The legendary women’s suffragist leader, Susan B. Anthony, was once quoted with saying that the bicycle “has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.” High praise for a device that some see as merely a toy or a tool, and from a woman that led the movement granting women the right to vote. But Ms. Anthony may have been onto something. To this day, the humble bicycle provides women not just a means of having fun, but also serves as a form of empowerment.
The Bike Campaign recently launched a new program to encourage more women to ride their bikes called Women on Wheels – WOW! for short. Local women meet up and ride in a group led by certified bike instructor, Executive Director Maria Contreras Tebbutt, and other experienced bike guides. Participants learn the rules of the road and safety tips and become familiar with group riding dynamics and local bike lanes and paths – all while having fun and meeting other women interested in bike riding.
There are many reasons a woman may choose to ride her bike, including exercise, leisure activity, and a means of transportation. Riding a bicycle can bring a sense of freedom and empowerment. These women on two wheels influence the habits of their children and grandchildren, spouses and life partners, and neighbors. Women can choose to forego the car when driving kids to school or themselves to work and instead opt for the bike, serving as a role model to their own kids and the community at large.
Women have come a long way on bicycles since the early 19th century and the suffragist movement, so some may think there isn’t a need for a women-only bicycle training program. But sadly, issues pertaining to women on wheels still exist, including those of safety and harassment. Thus, teaching women how and where to ride safely, and introducing them to other bike riders to partner up with serves a vital role in women’s access to bicycling. History shows us that the bicycle has played a powerful role in gender equality and continues to do so globally. Outside the United States around the globe, women face more dire consequences, where lack of transportation contributes to barriers to education, employment, and healthcare, and social stigmas around bicycling still exist. To combat this, the solution remains the same: Create safe access to bikes and encourage women to ride.
On a recent Saturday morning, a group of local women (and one very welcome man who wanted to support the program!) gathered for one of the Bike Campaign’s WOW rides. There were smiles, laughter, instructions, questions, encouragement, empowerment, and promises to keep riding on their own and with others they’d met.
Want to join in on the fun and get a dose of empowerment on the side? WOW rides take place on the third Saturday of every month and start at The Bike Campaign at the Cannery at 10 AM. Riders are welcome to arrive as early as 9:30 AM for a free bike inspection and instruction on how to use a bike pump, lube chain, and adjust brakes. WOW rides are limited to twenty riders to ensure safety and personalized attention. As you cruise by, you just might inspire others to cheer you on while channeling Ms. Anthony words, “I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel.” This article was written by Lisa Montanaro, commissioned by The Bike Campaign. For more information about how to “Bike More. Drive Less.”, contact Maria Contreras Tebbutt at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.TheBikeCampaign.com.
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