Women step up, speak up at inaugural CycloFemme ride

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Janis McDonald pumps up the Cyclofemme
crowd prior to the ride.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

CycloFemme — a global ride to honor, celebrate, and empower women — rolled through Northeast Portland during Sunday Parkways yesterday. Women of all shapes, sizes, ages and ethnicities met at Woodlawn Park, attached blue balloons to their bikes, attached “Women on Wheels” sashes over their skirts and dresses, got a souvenir CycloFemme tattoo and listened to an inspiring welcome by City of Portland staffer Janis McDonald:

“We are here to honor the women of yesterday who fought for our equality; to celebrate the women of today who make bicycling more mainstream in Portland; and to empower the women of tomorrow to take our momentum and make bicycling accessible to every woman and girls.”

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McDonald has spearheaded PBOT’s Women on Bikes program since 2005. Today, there’s a much wider recognition that women are not cycling as much as men in cities across America. The Cyclofemme ride is just one manifestation of what is becoming a full-fledged movement (there are also new books on the topic, national summits, and a host of other events) to bridge cycling’s gender gap.

After mingling and prepping, the ride took off from Woodlawn Park to Fernhill Park.

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Sarah Gilbert with UrbanMamas helped organize the event.
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At Fernhill, several invited speakers took to the mic and shared why they ride.

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Eight-year-old Willa Larson readies to address the crowd at Fernhill Park (read what she said below).

Anjali Rathore, a native of India who now lives in northwest Portland with her husband and young son, spoke first. She shared how her family in India was shocked to learn that her would-be husband biked to work:

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“Today, I’m here, and I’ve come a long way, because he made me ride. And then my son got into riding bikes very early… He did two Kidical Mass rides, then on the third one he asked me, ‘You never come? Why do you not come?!’ And I have to say, because of the two men in my life, I got motivated to ride; but now I set a riding timetable and I’m very pushy about it! And I think when women take charge of things, they do it more and they do it better.

And I want to tell my mom and all my friends back in India, that I’m not a second class citizen because I didn’t learn to drive here. They keep teasing me that people go to America to upgrade themselves and I have downgraded myself. I ride with pride and I’m very happy about it!”

Up next was Willa Larson, an eight-year-old who lives just a few blocks away from the park on NE Ainsworth:

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“I learned to ride a bike when I was five. Now, I like to ride my bike to school, to the library, and on Sunday Parkways… I think biking is better than driving because you go slow enough to see nature and say hello to people. Also, on summer days, the car is too hot and when you’re biking there is always a breeze. Biking makes me feel free and happy because I am helping the earth.”

14 year-old Ivy Long said, “At my age, self-transportation is very important.” She also said she only started biking after ditching an “ugly” kids bike with training wheels and getting a nice new Schwinn.

Also speaking at the event were: Southeast Portland resident Catherine Ciarlo, who works in Mayor Sam Adams’ office as transportation policy director; and Jennifer Cree, one of a team of ladies that will tackle every stage of the Tour de France this June. Also in attendance were author and activist Elly Blue and April Streeter, who released her new book, Women on Wheels: A Handbook and How To for City Cyclists just last week.

After everyone spoke, a custom CycloFemme cake (served up by Clever Cycles co-owner Martina Fahrner) was shared among the crowd, topping off an already sweet event that I hope becomes an annual tradition.

— For more background on the women’s bicycling movement, read our recap of the National Women Cycling Forum and our post, ‘All signs point to a big year for women on bikes.

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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12 years ago

Hurrah, Good for the Girls!!! They all deserve an “Atta Girl”

12 years ago

For personal ideas of egalitarianism, some avoid any event which may segregate or ghettoize any group and re-brand it to “honor,celebrate and empower”. Willa Larson (and her like minded peers) deserves respect for willingness, dedication and ability to operate a machine. I hope she is not led to believe her pedaling is special because of her gender identification. We are all brothers and sisters of the wheel. This is not rain of a parade, it’s fair notice a better way is being actively surpressed.

12 years ago

If it gets women out for the first time, it’s good, but I’d rather not be part of a sex-segregated group. I’m out there every day (or at least every weekday), lately I’ve been wearing skirts so it’s immediately obvious that the body on the old bike is female. I just hope that being out there all the time helps make it normal. And no visible spandex allows it to look normal.

12 years ago

Yay Janis, April, Martina, Carla, Elly, Elle, Linda and all the other people (male, female, whatever) who make things like CycloFemme and Sunday Parkways happen! And thank you, Jonathan, for your excellent photos and reporting…it was a fabulous day and we’re able to re-live it through BikePortland.

Alan 1.0
Alan 1.0
12 years ago

Oh! So that’s what the Blue Balloon pack was all about! I saw it go past, them clockwise, me counter, and wondered. Lots and LOTS of ’em…way to go, CycloFemmes!

On that website there’s a pic of the Portland ride taking the lane on the Saint John’s Bridge – http://distilleryimage0.instagram.com/b68ec2969d3b11e1a92a1231381b6f02_7.jpg – nice rollin’ for everyone’s rights.