Thursday, January 30, 2014

Learning to be Unmisinformed

I hate gender disparity. A lot. When I see it, I'm pretty vocal about it. It doesn't matter if it's something I see online, or something I hear in the office. Misogyny, sexism, matter what form it takes, it makes my blood boil.

One of the things I've been most vocal about over the last couple of months has been a lack of pay structure for Breeze ride leaders. Their peers who do Sky Rides are paid to lead rides, which take place less frequently.

I've publicly blamed for this on British Cycling, but today I learned that my frustration was misplaced.

While attending a meeting of industry women, I was fortunate enough to meet Natalie Justice, who is essentially the Breeze Network project manager. She runs that show for BC, in short.

I had a chance to ask her about this lack of pay for Breeze riders, in an effort to learn why it happens. Turns out it's her fault, and for very, very good reasons.

Natalie is a smart cookie. She took a look at the commercial side of Sky Rides, and made one decision that will ensure the longevity of Breeze rides long after the likes of Sky vacates the premises. She realized early on that to accept money from a corporate sponsor to run a program is to risk having the whole program shut down when those funds dry up.

Natalie made a hard decision. She chose to make the Breeze Network volunteer-based, rather than a paid system. She had an idea to create a community that would be long lasting, rather than take a quick buck for something that was wildly popular at first, but could just as easily go away.  Now, she says, Sky Rides are coming to her for advice on how to make the Sky Ride structure similar to Breeze. That's quite a statement.

The Breeze Network is wildly popular, and a program that I personally feel has the potential to change the face of cycling. I was wrong to be critical of what I perceived to be unfair treatment of a group of very dedicated and motivated women. My frustration should be directed more towards Sky, who should have made a point of saying that some of their money be dedicated to Natalie's ability to develop the network the way she wants to, without fear that it would disappear if Sky did.

I want to see the Breeze Network continue to thrive, which it will do with Natalie at the helm.