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Agenda set for first ever National Women's Bicycling Summit

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on July 31st, 2012 at 9:53 am

In the latest sign that 2012 is shaping up as a big year for women on bikes, the League of American Bicyclists is gearing up for the first-ever National Women's Bicycling Summit. The event (not to be confused with the National Women Cycling Forum held during the National Bike Summit back in March) is being billed as the "Women's Summit to Tackle Gender Disparity in Bicycling" and it will be held in Long Beach, California on September 13th.

Here in Portland, we've taken a leading role in encouraging women to ride. The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has had a 'Women on Bikes' program for many years, many local shops have women's only wrench nights, we've got a healthy women's racing scene, and many prominent women in the bike advocacy sphere — like Alta Planning and Design President and author Mia Birk and League Board Member and Executive Director of the Community Cycling Center Alison Graves — call Portland home.

Now, the League has released a list of speakers and participants for the Summit and among them are two women who you already know. Former BikePortland managing editor and now accomplished freelancer, zine publisher, and blogger, Elly Blue, and carfree mom of six and southeast Portland resident Emily Finch (whose profile on BikePortland last month has become the most popular story in this site's history!).

Other speakers include: Olympic track cyclist Dotsie Bausch; Yolanda Davis-Overstreet of Ride in Living Color; Mia Kohout, co-publisher of Momentum magazine; Allison Mannos from Multicultural Communities for Mobility, members of the Ovarian Psychos women's bike brigade, and more. The keynote for the event will be given by Leah Missbach Day, co-founder of World Bicycle Relief. According to a League statement, she'll speak about, "how the bicycle can inspire both personal and cultural revolutions."

Beyond the inspiring speeches and networking opportunities, a key theme of this event will be to try and thrust more women into leadership roles in the bike movement. A study released back in April by the Mineta Transportation Research Institute showed that there are far fewer women serving on city bicycle advisory committees than men. Here's an excerpt from the study summary:

A survey of 42 committees revealed that women make up approximately 24% of members on an average bicycle (and pedestrian) advisory committee in California... Women on these committees are more likely than men to bring up women’s and children’s issues, and some aspects of the committees themselves may serve as barriers for women to become more involved... barriers identified by participants included: time; perceived lack of qualifications; lack of information about the committee; family and household responsibilities; and lack of interest.

The Summit will also feature break-out sessions on topics like diversity and carfree families.

Interestingly, the event will also include a bike fashion show dubbed, "Cycle Chic: Past, Present & Future". The League says the show is inspired by noted blogger and urban bicycle marketing/planning consultant Mikael Colville-Andersen. Last week, Elly Blue offered up a well-constructed critique of Colville-Andersen and the widespread cycle chic movement he has fostered. While Blue agrees with some aspects of cycle chic, she also wrote that, "Unfortunately, instead of sticking to this inclusive and welcoming message, Colville-Andersen takes every opportunity to instead police what people choose to wear, and in an alarmingly gendered manner."

With so many important issues to discuss, and so many smart and plugged-in people to discuss them, this first-ever National Women's Bicycling Summit is sure to be a provocative event. For more info and registration details, check out the event website.

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  • daisy July 31, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    I really appreciated Elly's take on this, as well as the conversation around it that happened last week on Twitter. It does feel like you-can-ride-your-bike-in-regular-clothes has morphed into you-women-need-to-look-cute-on-your-city-bikes.

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    • mabsf July 31, 2012 at 1:55 pm

      Part of me is happy about the Mary-Poppins-effect (people brake and stop when I ride in a skirt) but I do see Elly's point and am a little dismayed that whatever women do is boild down to looks.

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  • NW Biker July 31, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    I also wonder why "family and household responsibilities" is so commonly cited as an obstacle for women being involved in whatever it is, and never for men. Just once, I'd like to hear someone ask "So, Mr. Smith, how do you juggle your family and your work?"

    Oh well...

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  • michweek July 31, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    Go Elly! <3

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