Our Take-home from the National Women’s Bicycling Forum 2014
Becca and Jane braved the storm and attended the 3rd annual National Women’s Bicycling Forum in Washington, DC. Over four hundred people attended to connect, inspire, inform, and develop their engagement and commitment to increasing the participation of women in the bicycling industry, community, and advocacy.
The League of American Bicyclists (LAB) invited us to sell our Women and Biking zine at the forum and they were a hit! We have heard from a lot of Pittsburghers telling us that they want the zine too. Women & Biking Zine Issue 1: Yet We Rise, We Ride is now available for purchase on our site!
We met amazing people, saw familiar faces from advocacy events of years past, and learned a lot. There were so many wonderful presentations, projects, and ideas giving us an abundance of information to take in and take back home to Pittsburgh.
An overarching theme was that there is not just one narrative for people who bike. Dr. Adonia Lugo, Equity Initiative Manager with the LAB spoke about the importance of recognizing the barriers that women of different background face. Empowering women through advocacy and information is liberating.
Kristin Gavin, Founder Gearing Up Philly, stated that “riding a bicycle is normalizing”. She works with women in recovery from domestic abuse, sexual assault, and incarceration, teaching them the practical skills for incorporating bicycling into their lives. When people are in recovery they are criminalized, marginalized, and stigmatized, but riding a bicycle creates connections, provides a mode for them to have a sense of autonomy, get exercise, and interact with their city as themselves, not their past. Additionally, Gearing Up fosters community partnerships and works with a bike distributor so the women can earn their bicycles after logging 100 miles and demonstrating bike maintenance skills.
The highlight of the day for Becca was meeting the keynote speaker Terry O’Neill, President of the National Organization for Women (NOW). She urged cycling advocates to put women at the center of the analysis and consider what is needed to make bicycles a safe, smart choice for women. When considering that 2/3 of the minimum wage workers in the US are women, black women earn 64 cents and Latina women only 59 cents for every dollar a white man makes, it is important to recognize the impact that this has on many women’s lives. Many cannot afford to live close to work, so commuting by bike is not a reasonable life choice.
Issues of equity have a large impact on the viability of incorporating bicycling into peoples lives. Women are far more likely to be survivors of rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking. The longterm impact of this must not be underestimated and considering check-ins when riding at night, creating a back-up plan for flat tires in isolated areas, and other concerns should be addressed when organizing.
While maintaining awareness of these issues, bicycling should bring out the best in community. It should be about mentorship, relationships, and fun exclaimed Dorothy Nichols of sheebeest. When addressing a common excuse for not biking, Katie Monroe of Women Bike PHL said, “I like to remind people that it’s much easier to bike in heels that to walk in them.”
Our community has a ways to go, but through BikePGH’s Women and Biking Program we are on our way. Becca & Jane learned a great deal at the National Women’s Bicycling Forum and will share this and more at our first Pittsburgh Women & Biking Forum on Saturday, March 29th at Chatham University. Women of all skill levels are welcome to attend a day of discussions and hands-on bicycling workshops.
We pledge to further the engagement of women in our bicycling community.
What’s your pledge?
This blog post only highlights a few of the forum’s speakers, but there were many more amazing women who presented. Take a look at some of their bios and projects on bikeleague.org/forum
Not a member of BikePGH? Join today! We need you to add your voice! Bike Pittsburgh works to protect cyclist’s rights and promote the vision of making Pittsburgh a safer and more enjoyable place to live and to ride. For more info, check out: www.bikepgh.org/membership
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