At the first National Youth Bike Summit in New York City in 2011, I was introduced to a young woman who worked for a national advocacy organization for bicycling and walking. We struck up a conversation over bagels and coffee in which she mentioned convening a national meeting to focus on engaging more women in cycling.
That sounded pretty exciting, so we kept in touch. Fast-forward to 2014, and the woman I met in the cafeteria, Carolyn Szczepanski, directs a national program called Women Bike. Organized by the League of American Bicyclists, in partnership with a growing roster of sponsors (including velojoy.com), this campaign, the only one of its kind in the U.S., focuses not only on attracting more women to the benefits of riding bicycles, but also on helping elevate women to leadership in the world of cycling.
Be inspired! Sign up for the National Women’s Bicycling Forum on March 3 in Washington, D.C. Click here. Then scroll down for 10 more great reasons to attend the Forum.
I think often about the remarkable progress that Women Bike has achieved within a very short period of time – in attracting a broad following, becoming a leading resource for data, fostering equity and supporting local advocacy through its grants program. Women Bike’s centerpiece, the National Women’s Bicycling Forum, has evolved from a two-hour seminar in a single conference room to a full day of high-profile programming that attracts hundreds of leaders in women’s advocacy and opens the annual National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C.
The momentum is a measure not only of strong leadership and a vision of what women’s cycling can look like in this country, but also of the moment. The face of cycling is changing. More women are embracing two wheels for transportation in urban centers where there is increasing focus on sustainability, better infrastructure and new options like public bike sharing programs. A new crop of women entrepreneurs is creating products to help make cycling more comfortable and stylish. Breakthroughs like the new La Course Women’s Tour the France race bring heightened visibility and prestige to the women’s sport.
Women Bike knits all of that together, and in doing so, amplifies our voices. As a New York City-based advocate, it’s great to see our hometown, with its own tremendous strides in advocacy, infrastructure, public bike sharing and street safety through Vision Zero, so well-represented. Among those on the speaking program in D.C.:
- Liz Jose, founder of WE Bike NYC (They’re riding to D.C. to raise awareness of women’s cycling!)
- Tanya Quick, founding principal, NYC design firm Language Dept.
- Kimberly Kinchen, co-founder of NYC Biketrain
- Carolin Samponaro, Senior Director of Campaigns and Organizing at Transportation Alternatives
What I’m most excited about, though, is the future — the narrative that’s just beginning to unfold. As women who have made bicycling a part of our lives, for whatever reasons we honor and celebrate, we’re all moving in a positive direction. Now the challenge is to bring others along for the ride.
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