If women on bikes are the barometer of a bike-friendly city, a grassroots effort to improve conditions for and understanding of female cyclists hopes to increase the pressure.
A group calling themselves Women for Bikes met for the second time last week at the Kennedy School in northeast Portland.
The group was created by three ladies who are active in the local bike community: Alison Hill, Communications Director for the Community Cycling Center; Janis McDonald from PDOT’s Transportation Options Division; and Barb Grover, Community Relations Manager for the Bike Gallery.
Their first meeting in May packed a room with 45 women and the result was an energetic range of ideas, from an encouragement program for young girls and how to educate bike shops about women customers, to a letter-writing campaign to bicycle product manufacturers.
During their recent meeting — which came on the heels of an Oregonian editorial about “Cycling’s gender gap” — the women brainstormed about how their fledgling group can be most effective.
Participants included a charity ride organizer, a bike shop employee, a massage therapist, and a lawyer.
Ellie Thalheimer, a freelance writer who teaches yoga for cyclists at River City Bicycles, suggested the group creates a curriculum for local bike shops that would help them be more welcoming to female customers. Other ideas brought up in the meeting included working more closely with the local media, making presentations to the community and taking action on important issues.
For example, local lawyer and bike advocate Margaret Weddell shared with the group that she was tired of discourteous cyclists who sped by her across the Hawthorne Bridge. But instead of just complaining about it, she took action.
Weddell organized an educational event called Bells on Bridges and she and other volunteers met on the Hawthorne Bridge during the morning commute, held up signs about passing safely and gave out free bells to cyclists.
She hopes to someday make a jersey that says, “My name is On Your Left…say it as you pass me.”
In addition to sharing ideas and inspiration, the group offers a welcoming venue to connect with others who care about making Portland a better place to ride.
Despite its name, the ladies behind Women for Bikes encourage anyone to show up and get involved (they were nice to me!).
The next meeting will be a potluck and picnic at Laurelhurst Park on July 18th at 6:30pm.
You can read reports from both meetings and connect with the ladies from Women for Bikes in the Portland Bike Forums.