Podcast: Women of the E-Bike Revolution

Posted by on March 9th, 2022 at 10:27 am

It was International Women’s Day when I edited this episode and what better subject to explore than the impact the e-bike revolution is having on women?

In this episode I share interviews with five women whose lives have been changed by e-bikes. You’ll hear how their bikes have not only helped them leap confidently over what used to be common barriers to bicycling, but also how the bikes have balanced out the power dynamic on our streets and have opened up new cycling possibilities far beyond the commute to work.

In historical terms, the skyrocketing popularity of e-bikes among women feels a bit like a deja vu.

At the turn of the 20th century, as the and price and safety of these magical, human-powered machines improved and the bicycling craze swept Europe and America, it had a profound effect on women. Bicycles leveled the mobility playing field between genders and in so doing ushered in a new era of independence that had vast influence on everything from fashion and popular culture, to politics. Susan B. Anthony, the famous women’s rights pioneer said in 1896: “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.”

Fast forward 120 years or so and another great leap in bicycle technology is once again changing everything for women: electric bikes. The popularity of e-bikes is one of the most exciting developments in the cycling world and – as you’ll learn in this episode – it’s particularly exciting for women.

Bike advocates have spent decades trying to increase the amount of women who would give daily bicycling a try and it turns out all many of them needed was just a small electric motor powered by a rechargeable battery about the size of a two water bottles.

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Left to right, top to bottom: Leslie Carlson, Ingrid Fish, Emily Barrett, Karin Power, Tina Ricks. (Click for photo credits)

Going into this episode, I felt like what I was seeing with e-bikes and women was nothing short of a revolution, or at least a movement. Now I’m more convinced about that then ever.

Our guests in this episode (in order of appearance) are:

  • Leslie Carlson (@queenleslie) , a 56 year old a communications and branding consultant and married mom of three college-age kids. Leslie lives in southeast Portland and has only had her e-bike for about a month.
  • Emily Barrett (@emmypdx), a tech industry worker who’s lived in north and northeast Portland for 18 years and is married with kids ages 5 and 1.
  • Tina Ricks (@tinaintheburbs) is in her 50s and works at her home in the Bethany area (just outside Beaverton) editing law books for a small publisher. She’s been the owner of a Rad Power e-bike for about a year.
  • Ingrid Fish, a 46-year old who works for the City of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. She and her husband live in the Woodstock neighborhood and have two kids, ages 12 and 10. Ingrid is the most veteran e-biker of the bunch and she’s been riding hers for about 10 years.
  • Karin Power (@karin_power), a 38-year-old member of the Oregon state legislature who represents the city of Milwaukie in the House of Representatives. She carries her two young children on her Tern GSD that she bought last fall.

This podcast is a production of Pedaltown Media Inc., and is made possible by listeners like you. If you’re not a subscriber yet, please become one today at bikeportland.org/support. You can listen to more episodes and find out how to subscribe at bikeportland.org/podcast. Our theme music is by Kevin Hartnell.

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el timito

Thanks for bringing these voices to the blog! As a fellow e-biking parent I can relate to the joy of hauling kids (and groceries, and dog, and [fill in the blank]) with the confidence of keeping up in traffic. It’s also so helpful to hear women sharing their experiences that men may not think of – the ability to power through a poorly lit path or other area that feels sketchy, for example.
I look forward to the day when our society lets people feel safe on the road, on the path, anywhere because we respect and care for all people. But until then I’m happy that an e-bike can take the place of an SUV in providing utility and comfort for everyday trips.