New League Staff: Anna Tang
You know how excited you get when you meet a new bike friend? That’s how we feel every time we welcome a new staff member at the League! Meet our new bike friend and most recent hire, Anna Tang: she’s a Bicycle Friendly America (BFA) program specialist who will be working with Amelia Neptune, the BFA program director, and local advocates to improve the accessibility and inclusiveness of the program. In the coming months, you’ll learn more about how the BFA program is evolving to reflect the needs of local advocates, people who bike, and decision-makers all in an effort to build a Bicycle Friendly America for everyone.
What’s your first memory of riding a bike?
One of my earliest memories of riding a bike was when I was around three or four years old. I remember I got a bike and my mom was trying to teach me how to ride and she was trying to tell me I needed training wheels but I insisted on taking them off. So she did and I just biked away. My memory from that was finally feeling free, independent, and the thrill of biking fast with the wind in my face. A feeling I will never forget!
You’re coming from working as a community organizer – how will your work with local advocates translate to working on the national level with the League?
When I worked with local advocates, I was exposed to a wide range of ideas, issues, and ways to tackle problems. I was also able to work with a lot of community partners who ranged from folks in the Mayor’s office to local parents, kids, disability task forces, and many municipalities. A lot of my work as a community organizer was to assist these people and communities by sharing resources and creating opportunities and assets for them to use to make their areas better places to live. I was able to offer workshops, trainings, toolkits, and campaign planning as well as helping them to think strategically about how to organize around an issue. I see these experiences as fundamental to being able to work at the national level because a lot of the problems local advocates face stem from the same set of systemic issues faced by people across the country. Resolving these problems by working within the system and using it to achieve your goals is often essential.
I see the BFA program as a great way to scale this work through its comprehensive applications and feedback reports that give folks a lot of creative flexibility to tailor their policies, plans, and community development to work for them and their needs. It also taps into the resources of national examples of Bicycle Friendly Communities, Businesses, and Universities.
What got you interested in working for the League?
I became familiar with the League almost a decade ago when I started to commute by bike. At the time I worked at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and was helping to start a bicycle club on campus. A professor on campus got a grant to help us launch and we were able to train several staff and local bike advocates to become League Certified Instructors, myself being one of them
After becoming an LCI, I got more involved with biking and teaching and got involved with my local non-profit, BikePGH, where I began to teach classes to youth and adults. Eventually, I became their community organizer where I spent several years organizing grassroots advocacy around biking and walking as well as local campaigns. After doing that for a number of years, I saw the potential to scale the work that I had been doing. I had been using the BFA program and advocacy tools and reports to help the universities and communities in the Pittsburgh area make plans and evaluate themselves for ways that they could improve their bicycling efforts. This made me pay close attention to the League and their work and I really became inspired by the work they were doing – from the Summits and speakers, to being leaders for advocates by taking a firm stance on removing enforcement as one of the pillars of the Bicycle Friendly America program and elevating equity issues in their evaluation. I was also impressed by the scale and scope of their work given the amount of staff that they have. So, when I saw that there was an opening to work with them in their BFA department, I knew I had to apply!
What motivates you to do this kind of work?
I feel motivated to do this work for many reasons. First off, it can be really fun and challenging at the same time, which is a unique balance. I think that because of the joy bicycling brings me, I want other people to be able to experience it without fear or stigma, which is how it can be challenging. Secondly, I’ve always had a deep connection with nature and its preservation. I think that tackling the climate crisis via transportation is one way that I can best help in this area. Networks, systems, and how they integrate are fascinating to me and I love to understand how they work together. Finally, community drives me. The community I have come to know and be a part of through biking has introduced me to some of the most interesting and wonderful people locally and around the world. Bicycling is an activity almost everyone, everywhere can do and relate to and I love that about it. I think it can be a true connection beyond a local experience, but that’s where it starts!
What bike are you riding now and what inspires you about cycling?
Right now, I’m riding a Specialized Sequoia. It’s an adventure bike which means that it just has a really comfortable ride design and a lot of places on the frame where you can mount racks. It also has pretty wide tires so that it has a fairly seamless ride – even going over potholes.
One thing that really inspires me about cycling is how you can get to some of the most interesting, unique and beautiful places. I used to work in study abroad placement and with international students and one piece of advice I used to give them was to do an activity wherever they were that they also did at home to make it feel familiar and keep them connected to their home life. I’ve taken this advice and gone on a bike ride in many places all over the world and this really inspires me and has given me countless memories – riding at night along trails, feeling the wind whip past me, or along a path, under a canopy of trees with the sun glowing between the branches.