Maria Boustead doesn’t call herself a cyclist — despite the fact that she rides 15+ miles per day. In fact, she started her company, Po Campo, because she recognized a growing market of women just like her; women who want to ride their bikes without the obvious baggage of being a cyclist.
The Chicago-based entrepreneur described her experience as a daily rider and business owner on the “Who’s Selling Cycling to Women” panel at the National Women’s Bicycling Summit last month. Like Elly Blue, she echoed the power of imagery and how women are portrayed in the context of bicycling. And, like Mia Kohout, she emphasized the prominence of urban commuting as an entry for new female riders.
But, most of all she underlined the desire among women to seamlessly integrate cycling into their lives — without having to look the part. As she described to the crowd:
During college, I began biking regularly around my quaint Midwestern university town because everyone did it and it was an easy way to get around. Moving to Chicago to finish up school, I continued to bike a lot, largely because it was now so normal to me. Plus, I was so poor that even public transportation seemed like a splurge. But even after getting a job and having disposable income, I continued to bike instead of taking the train or driving because, well, I liked it.
There are lots of things to like about biking to work (more to come on that). My least favorite part was entering my office carrying so much more stuff then everyone else, with my bags inside of bags and helmet and lights… I felt like I was being forced to choose between riding a bike and looking normal. Why do those things have to mutually exclusive? Why can’t I have a bag that does what I need it to do and still feels like something I’d want to actually own?
As I continued to think about being forced to choose between biking and looking normal, I realized that with cities improving their bicycle infrastructure, I knew there were going to be a lot more woman like me, in this predicament, wanting to add a new form of transportation into her options of how to get from A to B, but doing so would force her to buy a bag specific to this new form of transportation. I think this problem, like many other issues, are unique to women so it is our job to solve them…
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.