This entry will appear in the fall edition of RideOn, WABA’s quarterly print newsletter for members. Women & Bicycles is WABA’s outreach and encouragement initiative to build a stronger women’s bike community and get more women on bikes. Click here to learn more and get involved.
We have countless stories and updates to share with you about the Women & Bicycles program: stories of inspirational individuals and groups who are looking for community, individuals simply looking to learn more, and those bringing the benefits of biking to the women in their lives.
We began planning the program last winter. Since then, you’ve heard that we fully funded it for the year and recruited volunteer Roll Models to lead meetups and mentor women in their lives. We officially launched in March and have hosted over 20 events. We have just as many in the lineup. We created the Women & Bicycles workbook, a tangible resource for women looking to learn more about biking. And through our online forum, we’ve reached 500-plus individuals and have activated a conversation among many new faces (it usually starts with “I’m interested in biking, where do I begin?”). Most importantly, we’ve brought together women who are looking for a place to get involved and belong, a place to ask questions, and a place built on enthusiastic support.
That said, the program’s greatest accomplishment so far is the accomplishments of others. The ten women who stepped up to be our program mentors, the Roll Models, are now deeply engaged with their personal approaches to get women in their networks biking. With each Roll Model, we plan a meetup to which Outreach Coordinator Nelle Pierson brings Chipotle burritos, beer, copies of the Women & Bicycles workbook, and facilitated conversation. The Roll Model brings ten of her friends who are interested in bike mentorship. But to our delight, there’s such a demand for the Women & Bicycles-style meetups and the conversations that take place it’s ranged from 12 friends to 22 friends per meetup.
Meetups have led a number of Roll Models to independently plan and create an outreach approach of their own. Laurie in College Park, who runs Proteus Bicycles, is using the program as a catalyst for a bi-monthly ladies’ night. Liz in Alexandria introduced biking for fun and transportation to 18 of her friends from work and church, and they’re now meeting up regularly to prepare for their church’s annual bike ride. Erin attracted the attention of the Washington Post, and was showcased for her involvement beyond the program. She created an email listserv and started coordinating her own rides and workshops. Angie tailored her meetup to focus on bike maintenance and bicyclist’s rights on the road, and created a dedicated space for friends, particularly LGBQT friends and allies, to learn about bike maintenance. An upcoming meetup is with Gillian in Arlington, who just recently started Arlington’s chapter of Kidical Mass, a regular group ride focused on getting more families biking.
We kicked off the season with a sold-out launch party announcing the fully-funded program, thanks to the 303 people (and counting) who donated and to a $15,000 grant from the League of American Bicyclist’s Women Bike program, plus Chipotle who have deliciously sponsored our Meetups! Then, we scheduled meetups and a handful of bike rides. Rides are fun skillshares for riders of all experience where we tour a new site around town. On Mother’s Day we worked with BikeArlington and Black Women Bike DC to celebrate mothers throughout the world and CycloFemme’s International Women’s Bicycling Day. Emphatic praise is due to the fellas who showed up in support, wearing their favorite sundresses.
Our events are an effective tool to form informal coalitions—or rather, our informal coalitions are an effective tool to build good events. We’ve brainstormed, co-coordinated, and co-promoted with other organizations like BikeArlington and Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling. With the help of Black Women Bike DC and Capital Spokeswomen, we co-hosted, in June, Pedaling Professionally, a public panel with four local professionals and a 100-person audience on women’s bike commuting logistics.
Women & Bicycles buildings the human infrastructure around bicycling. Participants establish fun and supportive connections to make biking more appealing to more and more people. This is evident in conversations taking place in on our Facebook forum, a space that’s both open and insular. The group opens conversations that rarely take place in bike shops, and maybe rarely among close friends. We welcome and celebrate new riders and discuss common areas of concern. We also explore issues that are especially personal and that if left unaddressed may create barriers to becoming a regular bicyclist for some women. We’ve talked about preferred bras, biking and menstruation, best routes, bike-lane chauvinism, personal safety, and street harassment.
Whether you identify as a woman or not, whether you’re a WABA member or not, whether you ride a bike or not, Women & Bicycles is benefitting you. It brings people together to celebrate an activity that supports personal and community wellness throughout the region. If you aren’t already, we need you to be a Women & Bicycles ally. We need you to ask one woman in your life to check out our program. Share the Facebook group with a colleague or loved one, sign up for and share our bi-weekly bulletins, ride with some friends to one of our bike rides or find out about your local shop’s ride, download our workbook, and learn more for yourself. This program comes from your ideas and your support. Be a Roll Model in your own life.
Encourage more gals in your life to ride a bike. Become a Women & Bicycles Program ally and:
- Sign up for and share our bi-weekly bulletins
- Join our Facebook Forum and invite your friends and colleagues
- Download and share our workbook on the ins and outs of urban bicycling
- Join our rides, workshops, and meetups and bring along your friends!