Women from Pittsburgh and beyond came together for this sold out event
Saturday, March 29, 2014 was another first for Pittsburgh: BikePGH and Chatham University partnered on the first ever Pittsburgh Women and Biking Forum! Women and trans identified people of all ages and backgrounds set aside their Saturday to build community, discuss current bicycling culture, and learn about everything from bike mechanics to riding with families and more. There were even women who came who don’t ride bikes but wanted to learn more about riding and join the community.
If this first forum is any indication, there is an enormous community of women and trans identified people wanting to learn from each other and discuss issues around women and biking. Not only was the event sold out, but we were registered over capacity and even had a waiting list. People heard “women” and “biking” and that was all they needed to know. Womens voices are not at the forefront of conversations about bicycling, and while we share the joy of riding our bikes, there are still many issues to be addressed. This gathering served as the preliminary means to start assessing the needs and barriers for women who would like to feel comfortable riding their bikes in Pittsburgh.
Attendees heard from some amazing women who affect change in their communities through bicycling. Karen Brooks brought her knowledge to the audience from over 10 years of experience working in the bicycle industry, Monic G., founder of BlackGirlsDOBike.com, shared inspiring stories of black women across America who celebrate themselves as women who ride. Beth Hazlett talked with us about how a soon-to-come bike share system will get more people riding in Pittsburgh, and Jess Mathews from Columbus, OH spoke about the importance of creating ongoing bicycling programs and events centered around empowering women and girls.
Women bike for many different reasons; they want to get where they need to go, stay fit, socialize, de-stress, have fun, spend time with their families, shop, commute to work, and the list goes on. With this in mind, workshops and discussion groups covered a wide array of topics.
Basic Bike Adjustments & Upkeep focused on the ABCs (air, brakes, chain) and more of bicycle maintenance. This knowledge both empowers women to take care of their own bikes and also to walk into a shop with confidence and articulate what needs to be fixed. The Fundamentals of Riding sessions were held by Carolyne Whelan and Sara Cole, two passionate bicycle commuters,who talked about how to incorporate bicycling into your life. Topics included choosing safe routes, what to wear to be comfortable riding, and rules of the road!
The enthusiastic participation in the discussion groups made it clear that the women in our community need to come together more often. One common issue brought up by women during the Experiences Riding as Women session was not just the “get off the road” type of harassment by drivers, but sexual harassment while riding that feels scary, humiliating, and uncomfortable. The attendees had different methods of dealing with harassment from ignoring the issue to using the element of surprise, but we all agreed that harassment is not wanted and it needs to change. It was great to have Heather Dougherty from Hollaback! Pittsburgh join us to share her knowledge and anecdotes on street harassment.
There were many mothers in attendance at the forum, some of whom came together to talk about Riding with Children and Families. They love riding with their children and recommended destination-based riding, riding with other families, and always reviewing safe bicycling instruction with their kids. Some barriers discussed were being concerned with the dangers of traffic and how to find the right child bikes/carriers/trailers/cargo setups for their needs. Parents also expressed the need for Safe Routes to School programs to be funded to encourage and enable their kids to get to school without having to hop into a car.
The Pittsburgh Women and Biking Forum was a great day! We met many wonderful women, learned a lot, and event got to practice putting our bikes on a Port Authority bus. We’re getting excited to host our next Women and Biking event in June!
View more photos from the Women & Biking Forum on our Flickr Page
Chatham University office of Sustainability: Bike Works free shop space with workshops
Hollaback! Pittsburgh – facebook.com/HollabackBurgh – twitter @HollabackBurgh
Pittsburgh Babes on Bikes – organizes women-focused rides
BlackGirlsDOBike.com – a rally for black women who bike
Positive Spin – youth empowerment through bicycling
Pittsburgh Major Taylor Cycling Club – health and cycling
Queers in Low Gear – queer bicycling group
League of American Bicyclists – Women Bike program
Free Ride – Women & Queers night, DIY Bike repair
Bike Pittsburgh loves ours neighbors – after all, we’re Pittsburghers ourselves – and believes the best way to address this problem is to remind them that bike riders are members of the community, people who deserve to get home safely.
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