Episode 90: All Bodies on Bikes with Marley Blonsky
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Marley Blonsky: I think it all comes back to separating riding bikes for fitness and riding bikes for pleasure or an enjoyment or transportation. People can ride bikes for any reason they want to, and I want to empower them to do it. But also at the same time, if you’re not riding bikes and you’re not out moving your body, that’s also fine. It’s not my job or anybody else’s job to tell you how to live your life.
Sarah Goodyear: This is The War on Cars. I’m Sarah Goodyear, and with me are my co-hosts Doug Gordon and Aaron Naparstek.
Aaron: Hey, guys.
Doug Gordon: Hello.
Sarah: All right. Good to see you all.
Sarah: Yeah, it’s been too long.
Sarah: It’s been a long time.
Aaron: Good to be back in the studio, even though half of us are on Zoom.
Sarah: That’s right.
Doug: Yeah. Aaron is remote. We have adopted a new constitution and a new line of command that there must be one designated survivor of The War on Cars in case something happens to two of us. And today, that’s Aaron.
Doug: He is remote.
Aaron: Let’s hope nothing happens, because I just—I don’t know. I don’t know if I can keep it going without you guys. So …
Doug: You’re far from the nearest road. You should be okay.
Sarah: [laughs] All right. Well, joining us from Bentonville, Arkansas, is Marley Blonsky, a bike adventurer, and advocate for inclusive cycling communities. Marley got her start riding and advocating in Seattle, where she worked on some of the city’s first protected bike lanes about eight years ago. She is comfortable on all sorts of bikes. She rides gravel, she bikepacks, she leads no-drop rides where nobody gets left behind. And Marley is the co-founder of All Bodies on Bikes, which aims to help people of all sizes and abilities to get out and enjoy riding. Marly Blonsky, welcome to The War on Cars.
Marley Blonsky: Thank you. Proud to be a soldier in this war.
Doug: I’m a big fan. I follow you on Instagram and elsewhere, and I’m really excited to have you here.
Marley Blonsky: [laughs] Thank you. Yeah.
Sarah: First of all, maybe you could just start out and tell us the story of how All Bodies on Bikes became a thing, and what it is exactly that the group does, how it works. All of that.
Marley Blonsky: Sure. So All Bodies on Bikes at its core is a movement to empower folks to have joyful movement on a bicycle, regardless of your size or your perceived fitness level, or how you fit into the typical bike culture. And this started actually with my own frustration of not being able to find a rain jacket. I was riding around Seattle. I was going on all sorts of bike trips and didn’t have proper clothing. I’m a larger woman. I identify as fat. I use it as a neutral descriptor, and we can chat about that if you want to. But as a fat woman, finding cycling clothing is really hard.
Marley Blonsky: In the summer of 2018, I was farting around on Instagram and I saw my co-founder, Kailey Kornhauser. She was on a bike ride across Alaska, and she made a post about not having a rain jacket, and I was like, “Oh, we need to connect.” So we started chatting, started doing workshops about size inclusion in the bicycling world, not just about clothing but, you know, getting left behind on group rides, or microaggressions that people would say to us.
Marley Blonsky: And it really hit a nerve within the bike industry. And we got contacted by a filmmaker who said, “We want to tell your story. You know, this is really rad that you guys are going out and doing all these adventures and advocating.” So he pitched it to Shimano. Shimano took the bait, and we made a film. It came out in spring of 2021, and that’s when All Bodies on Bikes was really born. Kailey and I had been doing this advocacy work for years without any structure or name—it was really just something that we cared deeply about. And then once Shimano said, “Yeah, this is something we care about,” it really turned into a movement, and now it’s my full-time job.
Marley Blonsky: So we do a couple of different things. I think the most fun thing is we lead inclusive no-drop rides, and kind of demonstrate how that’s done, and then other communities can pick up on that. We do a lot of consulting work, both with local advocacy groups and ride clubs on how to be more inclusive, but then also with the bike industry on why it matters that they make bigger clothes and stronger bike frames and, you know, removing barriers to people in larger bodies on bikes. And then we have an online community. So we’ve got a really strong Facebook group. Facebook is often a cesspool of awful, and somehow we’ve built this, like, maybe 7,000- or 8,000-person-strong Facebook group where it’s just like oozing positivity. People are posting about their rides or asking for advice, and it’s just a really intentional place. So this fall we’re opening up chapters, so we’re just gonna continue to grow this, and get more and more folks on the bikes who hopefully haven’t seen themselves represented before.
Doug: I love this origin story. It’s like your superhero origin story begins with the quest to find a raincoat. Marley, there’s so much in there that you talked about that I think we want to kind of unpack, and it’s part of the reason why we had you here. So let’s take a break and we’ll talk about it.
Marley Blonsky: Sounds good!
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Aaron: So Marley, you self-identify as a fat cyclist, and I too am a fat cyclist, unlike my marathon-running co-hosts Doug and Sarah here. You know, it’s interesting. I don’t think I would ever call myself a fat cyclist, and so, you know, I’m curious, like, how you came to put those two words together and what it means to you?
Marley Blonsky: Sure. I use “fat” as a neutral descriptor. Just like I am 5’2″, I wear glasses, I’m Jewish, I’m fat.
Marley Blonsky: Basically, you know, it came from listening to other fat activists and fat scholars. And the reason why I put those two words together is it’s my everyday lived experience. You know, when people stop me on the street and say, “Wow, I can’t believe you’re doing that,” or, “Oh, my gosh! What clothing are you wearing? I’m looking for plus-size cycling shorts as well.” You know, when I’m looking for a new bike, I have to make sure that I’m not over the weight requirements. Being a larger-bodied person is really a part of my everyday lived experience, and so I don’t divorce the two. They go hand in hand. That’s why I use it.
Aaron: Yeah, so I can stop calling myself a “cyclist of gravitas.”
Marley Blonsky: You can call yourself whatever you want.
Marley Blonsky: I really believe in the power of words, and they only have the power that we give them.
Doug: But Aaron, I would even say that, like, you said something there, and I’ve really tried to educate myself on this subject, and Marley, you’ve been a big, big factor in this for me, equating fitness with body size, right? Like, there are skinny marathoners who are absolutely unhealthy.
Aaron: [laughs] Right.
Doug: They have eating disorders, they have all sorts of body issues. And there are marathoners of larger sizes who will kick your ass, right? And who are completely fit. And so I think part of why we wanted to have Marley on is to talk about separating the idea of body size from fitness.
Marley Blonsky: A hundred percent.
Doug: We’ve all grown up in a society where those words are married to each other, you know: fat, fitness, obesity. These are all things that kind of like, link up in our culture. But the work that Marley does and other people that I think we all listen to, I’m thinking of the Maintenance Phase podcast, we had Michael Hobbes on, you know, has done really great work to separate these words out. And Marley, like you said, neutralize them, make the words just descriptors. So, you know, on that note, I wanted to talk about the O-word: obesity. It’s a word that is often thrown into the “benefits” quote-unquote of cycling. You know, it’ll address our obesity crisis or whatever that is. Could we talk about, like, why that’s so problematic in cycling advocacy messaging?
Marley Blonsky: I’ll do my best on this. And I think it all comes back to separating riding bikes for fitness and riding bikes for pleasure or enjoyment or transportation. You know, I think often for people in larger bodies—and you’ll notice they use that word instead of calling everybody a fat person because not everybody identifies that way. So people sometimes get mad at me when I use the word fat too generally. But yeah, I think separating those two and saying, you know, people can ride bikes for any reason they want to, and I want to empower them to do it.
Marley Blonsky: Speaking of, you know, the O-word, I do consider it a slur from the learnings that I’ve gotten from other folks like me. I’ve been morbidly obese my entire life. I’m not dead yet. You know, I just rode 50 miles in Vermont that was super, super hilly. But also at the same time, if you’re not riding bikes and you’re not out moving your body, that’s also fine. It’s not my job or anybody else’s job to tell you how to live your life.
Sarah: Yeah. And I think that there’s been an unfortunate tendency in the bike advocacy community to conflate health and slimness and biking as, you know, like, part of the benefits of biking as much as reducing carbon emissions or something like that. It’s like, oh, this is a public health thing because we’re gonna make people skinnier from biking. And I think that’s so dangerous, and it’s so great to see you pushing back on it.
Marley Blonsky: I mean, I’ve been riding bikes for eight years, and then also as a kid. And my body hasn’t really changed. You know, there’s so many reasons why our bodies are the shape and size that they are: genetics or generational trauma or, you know, there’s many smarter people than me who know all this stuff, and I just read it and try and spit it back out. But I could ride my bike all day, every day, and I will still be a larger-bodied person. That’s just how I’m built.
Aaron: Right. And I mean, this whole idea that the bike is a tool for fitness, I find also really, in some ways, limits our ability to think of the bike as a tool for just simply transportation and getting around town. I mean, when you turn the bike into a fitness tool, it actually makes it sound and seem like, you know, something onerous, like, “Oh, you know, I’m getting on my bike, I’m getting exercise.” Whereas I know for me personally, very often I am getting on my bike because it’s actually the easiest way to get around. It’s like I’m getting on my bike almost because I’m lazy.
Marley Blonsky: Yes! I told somebody that the other day. I was like, “I’m a lazy person.” Like, there’s a store three blocks from me, and given the choice, I will ride my bike there because it’s easier.
Marley Blonsky: I have this knee injury right now and walking hurts, but riding my bike doesn’t. So yeah, I think for a lot of folks, biking can be a mobility tool. And if health or, like, you know, increased fitness is a byproduct of that or if that’s why you’re riding a bike, awesome. But it doesn’t have to be.
Sarah: And actually, I think that’s a really interesting point that you make about having an injury and bicycling be easier than walking, because you often hear “Well, people with disabilities can’t use bicycles, so we shouldn’t make room for them.” And, you know, I was just in France a few weeks ago and, you know, I saw a woman riding a bike. She had an oxygen cannula in her nose. She was on oxygen, but she was able to ride a bike. You know, why can’t we embrace that and understand that bicycling can actually be a good option for people who have some mobility issues better than walking sometimes or better than driving? So yeah, I mean, I think that’s really important to mention.
Marley Blonsky: Yeah, a hundred percent. I’ve got a good friend. Her name’s Meg Fisher, and she’s actually a professional para-cyclist, but she talks about her bike is actually a wheelchair, because you’re sitting on it and it’s got wheels, you know? She also talks about how it’s a whole lot easier—because she uses a prosthetic leg—to ride a bike than it is to walk sometimes.
Marley Blonsky: They’re amazing tools.
Doug: So Marley, so I’ve been doing some consulting with a group, and they’re talking about the benefits of cycling. And the O-word was placed in some of the materials that they were publishing. And I said, “No, no. Take it out.” Like, how would you describe the benefits of cycling for advocacy groups that want to make the pitch to cities or to elected officials that there are all these benefits of cycling? We’ve talked about some of them, but like, if you saw that word in a draft of materials that a city was putting out, what would you suggest instead?
Marley Blonsky: I tend to go for, like, a progress-not-perfection mentality. And it’s easy to get mad about these things, but I like to dig in with conversation and say, “Hey, what are the other benefits we can talk about?” You know, it’s easier to find parking. It’s easier to—I don’t know, say hi to your neighbors and your friends and be involved in the community. So I tend to take a non-combative approach, so I’m like, okay, if there’s a better, less polarizing way to talk about the benefits of bikes, like, even if it’s just joy, let’s do that instead.
Doug: Yeah, I think it’s so helpful too, because I think if you focus on congestion, carbon emissions, you know, general quality of life, then you’re putting the onus where it belongs, which is on the system makers to change the system. And that helps us remove body size especially from this idea of, like, a personal failing when, like you said, it’s genetics, it’s like a hundred other factors. I really appreciate that aspect of your work of, like, challenging that language at every step.
Marley Blonsky: Thank you.
Sarah: Yeah. And I also like what you’re saying about the positive approach, and really trying to engage people in a positive way, and the way that that kind of positive energy can move things forward instead of getting them stuck in arguments or bad feelings. But there are times when things that happen are really tough and you can’t just smile your way through them. And I think you had an incident happen recently on the ride that you were referencing, this big 50-mile ride you did in Vermont, lots of hills, very challenging ride for anybody. And for you in particular, it was—I think you said it was like pretty much the biggest ride you’ve ever done, and you had a really negative experience on that ride. You had talked about it on your Instagram story.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Marley Blonsky: So a bunch of the longer courses caught up to me, and I just had maybe the most condescending thing said to me that’s ever been said. It was a very thin woman rode by me and said, “Good job. At least you’re not on the couch.” Are you fucking kidding me? Yeah, I’m good. Thank you. Like, what? It was like, exactly what I didn’t want to hear it now.]
Aaron: Oh, geez!
Marley Blonsky: You know, I really like to give people the benefit of the doubt and trust that their intentions are good. But this one, I just couldn’t, you know? A lot of times folks will ride by me and be like, “Hey, great job,” or “You’re almost there.” And even those irked me a little bit because it’s like, would you say that to a person in a smaller body who was also struggling up this hill? But that one in particular just really got at me. And then I have, like, you know, a couple of trolls come at me on my Instagram, and that comes with being a public figure with 25,000 followers. People always have something to say, and usually I just block, ignore, delete, whatever, but for some reason, like, it really got to me. I think maybe because I was struggling and really wanted to be on the couch. [laughs]
Marley Blonsky: Like, “I wish I was on the couch, lady.”
Sarah: Right. Couches are great! [laughs]
Marley Blonsky: Yeah.
Doug: Nothing wrong with a little couch time. No.
Marley Blonsky: I’ll be honest. Like, I think I’ve been running myself a little ragged this summer in terms of events and obligations. And I was just at a point of exhaustion, so it hit me more personally than it normally does, but with some rest and some food and just kind of taking a step back and then seeing, you know, kind of the outpouring of support from folks, I’m over it. It’s that lady’s problem. It’s not mine.
Sarah: Yeah, but I think that—I mean, I’m really glad that you did that, though, that you reacted publicly to it. I really related to it. I have had many moments like that on long rides, on rides around town, people saying stuff to me about—you know, assuming things about my ability. I have been in a larger body at other times in my life than I am right this second, and so that’s another thing that I think that we don’t always know about other people, what they’re carrying in their heads about their own physical ability, what their physical history is, what their psychic history is around their bodies. Like, we don’t know those things about other people, which is why I think that your emphasis on really being respectful of other people’s experience and the way they want to talk about what they’re doing is so important and valuable. So I’m really glad that you had, you know, a little bit of an outburst about that because it felt really real and it felt really important. And I think it’s something that so many of us have stuffed down inside of us at one point or another, and so for you to be able to voice that for people, I think was really important.
Marley Blonsky: Thanks. I think it also raised a really good conversation on my Twitter about, well, what should I say to other people? You know, if I’m riding along and I pass somebody, a couple of folks were like, “What is appropriate to say?” And I think that’s a great conversation to have, because it’s not like you want to be out there not talking to people. But I always recommend, you know, make it about the experience. You’re both climbing that hill together. You can say something like, “Hey, this hill sucks,” or “What a great day for a ride” or, you know, there’s so many different things that you can say that don’t make it about the specific person you’re passing. And that’s just what I would encourage folks to do. Like, not telling you to go out there and be antisocial or not talk to people.
Aaron: So, Marley, you recently moved from Seattle, Washington, to Bentonville, Arkansas. Tell us a little bit about why you made that move and what that’s been like.
Marley Blonsky: Yeah. So, I mean, the really basic reason is I was priced out of Seattle. After I quit my corporate job about a year ago, I had been freelancing and doing All Bodies on Bikes and consulting work, and my income is like, probably a third of what it was when I was working in corporate America. So just not affordable. I made a list of qualities that I wanted in a potential home and, you know, strong bike community was at the top of list, access to outdoors, affordability. And so I narrowed it down to Portland, Minneapolis and Kansas City and was, like, dead set on one of those. And then one night, I was farting around on the internet and found this website where all these kind of small towns are incentivizing people to move there. And I came across northwest Arkansas, applied for it, and I got a $10,000 grant. So I was like, “Well, I’m moving regardless. The grant only requires me to stay here for a year. I’ll try it out.” And I’ve fallen in love with this place. It’s like a Disneyland for bicycles.
Doug: So part of the incentive is that they offer a free bike, right? But I think you didn’t take that. Like I said, I lurk and follow you on Instagram, so I know these stories. But tell our audience.
Marley Blonsky: Yeah. So they—as part of the incentive, you get $10,000, and then I think it’s like $600 credit towards a bike. I’m a sponsored rider, so it didn’t make sense for me to take that money for a bicycle, but instead I got a membership to one of the cultural institutions around here. So that’s been really cool.
Sarah: So you call it a Disneyland for bicycles. Like, oh my gosh, I want to hear more. I’ve never been to Bentonville. I don’t know—that is just absolutely surprising to me. So maybe you could expand on that. What makes it so great?
Marley Blonsky: [laughs] It’s a funny story. It’s kind of a company town for Walmart. So Walmart headquarters are here. The Walmart family—the Waltons—love bicycles, so they have invested I don’t even know how much money into trails and museums and just bike amenities. So it’s like, anywhere you go around town, there’s a repair stand, or there’s like a kid’s bike park, or you turn a corner and there’s a coffee shop in the middle of a mountain bike preserve. So it’s like, anything you could think of that would make a bicycle town, we’ve got. Kind of. And I say kind of because it’s very focused right now on recreational use. So there’s tons of mountain bike trails and greenways, but there’s not a lot of infrastructure in the city. We just got our first protected bike lane, and there’s a lot of talk around active transportation, but at the same time, they’re building, like, four new parking garages. So Bentonville is growing like crazy, and it’s really at this nexus point of are we gonna be a bike-friendly city, or are we gonna continue to be really car-centric? So that’s really what I’m hoping to get involved with here is working on more active transportation stuff, and actually connecting the trails to businesses, because that doesn’t exist right now.
Aaron: Have you actually run into these Walmart heirs who are into biking? Like, are they active on the advocacy scene? Because that would probably be amazing if they were.
Marley Blonsky: They are. It’s a funny story, so in January there was a big cyclo-cross race down here. And thanks to Shimano, one of my sponsors, I was in the VIP area, and I just started to talk to this guy next to me like, “Oh, did you see the helicopter that flew in with the bikes on the side of it? You know, I heard that it was Tom Walton.” And he was like, “Hey, I’m Tom!” I was like, “Oh, cool. Glad I didn’t really say anything bad!”
Doug: I was gonna say, I’m glad you didn’t keep that conversation going just a little longer before he identified himself.
Marley Blonsky: Right? [laughs] No, but then I’ve also run into them, you know, at coffee shops around town. And they have kind of an overarching group that works on aviation and hospitality and recreation, and they have somebody who works on active transportation. We just got an email the other day. They’re setting up a stakeholders’ meeting to really get this going. So I don’t know if they themselves are actually involved in the advocacy, but they definitely have people on their team that are working on it.
Sarah: You know, you mentioned your sponsorship by Shimano, and you have other sponsorships as well. We are not gonna go through every one of them, but Pearl Izumi, Cannondale. I mean, you know, big names, big corporations. What do you think those kinds of sponsorships say about where we are right now in terms of big brands that drive big changes in the marketplace accepting All Bodies on Bikes, you know, and going after that as a market segment really intentionally?
Marley Blonsky: I think it’s more a recognition that normal people ride bikes, and supporting—I don’t know how to say this, but in quotes like “normal athletes.” So, like, I’m considered a sponsored athlete, but I’m a very mediocre cyclist. Like, it took me 6 hours to ride 48 miles the other day. But I think it’s a recognition that by supporting folks like us, it gets more people into bikes because they see themselves represented. You know, the average-sized woman in the US wears a size 18, and they see that they’re just leaving billions of dollars on the table and are excited to work on it. So I think it shows that there’s a real influx. And there’s a couple other really cool examples of people just like me who are getting sponsored and who are able to make a living out of doing this advocacy work thanks to brands like that.
Doug: Wait. Okay, I want to roll it back and talk about Bentonville for a little bit, because I’ve been there and I really liked it when I was there. I was there for a weekend, so I can’t really make, like, sweeping judgments of it. But I rode the trails. They were great. I went to the Crystal Bridges Museum, which is really lovely and bike accessible. It’s like right off the trail. What I think is really interesting is that we argue a lot in bike advocacy circles about a top-down approach versus a community-driven approach. And here you basically have like the Medici family, you know, like, doling out money to bike artists in Bentonville and imposing their will so to speak on the community to great effect. This is a good way for the Waltons to use their many, many, many millions of dollars, even if it is problematic.
Doug: Like, you know, thank God they weren’t really into muscle cars and decided that Bentonville should be the muscle car capital of the United States. So, like, I think it opens up a really interesting question of, like, the best way to do things. You know, do you have a top-down imposed system, you know, where, like, a strong mayor, like a Mike Bloomberg launches Citi Bike or something like that? Or a bottom-up, community-driven process that gets—it’s messy, right? That’s, like, more democratic, but it’s messy. How do we apply this model in Bentonville to other cities? And should we apply it to other cities?
Marley Blonsky: Yeah. So I think one really important point to make is that a lot of this is happening yes, because of the Waltons, but also Walmart as a company, they’re building this brand new campus. So right now if you’re in Bentonville there’s, like, Walmart buildings scattered all over town, and they’re consolidating all of them into one central campus. And as part of that, they have a mode shift goal. So they want at least 10 percent of their staff to commute by bicycle, and they recognize that to make that happen, there’s got to be bike lanes, there’s got to be safe infrastructure. So, you know, I don’t know if that’s the answer. I think getting businesses on board is huge because, you know, you can incentivize your workers, you can do all sorts of things, but it’s also interesting coming from Seattle, where it is messy, but it is kind of nice, I’m not gonna lie, to live somewhere where a bike lane just shows up. There’s not endless processes forever and ever and ever.
Aaron: It’s like benign corporate feudalism versus democracy.
Doug: Right. Right.
Marley Blonsky: Exactly, right? Yeah. But I will also add that, you know, the way that Wal-Mart or the way that Bentonville is changing is pricing out so many people. You know, so much affordable housing is gone to Airbnbs because they are trying to make this the mountain bike capital of the world or of the US, and so it’s becoming kind of a ski resort feel where the local folks can’t really afford to live here. I was just looking on Zillow today, and there’s a house very similar to mine. I rent, but a house on a quarter acre that’s going for $1.2 million. It was built in the ’40s. It’s a tear-down house for $1.2 million. So who knows how long I’ll be able to live here for? But, you know, I think there’s pros and cons to both of them, for sure.
Doug: Well, it worked on me when I was there, because as soon as I left, I was like, I can’t—I gotta figure out a way to come back, because I really enjoyed it. Like, the biking around there really is great.
Marley Blonsky: It really is. And, you know, even without specific bike lanes and infrastructure, it is a small enough town that most of the drivers are pretty dang respectful. So growing city, of course, and lots of opportunities.
Sarah: I’m interested in the gender dynamics of your work. I’m just curious to know how the issue of having a bigger body and being on a bicycle is different—if it is—for women, for people who identify as women, for people who identify as men, and for non-binary people. Do you hear different stories from people with different gender identities about being bigger-bodied on a bike?
Marley Blonsky: I do. And this is definitely a place where I’ve got room for improvement in my own work. You know, I identify as a cisgendered woman, and I think the hardest thing is finding clothes. But I think I’ve been able to find community. There’s a lot of other large-bodied women who ride bikes, who have felt excluded, who haven’t really felt like they fit into the norm of what a cyclist is. I’m also starting to hear from a lot more large-bodied men. Often they’re able to find clothing. You know, I think men’s clothing in general runs a little bit bigger. You know, they might make a double XL that stretches to fit a bigger body. But I think there’s a different issue that happens with men. And this is just what I’ve heard from folks who have talked to me of finding community or, you know, just the assumption that they’re also out there to lose weight or that they’re beginners. And finding community, I think, is harder for men in bigger bodies. And maybe it’s because men don’t really talk about it. You know, as women, we are often talking about our body sizes and, you know, the things that we’ve done to try and change our bodies. And that conversation is kind of just starting to get over to the male-identified side of things.
Sarah: That’s interesting. Aaron, you can help to make those conversations happen.
Aaron: That’s right. With my gravitas.
Marley Blonsky: Yeah. I’d love to hear your perspective.
Aaron: Oh, you know, I’ve always kind of been a big dude. You know, my weight fluctuates. I don’t know. I guess it’s not really, like, something I see as super part of my identity. So it’s really not—I think it’s what you’re saying. So it’s really not like an omnipresent kind of part of my identity. I don’t have trouble finding clothes. Yeah, so I’m not really experiencing this in the same way that you are, it sounds like.
Marley Blonsky: Yeah.
Sarah: And it’s really interesting Marley, because I’ve had a lot of different sizes of my body over the years, and I have experienced that stuff on a bike. And I do think that people in general feel much more free to comment about women’s bodies in public. And women are extremely susceptible to any remarks about their bodies because we’ve just been conditioned so hard from day one of our lives. So, you know, I really appreciate the work you do from a feminist perspective, even though I understand it’s not only or not exclusively feminist work, but I think that actually the awareness that women have of their bodies and the pernicious stereotypes that attach to bodies, women’s awareness of that can be really helpful and liberating to people who identify as whatever gender, right? That because, you know, cisgender women have been thinking about this. We all have had that conversation ad infinitum for our whole lives. [laughs]
Marley Blonsky: Totally. And getting back to something I said earlier about, you know, our Facebook community, we make explicit rules in those communities and in All Bodies on Bikes spaces that it’s a weight-neutral space. We’re not talking about dieting. We’re not talking about weight loss. We’re not talking about food necessarily, you know? It can be kind of a slippery slope because riding a bike or taking on athletic pursuits like a 48-mile bike ride, you gotta fuel yourself. So I think it’s okay to talk about food as fuel, food as tasting good, but we are very intentional about making it a space where we’re not talking about our bodies in a negative way.
Doug: I mean, I think the work you do is so important, and separating out health from appearance is crucial. Because like Sarah said, you don’t know from walking down the street what health issues people have, how much activity they’re getting, and their body size has pretty much nothing to do with that at all. I think the work you’re doing is hugely important. I hope more bike advocacy groups, walkability groups, anybody working to make spaces more accessible to people really takes heed and listens to—just follows you on Instagram. I’ve learned a lot just sort of reading you and listening to you over the last couple of years.
Marley Blonsky: Thank you. I feel like that should come with an asterisk. Like, it’s a pretty uncensored account, so you might get me just being really goofy on a Friday night with my friends.
Doug: But that’s good, isn’t it? Right?
Marley Blonsky: I think so.
Doug: I feel like—I mean, I feel like any marginalized group censors themselves all the time, right?
Marley Blonsky: Yeah.
Doug: And I think you need those people who are just saying, like, “Screw that. I’m gonna tell you completely unfiltered what I think.”
Marley Blonsky: Totally. And just showing my regular life. Just having fun on a bike. You know, riding around on my cargo bike with my dogs, just being normal. And I think this is something you guys do really well is normalizing a non-car-centric lifestyle.
Sarah: Marley Blonsky, thank you so much for being with us today, and sharing everything that you’re learning and doing.
Marley Blonsky: Thank you. Great conversation, guys.
Aaron: Yeah, super interesting, Marley.
Sarah: We’ll put some links in the show notes so you can find out much more about Marley and All Bodies on Bikes and the work that they do.
Doug: If you want to support The War on Cars, go to TheWaronCars.org. Click “Support Us” and join today. Starting at just $3 per month, you’ll get access to exclusive bonus content and we’ll send you stickers.
Aaron: And thanks to everyone who has already signed up on Patreon, including our top supporters: Charley Gee of Human Powered Law in Portland, Oregon, the law office of Vaccaro and White in New York City, Virginia Baker, James Doyle and Martin Mignot.
Sarah: We’d like to thank our sponsor Cleverhood. Go to Cleverhood.com/waroncars. You can enjoy 20 percent off everything on their website using the code WEATHERPROOF, and that includes the new War on Cars anorak.
Doug: We also want to thank our sponsor, Rad Power Bikes. Find out how exciting life can be on an electric bicycle by going to RadPowerBikes.com/waroncars.
Aaron: And hey, we’ve got some pretty awesome new merchandise in our War on Cars store. Specifically for kids is the One Less Car Seat line of kids shirts and onesies. You know, your toddler can’t really talk yet, but they can still send a message. So go check it out.
Doug: And you can brainwash your children. It’s great.
Aaron: Let your children brainwash the other children.
Doug: This episode was recorded by Josh Wilcox at the Brooklyn Podcasting Studio. It was edited by Yessenia Moreno. Our music is by Nathaniel Goodyear. Our logo is by Dani Finkel of Crucial D Designs. I’m Doug Gordon.
Aaron: I’m Aaron Naparstek.
Sarah: I’m Sarah Goodyear. And this is The War on Cars.