On February 10-11, I attended the Colorado Bike Summit. This was my third year attending, but my first year involved in a role beyond just that of participant. This year I was asked to serve as a moderator of a small group during the Women in Cycling break-out session. We were asked to discuss the barriers (real and perceived) that keep women from riding bikes, and also how best to put the FUN back into riding for women!
My group was amazinginly diverse, with male and female representatives from New Belgium, PrimalWear, Gates, PeopleforBikes.org, communication and real estate companies, Campus Cycles, and more. We had great discussions related to these topics and my biggest takeaway was that women like to be asked. They prefer to be invited. Rare are the women who go barging in unhindered; more commonly, women wait to be welcomed in -often by another woman. This is perhaps based on the sentiment that women do not want to seem presumpuous or overbearing (or want to avoid rejection by waiting until they are affirmatively asked to come in, to be a part of the cycling environment). I also realized that women respond best on a one-on-one basis, i.e. one woman sees another ride her bike in to work and strikes up a conversation at the office about how she packs her clothes, what route she takes, where she stores her bike, how she showers or gets dressed, and more. Bringing women into cycling is going to happen one new female cyclist at a time, they aren't going to come by droves. I think as bike industry folks, marketers and so on, people need to change their approach.
Another fascinating element to this session was the discovery of amazing Women-Bike-Oriented resources on the League of American Bicyclists website. Check out this AMAZING link!! And even cooler, check out this publication called WOMEN ON A ROLL -WomenBikeReport(web).pdf - chock full of awesome stats and infographics. I encourage everyone who is interested in getting more women on bikes to review this!
So what are we going to do about it?? How do we invite more women in -not to race, but simply to ride? Here's what I'm doing:
#1-Let's put our $$ where our mouths are and invest in this concept. I'm thrilled to announce that my law office will now sponsor (in addition to our racing team), a Women's Commuter Team. Geared towards women who have not ridden, or who have ridden for recreation but never as a form of transportation, this team aims to equip ladies with the gear, knowledge and know-how, so they can turn their bike into a way of getting to work or grabbing some groceries.
#2-Host fun, no clacky shoes, no chamois allowed ride events! Get rid of the fancy bikes and fancy outfits. Make riding welcoming. Our law firm is going to start hosting "spandexless" rides (and clinics) where ladies will be invited to wear their "normal" clothes and regular shoes to pedal around the town of Golden socializing and networking. Please join us for these events, whether you are a regular rider or maybe you haven't ridden a bike since you were a child!
I hope you'll join me and make it your personal mission to get at least one new female rider on a bike in the very near future!