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.”
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.
At Fernhill, several invited speakers took to the mic and shared why they ride.
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:
“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:
“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.