Northend Greenway

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Picking Up Speed: Women Talk Bicycling in DC

Posted by @northendgrnway on March 7, 2013

A 2012 study conducted by the City of Harrisonburg revealed that three out of four cyclists in the ‘burg appear to be men. While this data comes as little surprise as it reflects national trends, bicycling is fun and free for everyone, so why the gender gap? From lack of safe infrastructure to ‘helmet head’ everyone seems to have an opinion about the root of the disparity. This question, along with my own simple love for bike commuting, motivated me to attend the Women’s Forum at the National Bike Summit this past Monday made possible by a co-sponsorship from the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition, Shenandoah Bicycle Company and the Northend Greenway. There I immersed myself in a sea of passionate, intelligent and resourceful women with creative and inspired ideas. Among the advocates was the Greenway’s former intern, Katie Monroe, now working for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. Katie was generous enough to mention us in her recent blog post alongside a slue of luminaries. Why not spread the good news? Here’s part two of Katie’s series on women in cycling. Hope you get as excited to read this as I am to share it! -Suzi, Northend Greenway Program Director

“The second annual National Women’s Bicycling Forum in Washington, DC, presented by the League of American Bicyclists, had a catchy name: Women Mean Business. Chosen in part to emphasize the economic power of women on bicycles, the more idiomatic meaning rang true for me. Women from around the country are taking bicycling and bicycle advocacy seriously, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

Diana Owens Steif and Katie Monroe riding Capital Bikeshare bicycles in the Black Women Bike DC ride

One of my personal heroes, the feminist bicycling thinker, writer, and activist Elly Blue, distilled it best in a speech on Sunday night. She put the conversation about women and bicycling in the context of the national conversation about women’s rights. After all, what better symbol do we have for controlling our own health and mobility than riding a bicycle? Elly also acknowledged the changing face of the National Bicycle Summit — after years of being a “sausagefest,” now it’s more like “a tsunami of inclusivity” (her words!).

The women at the National Women’s Bicycling Forum came from rural and urban backgrounds, from established advocacy groups and grassroots movements, from academia, advocacy, and the art world. A few of the many who stirred my mind and heart:

  • Black Women Bike DC grew from a just a few Twitter followers to a bike club over 700 strong in less than two years, because of the vision and leadership of Veronica Davis. BWBDC led a bike ride through the city on Sunday — I had so much fun pedaling past the Washington Monument on my shiny red Capital Bikeshare bike!
  • Liz Jose is the founder of WE Bike NYC, a women’s bicycle club that operates in all five boroughs, offering social rides, mechanics workshops, training rides, and more to grow NYC’s community of women bicyclists.
  • Under the leadership of Nelle Pierson, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association just launched apeer-to-peer mentorship program designed to transfer the enthusiasm and practical knowledge necessary to ride a bicycle from woman to woman.
  • Finishing up an anthropology PhD dissertation about social justice in bicyclingAdonia Lugo is building new and useful academic knowledge for the bicycle movement to use — rooted in her own real-world advocacy experience in Los Angeles and Seattle.
  • Harrisonburg, VA is lucky to have Suzi Carter working to build a biking and walking path called theNorthend Greenway through her town. Harrisonburg has made dramatic improvements in bicycling infrastructure in recent years, a reminder that bicycling isn’t just about big cities.
  • One of the rock stars of the event, New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has crafted innovative streetscapes that are safer for everyone under Mayor Bloomberg — including 200 miles of new bike lanes in three years!
Every moment of yesterday’s National Women’s Bicycle Forum — from the keynote speakers to the conversations in the hallways — buzzed with the excitement of a movement diversifying. Stay tuned to learn how the Bicycle Coalition plans to help more Philadelphia women start bicycling!
Note: This is the second entry in our ongoing conversation about women and bicycling in Philadelphia. Katie Monroe, who is leading the Bicycle Coalition’s work to address the bicycling gender gap, is in Washington DC this week for the National Bike Summit. Here she reports on Monday’s National Women’s Bicycling Forum.”
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