View Full Version : Women's Gathering April 7th

04-13-2007, 02:18 PM
Group Discusses Actions to Improve Cycling for Women

In Portland, Oregon a group formed to mobilize women to influence policy, programs, products and projects to break down barriers to cycling.

(Portland, OR) - On the evening of April 7, 2007 at the McMenamin’s Kennedy School Community Room, three Portland cyclists convened a group of women to ask whether there is a need to hold regular discussions about topics relevant to women who ride bicycles. The overwhelming response from the diverse group was: yes!

Thirty-five women attended the Saturday evening exploratory session. In attendance were business owners and bicycle racers, educators and advocates, mechanics and moms, transportation planners and women who use bikes for transportation. The group agreed: It doesn’t matter how you ride. It doesn’t matter why you ride. It doesn’t matter how frequently you ride. What matters is that when you want to ride you can do it in a way that fits. Literally.

While there are many women who are confident and competent cyclists, a higher percentage do not ride due to safety or comfort concerns. To get more women on the roads and trails requires involvement at many levels of cycling, including expanding places to ride, improving clothes to wear, increasing places to store bikes and training people how to talk to women about bicycling.

There were personal stories describing the barriers women face. In response to the “shrink it and pink it” trend in women’s cycling apparel, Susan Otcenas started her own business, TeamEstrogen.com, to sell a wider range of cycling clothes to women. Yet she notes the persistent lack of other women designers and sales reps in that field. Natalie Ramsland owns Sweetpea bicycles and is one of only two women frame builders in the country. She wonders where the other women are and often feels isolated. These stories were a theme. Women racers, older cyclists, new cyclists, moms and women who don’t wear lycra want to make sure there are products, programs and places for them to ride. As the largest potential market in the cycling industry, the group is ready to help.

The solutions can be simple. The group identified some key priorities that have wide-reaching impacts from creating products that suit women, making cycling safer, improving places to ride, expanding the definition of bike culture and providing relevant trainings for a variety of cyclists.

The problem doesn’t start or end in Portland. Many facets of cycling originate in other areas. But Portland is recognized as a leading bicycle city and with many attendees being leaders in their fields, the group sees great opportunity to make the necessary shifts to remove barriers and make cycling more accessible to women, and hopefully for others as well.

There is no official name, no website -- yet. The group will use BikePortland’s forum entitled Women on Bikes as a starting place. The group will reconvene in May.

About the Women and Cycling Conversation

The idea for the meeting was generated three years ago when Janis McDonald, Women on Bikes Program Manager at the Portland Office of Transportation, dreamed of holding regular meetings to encourage more women to ride bicycles. It wasn’t until January 2007 when Barb Grover, Community Outreach Manger at the Bike Gallery, posed the question on local blog, BikePortland, “would we benefit from a coalition?” Alison Hill, Director of Development at the Community Cycling Center, joined the group to help plan an exploratory meeting to gauge interest about topics relevant to women who ride bicycles. The first meeting was held on Saturday April 7, 2007.

04-15-2007, 07:06 AM
Nice write-up! This is an exciting group, I'm crossing my fingers to be able to make the next meeting.

Here's something on my mind -- I was ran into an old friend in line at Filmed By Bike, and she admitted that she'd driven there, because she loves to bike but is too scared to ride in traffic.

So my train of thought is this: it's usually women who will admit to, and behave based on, fear of cycling in traffic. And that this is worth listening to. This friend and I made plans to go on a ride together, and hopefully the bike buddy factor will have some effect; but the other side of the coin is that yeah, it's dangerous to ride in traffic with cars, and safe routes and practices are not always intuitive. I've gone through weeks where I dread getting on my bike and cringe every time a driver passes me. It's scary, and it sucks, no matter how good you are.

Maybe more (and more vocal) women in cycling will allow the unsafe aspects of cycling to be addressed more sanely. In contrast, for instance, to the guys who write on this blog that we shouldn't have carfree bike boulevards and off-road paths because then people won't be tough enough to ride in traffic when they need to. This kind of attitude really shoots cycling advocacy in the foot. Not that we should be emphasizing the dangers of cycling so much that they overshadow the good things, but it would be nice to see that perspective become more urgent.

04-15-2007, 07:26 AM
I think you've touched on an important point: by addressing the issues that women raise -fear of traffic, intimidation of technical stuff, etc. - we are also addressing issues that men also face. We know that women often learn in different ways, and often ask different questions and we know that answering those concerns will benefit all. With that context, it's exciting to me to think of what is possible if we get together to work on removing the barriers that keep women (and therefore people) from cycling.

04-22-2007, 05:16 PM
Wow, what a great topic this is! I so wish I lived slightly closer to Portland so I could have attended the gathering. I have been a volunteer instructor at "Women's Only Weekend" held in Big Bear, CA for the past 7 consecutive years. This awesome weekend where women of all abilities have been able to come learn new mountain biking skills at clinics and lectures...will sadly not happen this year due to lagging participation. At its peak, we had 300 women from all over the country who would attend. last year, I don't know that we even broke 75. Where are all the women?

Getting more women into cycling by arming them with knowledge and skills has always been a huge passion for me. The sport has changed my life and I have met so many wonderful, lifelong friends through it. I would love to be kept posted on more gatherings and if there will be more of a organized national effort. I'd love to be involved!

05-03-2007, 03:13 PM
we are planning to have monthly meetings. Right now we're on a third Wed. schedule. So, if you are ever in Portland your contributions to our meeting and discussions would be welcomed. Sounds like a good excuse for a road trip to me!

Perhaps too, we'll figure out a way to share what we are learning so that other communities can use the solutions we find. So, stay tuned. This group is new but I feel very positive about the momentum and direction it's taking.