This post is part of the WABA Women Bicycling Project, an ongoing campaign to create a community, share resources and develop strategies for getting more women on bikes. To read about the project so far, check out Quick Release, the WABA blog. To learn more and sign up to receive emails about this project, click here.
On December 12th, WABA hosted its first Women’s Bicycling Forum at the West End Library, bringing together nine women with varying professional and personal histories to talk about the gender gap in bicycling. More than 75 people RSVPed for the event and we had a packed house. The attendees were primarily women, but there were several men in the crowd as well.
The panelists included prominent women in the local and national bicycling community, among them Katie Sihler of goDCgo, Elizabeth Sherwood from BicycleSPACE, Tracy Hadden-Loh of Rails-To-Trails, Heather Deutsch from DDOT, Ellen Jones from the DC Bicycle Advisory Council, Veronica Davis of Black Women Bike DC, Kate Ryan of WTOP news, Katie Knight from Revolution Cycles, and Finnuola Quinn of Alta Planning and Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling. WABA’s Women’s Bicycling Outreach and Advocacy Intern Jesse Cohn moderated the panel and kept everything moving.
The conversation began with a focus on perception and the need to portray the bicycling community as more inclusive–by including diverse ages, ethnicities and genders in outreach and promotional materials and by complementing images of athletes and racers with those of more casual users, a wider variety of people can better identify with bicycling and bicyclists. From there, we discussed bicycle shops and the roles they play in encouraging and discouraging women to ride. Overall, the evening’s discussion indicated that more women (and people, for that matter) will ride if bicycling is depicted as easy, affordable and fun. Providing basic information about what kind of bikes are best for different types of riders as well as how to securely lock a bike are important steps in achieving this “easy, affordable and fun” goal.
Throughout the evening it became clear that the personal backgrounds and anecdotal experience of these women–growing up in DC, being a mother, having been a bike shop customer and bicycle rider–factored heavily into the conversation. The sharing of these experiences was invaluable to the discussion, as they allowed other panelists and audience members to find commonalities in the barriers they’ve faced and let to the sharing of effective ways they have individually overcome these obstacles.
The WABA Women’s Bicycling Forum was a big success, but it is just the beginning of the conversation. The event raised awareness of the gender gap in bicycling and generated several constructive ideas as to how organizations like WABA and individuals like you can work to erase this discrepancy. We are brainstorming what the next steps should be, and we definitely want your input. If you haven’t already, please take a moment to complete the online Women’s Forum Worksheet. Or, if you have other ideas for what WABA can do, send us an email.
Ultimately, the event was a reminder to women who bicycle (or are thinking about bicycling) that we have a local network of peers–women who have experienced the same issues and faced the same challenges–who are ready and willing to help out.
Our sincere thanks to all of the women who participated on the panel on Monday night as well as all of the attendees. We hope you enjoyed yourselves and we look forward to speaking with you all as the conversation moves forward. In the coming months and years, more women will ride in DC because of you.
Lastly, big thank you to our sound system providers for the evening, ESP sound:
Twitter coverage of WABA’s Women’s Forum:
You can read our live tweets from Monday night and contribute to the conversation on twitter by searching for the hashtag #womenbikedc
Press and blog coverage of WABA’s Women’s Forum:
Zanna Worzella of Bike Arlington writing for the Commuter Page Blog:
Anne Factor on the goDCgo blog:
Carolyn Szczepanski on the Alliance for Biking and Walking Blog:
John Hendel on the TBD On Foot Blog: