I had barely gotten the words “Welcome to the National Women’s Bicycling Summit” out of my mouth when a woman in the crowd yelled “It’s about time!” — and a massive cheer erupted from the packed room.
I could say the energy and enthusiasm were off the charts for the sold-out (well, more than sold-out) event on Thursday, but a) I’m still speechless and b) even that would be an understatement. With more than 275 women from across the country in attendance, we saw — and, more importantly, felt — our diverse collective power to lead and advance the bicycle movement.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to take in any of the presentations in their entirety, but I did catch glimpses of the insight and inspiration shared in the six sessions. (And we’ll be posting video, presentations and other resources in coming days…)
In Women in Bicycle Sports, I saw folks taking pictures with Dotsie Bausch, inspired by the chance to hold the track cyclist’s silver medal from the 2012 Olympics.
In the Young Women Who Ride panel, I heard Lisa Rodriguez, from Recycle-A-Bicycle, describe how she’s trained dozens of fellow female bike mechanics — and deals with customers who see a woman behind the wrench and insist on a second (male) opinion.
In the Selling Cycling to Women panel, we all laughed as Maria Boustead from Po Campo described bike shop owners’ confused response to her chic bicycle bags and Elly Blue’s three-point test about women cyclists’ representation in the media.
In the Women in the Political Process session, the conversation was going strong with folks like Robbie Webber from Wisconsin and Sam Ollinger from San Diego sharing their experiences in elected office and local committees — and firing up other women to speak up and get involved even if they don’t think they have all the answers or expertise (after all, men don’t either!).
In the Beyond Spandex, Toward Social Justice panel, the Ovarian Psycos — a predominantly Latina all womyn cycling brigade — set the room (and Twitter) on fire with their proud, assertive feminist organizing around cycling in East LA.
I was halfway down the long hallway when I heard shouting and applause coming from the Family Biking and Car-Light Living session. When I made it into the room, an advocate who had been at the Pro Walk Pro Bike conference since Monday leaned in and whispered: “I just saw the best presentation I’ve seen all week.” The stunning speaker? Emily Finch, car-free mother of six, who put together a video with equal parts humor and inspiration. (More from her later today!)
But the Women’s Summit wasn’t just powerful because of the information sharing. It was about making connections. It was about seeing women at the podiums — seeing ourselves as the experts and leaders we are. As one reporter pointed out to me, the energy and diversity at the Women’s Summit foreshadowed a strong future for the bicycle movement.
So THANK YOU to everyone who attended; it was an honor to meet so many incredible leaders. And remember this is just the beginning. Stay tuned for more videos and presentations from the Summit — and information about Women Bike.
Couldn’t agree with Elly more!
Carolyn SzczepanskiCarolyn joined the League in March 2012, after two years at the Alliance for Biking & Walking. In addition to managing the League's blog, magazine and other communications, Carolyn organized the first National Women's Bicycling Summit and launched the League's newest program: Women Bike. Before she crossed over to advocacy, she was a professional journalist for nearly 10 years.