Today’s special free webinar on increasing the number of women who bicycle was impressive, fun and insightful. Featured speakers included APBP’s Executive Director (and our friend) Kit Keller, LondonCycleChic blogger Caz Nichlin, the ever cool Janis MacDonald of Portland’s Women on Bikes and Sunday Parkways programs, School Board Member/Cycling Sisters founder/Active Transportation Alliance Board Pres (phew!) Jan Healy, Pedestrian Bicycle Information Center Ass. Director Laura Sandt and the woman who really drove this webinar, Fionnuala Quinn, a Civil Engineer, active member of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling and leader of the JEiT Girls Engineering Program.
The women on the panel touched on so many important issues: safety, comfort, cultural norms, kids, ill-fitting bikes, lack of experience or even knowing how to ride, fashion and other challenges that women cite as preventing them from bicycling. The good news is that bicycling is becoming more and more safe as more people ride. Bicycling really is chic and more and more people are bicycling around South Florida in their normal everyday clothes. Programs like Bike Miami Rides and groups like the Miami Open Streets Team provide opportunities for people to ride in comfortable settings and gain the confidence they need to bicycle on their own. Bike shops are doing more to appeal to women and one of Miami’s most active advocates/bike shop owners is a woman. In other words, things are getting better all the time.
The safety issue is more complicated. One of the women commented that she feels safer riding than walking in some neighborhoods. I don’t always feel that way. I’ve had some close calls as a woman on a bike and it’s hard to press charges for harassment against someone in a car that speeds away. So far, I’ve never been physically hurt but it has affected routes that I take. I don’t like commuting home late at night in business attire but that has a lot to do with where I live – I wouldn’t want to walk or take the bus through the area either. The good news is that our local governments consistently care about reducing violent crime – and we can use this to our advantage when we lobby for better bicycling accommodations on certain roadways. For me, the issue has less do less with being a woman on a bicycle than it does with living in an area with poor lighting, high crime rates and awful land-use policies that mean few ‘eyes on the street’.
The best thing that I personally took away from the webinar was being reminded how many women are leaders in bicycle advocacy, like me (!) We are a diverse bunch, spread out across the country and with all kin
ds of different ideas, motivations and programs. It’s nice to have role models and it is great to have friends in this line of ‘work.’ I’m going to look more into these programs to see what we might want to start here in South
Florida. Do you have any ideas? We’d love to hear to them! (Thank you)
Also very exciting, APBP announced during the summit a completely new and open Women Cycling Project that will be accessible on their website here. You don’t need to be a member to take part; the point is to keep the momentum going from this great webinar. One of the first initiatives of this group is a Women Cycling Photo & Video Contest! Submit your photo of women and/or girls using a bicycle for transportation at http://www.pedbikeimages.org/, where you can also view loads of pictures for inspiration.
PLEASE NOTE: The APBP’s survey, which you should urge all of your female acquaintainces to complete whether they bicycle or not, is open through May 15. Please share this link: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/womencycling