Women on Bikes

A Unity Ride recap and thoughts on respecting bodies in public spaces

Maritza Arango (Events Editor) by on July 15th, 2021 at 9:21 am

Riders meet up prior to rolling out for a recent Unity Ride.
(Photos: Maritza Arango/@arango_mari)

Maritza Arango.

Publisher’s Note: Maritza Arango is BikePortland’s new events editor! This is her first (non Weekend Event Guide) post. Maritza moved to Portland from Bogotá, Colombia in January 2021. Stay tuned for a proper intro and more of her perspectives on Portland’s bike scene. – Jonathan

How hard is it for humans to understand that differences should be acknowledged and respected? It is not just a matter of thinking that we are all the same, because we are not. With that on my mind, I attended my first bike ride in Portland earlier this month. It was the Unity Ride; a ride only for women, trans and non-binary people.

“I want to get to know the community through the eyes of those who, like myself, believe their bodies are not welcome, appreciated, suitable, or even allowed on a bike.”

For centuries, the patriarchy has drawn a line between “them” – as the bodies that matter, the bodies that “can and should” occupy public space like it belonged to them – and “the others.” They feel entitled to comment, to look, to touch, to harass. It is unnecessary for me to explain (and honestly I don’t want to because it is exhausting) which bodies belong to that historical patriarchal status-quo and which don’t.

Now, you should be asking yourself: What does all this have to do with biking? Why should I make the decision to start writing about biking in Portland on such an uncomfortable topic? Well, I want to get to know the community through the eyes of those who, like myself, believe their bodies are not welcome, appreciated, suitable, or even allowed on a bike. This is how I want to introduce myself.

Some may think that bikes are just for sports, for fun, or for daily transportation. I was drawn to the Unity Ride for several reasons, in part because I think that bikes are so much more than that. I think riding a bike can be a political expression of individuals and communities.


In Sellwood, on one of our stops along the Willamette River.

So let’s get to the ride recap!

Before I continue, I want to mention that I invited two friends to join me. Not only because I wanted to spend time with them, but also because I believed that I was not going to fit in. Why? Because I am a woman, I am overweight, I am Latina, and I have a disability and a service dog. Sounds like a perfect recipe for an entertaining conversation for a group of proud and drunk boys, right?

Amélie, my service dog, getting to know the community.

Here’s how it happened: First, I reached out to Sofie, one of the organizers, to let them know I wanted to join the ride and get to know them so I could write this report.

I arrived at Colonel Summers park, Friday July 3rd, at 7:00 pm. Around 15 people had already gathered, and were talking and waiting for something or someone. Everyone seemed to know each other except me. As I was waiting for Sofie, I felt like I was in an awkward blind date where I was waiting and looking for someone that should arrive “on a red bike.” My bike needed some adjustment so I decided to approach the group. People reached out to help and I even got a tool kit offered (thank you, PCC Active Transportation!). Everything seemed to have started from a good place. More people were showing up, and we quickly became a group of 20 or 30 bikers with so many different bodies and gender expressions.

Someone started talking to the group: “No homophobia allowed, no fatphobia allowed, no transphobia allowed, no misogynistic behavior allowed, no harassment allowed…” I can’t remember the exact words but I can summarize those with: No discrimination allowed. Turns out that person was Sofie. And that’s how I met her.

Some safety instructions were given to the group and we were ready to go. The ride was smooth, sunny, and beautiful. People were happy and it felt like a place where I could show any weakness with no judgment. During the ride some people approached me to check in, some to have a short talk and some were just sharing music and chillness – I know, it sounds too much like a unicorn safety fairytale, but it was real.


We arrived at Sellwood park for a swim and a picnic after a 10-mile ride across a couple of bridges. (I wouldn’t recommend the ride to beginners that are just learning how to ride; I’d say it required a minimum set of skills.)

At the picnic I talked to some of the organizers of the ride; here is a little bit of what they shared with me:

“The ride has been going on for about a year now. It started biweekly but now is weekly. We have two rides: One that goes at a pace that’s inclusive to all riders, and one that’s faster for more experienced riders. We strive to include women, transgender and non-binary people that have felt excluded or intimidated to forming community around bikes. We want the community to be as involved in the ride as they want to be! We aim to create an inclusive environment where no one person is the sole leader. We prioritize safety and inclusion while having fun!”

What is my conclusion after riding and talking with them? Everyone is invited except the ones that have a privilege that allows them to be respected, accepted and safe in any or every other ride. Why? Because women and other bodies that are non-dominant need spaces to feel safe and to…. just be. Don’t take my word as the Unity Ride’s word, this is just me asking the world to give women and others more spaces where we can take care of each other, be vulnerable, learn and especially, not be harassed!

I promise that you’ll read from me a lot more reasons why women belong on bikes and why public space is in debt to us, “the others.” Thank you for reading!

— Maritza Arango, @arango_mari on Instagram and Twitter.
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Portland’s network of bike clubs for women is thriving

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on September 6th, 2017 at 1:02 pm

The Bikin’ Betties of Portland.
(Photo: Bikin’ Betties on Facebook)

The community of people who love bicycling in Portland is always changing and evolving. As someone who watches over it everday, I’ve noticed a nice trend of late: A proliferation of riding clubs devoted specifically to women.

It’s a very encouraging sign and a testament to the depth and breadth of who’s riding bikes in Portland. Statistically speaking (as of 2014), women make up about one-third of Portland’s daily bike traffic citywide; but you wouldn’t know that if you could see my social media timelines and inbox. Just since the start of summer I’ve learned of several new groups. Add them to the existing foundation of clubs and initiatives aimed at women on bikes and you’ve got a connected network where nearly anyone can find a home for their biking passions.

If you’re looking for a supportive place to meet other riders, check out the info below. From bikepacking to business, there’s something for just about everyone.

I’ll share the new (to me, at least) groups first, followed by a list of the older ones…

Bikin’ Betties

Bikin’ Betties is a ladies-only bike ride on Monday nights. It’s a great way to meet fellow female cyclists, get a bit of a workout, learn awesome bike routes around our city, and become more skilled and confident on our bikes. Anyone who gender identifies as a woman or who is gender non-binary is welcome.

Find them on Facebook. You can also join them for a special, culinary-themed ride to the “Black Feast” dinner on September 10th.
[Read more…]

PBOT launches women’s cycling survey

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on June 13th, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Sexy Schwinns and Trektosterone Rides-13

Survey asks what women want.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has released a women’s cycling survey. The survey comes from PBOT’s Active Transportation Division and it aims to learn more about women’s current bike use and interest in cycling in general.

PBOT’s Women on Bikes program has been leading rides and creating resources for women since 2005. Currently, just 31 percent of Portland’s bike riders are women. According to the most recent City data, that number has not changed since 2003. Women are often singled out for promotion of cycling because it’s believed that they are an “indicator species” of a bike-friendly city.

A 2009 article in Scientific American put it this way:[Read more…]

Let’s Race Bikes! gets a strong start (Photos from launch party)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on December 13th, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Big crowd for Let’s Race Bikes! launch party.
(Photos by Will Wall)

Last month we shared a bit about Let’s Race Bikes!, a new coalition of local teams that want to encourage more women to suit up and race on the road. They had their big launch party on Saturday night and we heard from one of the organizers, Karey Miles, that it was a huge success.

Miles says over 250 people turned out for the party and there were a “whopping” 65 ladies who showed up the morning after for a group ride in the rain. The party was both a launch and a fundraiser to support women’s racing. Attendees snapped up raffle tickets in hopes of winning one of the many donated prizes.

The women behind Let’s Race Bikes! plan to host rides and clinics in the coming months as the 2013 road racing season is just around the corner. [Read more…]

Four takeaways from Pro Walk/Pro Bike and Women’s Cycling Summit (from someone who wasn’t there)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on September 18th, 2012 at 11:07 am

Elly Blue debuted a test for determining
whether bike ads are sexist. This one wouldn’t pass.

I didn’t make it to the big Pro Walk/Pro Bike advocacy conference and the National Women’s Bicycling Summit that were down in Long Beach last week; but I did follow it closely via Twitter and other outlets. From all the news and opinions I’ve read, four things stood out. I share them below in case you missed them too.

Mark Gorton’s calls for radical reform
Mark Gorton, the web entrepreneur and financier behind Limewire, Streetsblog, and Streetfilms, gave a keynote that brought the house down. Gorton has recently launched a global initiative dubbed “Rethinking the Automobile” and his speech certainly seemed to meet that goal. Channeling one of his inspirations, former Bogota Mayor Enrique Peñalosa, Gorton exclaimed, “Birds fly, fish swim, people walk,” and he added that making it impossible to walk in our cities is a “human rights violation.” Cities have become so auto-centric that Gorton believes, “We have crushed the ability of children to move about their own world.” To thwart the dominance and negative impacts of cars in cities, he suggested that, “We should not be building any new automobile infrastructure.” [Read more…]

Agenda set for first ever National Women’s Bicycling Summit

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on July 31st, 2012 at 9:53 am

In the latest sign that 2012 is shaping up as a big year for women on bikes, the League of American Bicyclists is gearing up for the first-ever National Women’s Bicycling Summit. The event (not to be confused with the National Women Cycling Forum held during the National Bike Summit back in March) is being billed as the “Women’s Summit to Tackle Gender Disparity in Bicycling” and it will be held in Long Beach, California on September 13th.

Here in Portland, we’ve taken a leading role in encouraging women to ride. The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has had a ‘Women on Bikes’ program for many years, many local shops have women’s only wrench nights, we’ve got a healthy women’s racing scene, and many prominent women in the bike advocacy sphere — like Alta Planning and Design President and author Mia Birk and League Board Member and Executive Director of the Community Cycling Center Alison Graves — call Portland home. [Read more…]

Women step up, speak up at inaugural CycloFemme ride

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on May 14th, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Cyclofemme ride-11

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.”

[Read more…]

Portland will join global ‘Cyclo Femme’ ride

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on March 27th, 2012 at 12:05 pm

The stars have aligned for Portland to take part in the global Cyclo Femme ride on May 13th. The ride was created by Girl Bike Love (a website and online community for women who ride) with the goal to, “create a unified voice for women in cycling, encouraging and empowering more riders.”
[Read more…]

MAMILs, ‘Biker Chicks’, and the rise of women on bikes

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on March 20th, 2012 at 8:20 pm

National Women Cycling Forum-12

The panel at today’s first-ever National Women Cycling Forum.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

[Read more…]

All signs point to a big year for women on bikes

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on March 8th, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Sexy Schwinns and Trektosterone Rides-13

Coming to a street near you.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

2012 is shaping up to be a big year for women on bikes.

Everywhere I turn I see signs of a growing recognition that there needs to be more women riding bikes in American cities and increasingly — both from the grassroots and on a national advocacy level — people are doing something about it. Given that women played a big role in cycling’s popularity in the late 1890s and early 1900s, this is a resurgence that is long overdue.[Read more…]