed to women, dubbed “the freedom machine,” and women who rode them were called the “New Woman.” A novelist of the time, John Galsworthy, put it this way, “The bicycle… has been responsible for more movement in manners and morals than anything since Charles the Second… under its influence, wholly or in part, have blossomed weekends, strong nerves, strong legs, strong language… equality of sex, good digestion and professional occupationin four words, the emancipation of women.”

Susan B. Anthony, the fireball force of several women’s campaigns in the late 1800s and early 1900s, worked tirelessly until her death in 1906 on the Women’s Suffrage Movement. She also found time to fight for equal pay for women and blacks, to get women admitted to universities, to allow women to retain their own earnings and have their own labor parties.

Even though Susan B. Anthony said she “knew of no heaven or hell,” she also said, “no particle of matter is ever lost….” So I find it fun in the extreme to fantasize about her having gone through a reverse metamorphosis, to her handsome young self, astride a glittering golden bicycle, white pantaloons billowing in a blissful breeze, pedaling through some other-worldly bucolic landscape while yellow warblers whistle out “Ode to Joy.”

In my daydream, I can see Miss Anthony look towards Earth, focus in on the bike brigade and sing out “Ride On!” with great enthusiasm.

Mindy got her severe “bike jones” after pedaling with her husband, Tim, cross-country, after she’d known him for only a few months and decided to take him for a “test ride.”

In 2003, they quit their jobs in Virginia, sold all of their effects, and mounted their trusty “freedom machines” in the August humidity, stopped at a wedding in Colorado along the way, rode to San Diego by way of Arizona and up the California coast and arrived to awaiting jobs in Monterey by Halloween.

Riding a bike is the most efficient form of transportation available today, not to mention the most affordable after walking, or in Mindy’s case, jogging. According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2009, the average annual cost of a bicycle is $308, less than 4% of an average car ($8,200).

Not only does Mindy save money on daily transportation, but she also saves money on clothes. It’s hard to conceptualize these changes over the centuries, but for women, being able to be seen in public in comfortable sportswear was a hard fought battle. Victorian women were required to wear fourteen pounds of undergarments, anything less was seen as a societal evil. It wasn’t until the advent of bicycles built for women, the alluring ability to get out of the house and the fact that women were getting hurt from their long dresses being caught-up in the chain and not being able to breathe properly from the restriction of their corsets that changes in fashion finally happened. Clothing-caused calamities gave The Rational Dress Reform Society the ability to refashion the norm, with a hard-won skirmish in the 1890s that made it possible for women to be seen in public with the positively comparative lightweight donning of only seven pounds of underwear.

Mindy wears event t-shirts and jogging shorts or capris on her bike rides and changes at work. She is lucky enough to work at a facility with showers and locker rooms, but unless she has a meeting, she does her work in her exercise duds. She looks fit and healthy. She has light brown wavy hair that is almost always pulled back into a pony-tail; she has an open, fresh face and is blessed with clear, fair skin, orchid-pink cheeks and a model’s jawline. Even after birthing two children, her stomach is flat and her calves are as hard as un-ripe pears. You can imagine seeing her wide, white-toothed smile look out at you from any J-Crew catalog.

Mindy Surratt and son - 12

Mindy’s rides aren’t just transportation workouts; they’re visual, auditory and olfactory expositions.

The bike brigade’s senses are rewarded with pinkish rays from the rising sun peeking out over boat masts and reflecting on to the bay and the ambiance from pockets of tourists, vendors and street performers tuning up for the day. As they continue their trek past the throng, they pass by more lonely stretches of beach planted with California natives of sage, Indian paintbrush, coyote bush and seaside daisies. The verdant dunes diffuse their aromatic plant volatile oils and mix with the mist coming off the bay. They hear the sounds of small crashing waves punctuated by the huoh-huoh-huoh’s of soaring seagulls and the clucking sounds from pelicans diving for a fresh fish breakfast.

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Mindy is realizing everything that our foresisters worked for…career, marriage and children, service to her community, and free-wheeling transport… a rapturous picture of free untrammeled womanhood, and I’m sure Susan B. Anthony would agree, “a new woman.”

“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on wheels…the picture of free untrammeled womanhood.”—Susan B. Anthony

Ride on, Mindy and family!

Mindy Surratt and children 003

Thanks to Mindy Surratt for providing the two close-ups of the children’s gear–including the dog–and the photo of the children biking the coastal trail in the early morning.

All other photos in this post were taken by Mari, with those of Mindy and her children snapped after Mari spotted them on 29 April 2015 about 5 o’clock or so, out on their usual bike commute home.

Most people agree that children up to approximately age 13 (some say 9-13) cannot really make the necessary decisions about vehicle speed and distance that allow them to bike safely in the street. Perhaps you’re curious about sidewalk riding and crosswalks. Click here for more info, including a two-minute audio.

Among the many ways that Mindy helps her children, and others, take advantage of the many benefits of biking is through her riding skills and safety modeling. This includes, for example, that she teaches the children to follow her–not pass her–when traversing a crosswalk, and to continue looking for cars, both ways, the entire time they are crossing the street. To further help ensure safety, Mindy does not enter an intersection with children until she’s made eye contact with all of the cars in every direction.

Thanks to Mindy for being a good role model about riding skills and safety. To learn more about this topic, go to Bicycling Monterey’s Riding Skills, Safety, and California Bike Laws–for Children, Teens, and Adults.

See Mindy’s husband, Tim, below at right. You may have seen him elsewhere on the Bicycling Monterey website, e.g., here.

Precious Cargo Carrier - Dad and Friend 004

Below is guest post writer and Del Rey Oaks bike commuter mom Susan Ragsdale-Cronin. For more pics and details about Susan, click here, then scroll down. See some fruit of Susan’s advocacy labors in Del Rey Oaks: Green lanes, sharrows, and traffic calming.Susan Ragsdale-Cronin on Fairground Rd - Dec 2011
Find both Tim and Susan also in Bicycling Monterey’s high-visibility section. And find them at Transportation Agency for Monterey County’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities Advisory Committee meetings, where they both volunteer.
Thank you to Mindy,  Tim, and Susan for advocating for biking in so many ways.
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During Women’s History Month, Bike Month, or anytime…

Bicycling Monterey celebrates the many women ridding societies of the crazy notion that cycling is just for men. Where did such nonsensical ideas come from? Laurel Thomsen shared one example, described in an article by Joseph Stromberg at Vox.com, “‘Bicycle face’: a 19th-century health problem made up to scare women away from biking.”

Here’s to Mindy Surratt, Susan Ragsdale-Cronin, and every woman who bikes!

 

This post was first published on April 27, 2015.

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