Interview with Alyssa Proudfoot Siegel

by Maia Riggs, DCPS Student and WABA Advocacy Intern

Alyssa Proudfoot-Siegel, WABA’s DC Organizer, is an incredible member of the WABA team and the DC biking community. Originally from the San Francisco Bay area and then located in Minneapolis for a while, Alyssa has lived in DC for nearly 5 years. Though today she is an integral part of bike organization in the city, she has had a long journey to get to where she is now.  

“Biking was not really part of my childhood at all, which is really unfortunate. I think I really only started biking as an adult. When I moved to Minneapolis, that’s when I really considered biking full time, and I had a really great group of people who taught me the ways of confident city cycling,” said Alyssa. After some time biking for fun and on her own, she went car-free and her life changed forever. “My whole life is bike things. I literally can’t talk about anything else.” 

Here at WABA, Alyssa works closely to facilitate connections between events, organizations, and people. “My heart is really in those organizing pieces and those visibility pieces but just as important is the work that’s going on behind the scenes, really making sure we’re enacting policies that continue to make this work and snowball as opposed to something that fizzles out,” she says. She is continuously impressed with the level of passion and energy that WABA staff put into their work, and expressed her love for events that bring people together – like Coffee Outside, where WABA partnered with Great Escape to participate in the Mayor’s Get Back Downtown push and flooded a coffee shop with almost 40 cyclists celebrating city cycling!  

When asked about the future of pedestrian and bike infrastructure, Alyssa felt strongly about the need for a holistic approach. “The built environment is kind of essential. Having those safe connections for folks to get to the places they need to go, to have the option.” It’s beyond just cycling – when we work together to create a network of transportation, we are fostering multimodal experiences and helping the dominoes fall. According to Alyssa, safe infrastructure needs to be presented hand in hand with connection and integrated support. “If you build this beautiful protected bike lane but then you have to get down this big scary road in order to get there, nobody’s going to be able to use the beautiful protected bike lanes. It is really thinking about that network, and about what is going to make the most people safe.” 

Outside of WABA, Alyssa stays consistently connected to the cycling community. She runs Radical Joyriding, an entry-level women trans-femme biking group here in DC, inspired by the amazing group called Grease Rag Ride and Wrench out of Minneapolis. Alyssa spoke fondly of the Minneapolis organization: “(They) taught me a bunch of amazing things about biking, bike maintenance, and even taught me how to winter bike…all of this cool stuff. When I came out here I couldn’t really find a group that felt the same, so I thought, ‘I guess I’m starting this group!’” Alyssa has been leading Radical Joyriding for about 3 years now, and helps to facilitate overnights on the C&O, skill shares (from basic bike maintenance to winter biking), and a safe community for people to ask biking questions and receive answers.  

Alyssa is also an organizer for DC bike party, a huge ride that takes place monthly in DC. “It is just about the joy of biking and taking over the streets,” she says, and notes that as the weather improves they are averaging about a thousand people per ride. These are just a few of the projects that Alyssa works on, and she continues to help with rides that pop up spontaneously. As she said proudly, “I literally only spend my time doing bike things it seems!”

Biking has become a safe space for Alyssa, as it has for many in the WABA community. “I think I like the autonomy of biking. There’s something really beautiful to me that I can get myself to where I want to be with my body, irrespective of everything else that’s existing in the world.” This is a relatable perspective, as t is a sense of security in your own independence, and biking lends itself to that experience perfectly. 

Joining the biking scene may be daunting, especially as you’re surrounded with jargon and hardcore cyclists (what even are panniers anyways?). To Alyssa, who joined the community later in life, the most important thing is to find a community. “Time and time again, people that I talk to who are confident cyclists started by finding that community, finding those people that they felt safe biking with.” So this spring, ask your friend to go on a bike ride with you, or find a group that does a social ride! There is a whole world of enjoyment waiting for you, and it is always better with a buddy. “The idea is to take it slow and really do what feels okay for yourself and your body, but it’s going to feel so much better having someone else to check in with,” said Alyssa.  

In the spirit of fun rides with friends, Alyssa recently did a very silly ride: a Taco Bell metric century. “The rules were you had to get one thing at each taco bell and it had to be a different thing, and you could only hydrate with Baja Blasts.” She noted that despite its comedic origins,  it grew into a beautiful ride where they were mostly on trails, and it was a great reminder of the incredible trail network in DC and the surrounding areas. “I really like rides that challenge the assumptions of what a cyclist is, of who a cyclist should be, and really just makes you take a step back and take things less seriously. It’s the dumb stuff, like ‘Oh we’re going to bike to a bunch of Taco Bells!’” In a time of stress and overwhelm, it’s important to remember that not everything needs to be perfect. The point of biking is to give us a rest from the hustle and bustle, a chance to breathe and let our minds slow down.  

In addition, biking is an art form in itself…it’s an opportunity to live in the moment and appreciate your location. “Maybe it’s not a specific ride that is my favorite, the idea of integrating our environment in DC along with dismissing the identity of what a cyclist is,” said Alyssa. Your favorite ride can be the silly ones you take with your friends, or riding to the farmers market for groceries, or even just getting to work safely. In Alyssa’s wise words: ”If we’re doing this right, every ride is my favorite ride.”