Women meet to tackle cycling’s gender divide

Janis McDonald at the Alice Awards.
File photo: 3/10/07

Three years ago, Janis McDonald had a dream; to get more women on bikes. That passion led to the creation of PDOT’s Women on Bikes program, which McDonald has spearheaded at her day job in the Transportation Options division of the Office of Transportation.

That program has been a great success, but McDonald knows there is even more work to be done. That’s why she, along with Barb Grover of the Bike Gallery and Alison Hill of the Community Cycling Center, recently organized a meeting to discuss how they can break down to barriers to cycling for women.

McDonald says 35 women showed up to a meeting on April 7th at the Kennedy School in northeast Portland. The women discussed the challenges and opportunities for getting more women on bikes.

Barb Grover of the Bike Gallery.
File photo: 11/14/06

From a press release on the event:

“A diverse group of women that included business owners, racers, educators, advocates, mechanics, moms, transportation planners and women who use bikes for transportation.

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.”

Susan Otcenas, owner of Hillsboro-based TeamEstrogen.com, told the women she started her business in response to the “shrink it and pink it” trend in women’s cycling apparel and noted she still sees a lack of women designers and sales reps in the bike industry.

Natalie Ramsland of Sweetpea Bicycles.
File photo: 10/10/06

Sweetpea Bicycles owner Natalie Ramsland also attended the event. As one of only two women frame builders in the country, she often feels isolated and wonders why there aren’t more women picking up the torch.

According to McDonald, women are “a barometer of a bike-friendly city” and she hopes the group — which doesn’t have name, but she prefers “Spokeswomen” — will eventually have a voice in policy.

McDonald was very encouraged by the enthusiasm and energy at this first meeting and there are already plans to meet again in May.

The women don’t have an official name or a website yet. They stay in touch via the Women on Bikes section of the Portland Bike Forums.

Post a message there if you’d like to get involved.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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16 years ago

I think women on bikes are hot!!

(wait, can I say that?)

My Mom commutes by bike about eight and a half miles each way, from her home near Mt. Tabor to the Portland Airport and back.

She’s in great shape, so that helps — I won’t say that if she can do it, anybody can, because she tends to be a bit exceptional.

But still, I think she’s a great example. If this group is seeking more members, I’d be happy to send some information along to her.

16 years ago

This group is open to anyone and everyone that wants to attend – please watch the Womens Forum page of BikePortland.org for details about the May meeting.

16 years ago

That sounds great. AS a stay at home Dad who talks to many Moms about biking, I think another issue is safe bikes that work for families.

Go Janis, hope we see you at NWSS.


16 years ago

Yep, that is a concern that was mentioned in the group – safety but also family rides!

And there is NO way I could have started or continued without Barb and Alison. You ladies ROCK.

Sorry, this year it will be Pick-a-thon. Might even ride my bike out – maybe we can get a group to go. It is a blast!

Michael R
16 years ago

Go Team! I look forward to the day when my wife feels it is safe enough for her to ride in town (we live in SE Portland) and even maybe bike commute (five miles) part of the time.

16 years ago

Michael, I would LOVE for her to join my Women on Bikes program (clinics and rides) starting in May. You can find out more information at http://www.gettingaroundportland.org and click on SmartTrips Southeast. I look forward to meeting her. If you have any questions feel free to contact me at janis.mcdonald@pdxtrans.org.

Cheers, Janis