Women Involved Series: Daly (Dolly) Costanza- Cuter Commuter

Photo Credit: Dave Christenson
I'm a wife, bicycling advocate, mother of three cats and bicycle commuter. I commute about 20 miles round-trip between home and the office, often times wearing skirts and heels to avoid having to change clothing. It's one of the reasons why I don't like going to the gym! 
I love bicycling in all its forms but on my blog I mainly write about bicycling as a lifestyle and stylish accessories for the bicycle commuter to encourage more women to use bicycling as a way to get around for commuting, errands, social activities, dining or shopping. 

Connect with Cuter Commuter! Blog, Instagram, and Twitter

You have a website/blog: Cuter Commuter- tell us what inspired you to use social media to share your experiences-
I wanted to spread the word to people of all abilities and experience that they really can use a bike for transportation. It doesn’t matter how far or how fast they ride as long as they choose to bike instead of drive whenever it is possible. I wanted to show that bicycling is for everyone – and anyone can do it. If I can ride 20 miles round-trip every day in my regular clothing then the next person who lives within 2 or 5 miles of where they frequently travel can do it also! For women it can be intimidating but all they really need a functioning bike to get started and I strongly encourage a helmet. Then build from there with lights and a flat tire kit. I learned to ride a bike as an adult. Fortunately for me I get a good mentor and this blog is my way of sharing my experience in case others can learn from it—or at least feel like they’re not alone.

What has been the most interesting thing to happen since you started blogging about your commuting/riding experiences?
I commute to and from work alone and it often feels like I am the only one out there. But when I'm at social rides, bicycling events or off of my bike, I meet people who recognize me from my blog. They ask, "Are you the Cuter Commuter!?!" I am. But the phrase refers to every female who rides as a lifestyle in their everyday clothing or office attire. They all are Cuter Commuters. They just haven't realized it yet.

What is your favorite cycling-related thing to blog about?
I thought I would never say this but I love to blog about clothing...clothing that is bicycle friendly yet allows us to express our individual style on and off the bike. And I love blogging about bicycling advocacy. I love sharing what I've learned and encourage people to get involved because it makes the community better for EVERYONE no matter what mode of transportation they prefer.

You are also launching (Now Open!) an online boutique- what has been the most exciting thing about that project?
Ordering all the goodies that I get to see and touch in person! Although the shipments aren't for me, each time I receive the packages I get excited like a kid in a candy store. Excited for the commuters who will ultimately be the owners of the items that could make their rides that much for fun!

What do you hope to inspire with the boutique?
There are many bicycle shops that are  performance focused (i.e. high end bicycles for racers) and then there are shops that carry fun things for casual rides but nothing really that is functional AND stylish for people who commute by bicycle every day. I hope to inspire others to ride a bicycling as part of their lifestyle. The products we have in the boutique are offered to inspire people to make that leap and hop on their bikes to go for a ride to the market, to the coffee shop, to restaurants with friends or family, or explore surrounding neighborhoods they would otherwise drive past (or not walk or run as far to) and see a fresh perspective from two wheels. I hope to inspire, especially women, to get out and ride somewhere no matter the distance. I would like to equip them with product options that look good but are also functional to keep commuting by bicycling fun!

Speaking of recommendations- what are some bike accessories/gear you would recommend for those getting involved with riding? Commuter/Road/etc.
My number one recommendation: get a bike you LOVE. Treat yourself to something you like the looks of and spare no expense (well...whatever you can get away with LOL). Because if it doesn't make your heart flutter, you are likely not going to ride it. The cost is going to be nowhere close to the expense of car ownership. The value and joy I’ve gained from the investment in my daily commuter bike is tenfold. I also recommend nice, bright lights that are visible even during the day and a strong lock to protect your investment, panniers or baskets that hang from the rear rack of a bike to carry things, and a comfortable helmet (I wear helmet covers with a brim as additional protection for my face from the sun).

For longer distances on a road bike 1) clipless pedals and 2) I prefer bib-style shorts instead of regular bike shorts. They are like suspenders so they stay up AND they don't cut into my stomach while I am riding. For women, using the restroom used to be a challenge with bib shorts (because you have to take off your jersey to pull the bib straps down) but there are bibs designed with zippered openings in the back like buttoned up long johns and bib shorts with halter-style straps so there's no need to take off your jersey.

What inspired you to get involved with advocacy?
Come to think of it, I think it's in my blood. I have always been involved with student government and advocacy since I was in junior high.

Why is advocacy so important for cycling communities?
It makes the community happier, healthier and safer for all. There are so many benefits to commuting by bicycle that I could go on and on about. Some people have the perception that it is too dangerous. Too dangerous for them or two dangerous for their children to ride but the more people there are on bikes, the safer the roads will be for everyone—people who drive, walk and bike because we will learn to watch out for each other and all road users. I have made commuting by bicycle safe for me (i.e. by choosing alternate routes with slower streets that have less traffic and increasing my visibility; I turn on my bike lights during the day no matter the distance I ride to).

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling?
Cycling is a sport I was introduced to by another person and I think women are more likely to be intimidated by cycling because it involves more equipment and gear than say, running for example. They may not know what bike to get, what clothes to wear, and where to ride or wonder if they look silly. They may not like riding alone because it makes them feel odd or self-conscious.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
Change their perceptions or rather provide them choices for types of rides and provide social support. When some people think of cycling, they picture Lance Armstrong and the thought of wearing spandex cannot be any less encouraging. Then there are Cuter Commuters, women who bike in the same attire that they go grocery shopping in or walk around the office in or whatever they're comfortable with which allows them to express their own personal style on and off the bike. Women are social creatures and they like to do things with others. Having the social support like my women's city bicycling group gives them an environment that's non-intimidating and a chance for women to converse with other women. I had a mentor (my husband) who was encouraging and not pushy but many other women who may not have that support structure.

Cuter Commuter at Slow Roll
What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Bicycling has been the solution to so many things for me--mentally, physically and socially. It helped me get over personal challenges, get in the best shape of my life in a healthy way (look Ma, I finally have calve muscles!!), come out of my shell and meet new people and it's the only exercise activity I have been able to stick with for so long. Cycling for sport and transport has allowed me to literally and figuratively get off the treadmill. I want for other women to feel the sheer joy I feel from the simple act of riding a bicycle. I know if they give it a try, like I did, they will be hooked!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I am a refugee from Laos and immigrated to the States shortly before my first attempt to learn how to ride a bicycle.