The face of bicycling is changing in cities across the country, and nowhere is that more evident than in the nation’s capital. Since 2004, Washington, D.C., has seen a 175 percent increase in cycling and a 300 percent increase in its bike lane network. Despite these incredible gains, the number of women on bikes has remained steady at 23 percent.
With a $15,000 grant, the League is advancing the new “Women & Bicycles” program from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association — an innovative effort that will further elevate the D.C. region as a national leader in bicycling and encourage more women to ride.
Supporting promising pilot projects is a key aspect of the League’s new Women Bike initiative, the first national advocacy campaign aimed at engaging, empowering, and elevating women in all aspects of the bicycle movement. One of our primary goals is to seed, support, and spread new campaigns and ideas that are getting more women on bikes. WABA has been at the forefront of women’s outreach for years and we’re excited to partner with them on a project that could be a model for communities nationwide.
The launch party from 8 to 11:30 p.m. at Busboys and Poets (1025 5th St. NW). Featured speakers will include Nelle Pierson, WABA’s outreach coordinator, and Elly Blue — Women Bike Advisory Board member, founder of Taking the Lane Media and author of Everyday Bicycling.
WABA’s program is the result of several years of discussion and feedback, which concluded that a strong community is essential to getting more women on bikes. Women & Bicycles is encouragement-based: 10 Roll Models will be identified, then asked to tap into their personal networks to loop in women who might be hesitant to ride a bike for transportation. A series of small social gatherings hosted by Roll Models and practical-skill workshops and group rides run by WABA will engage Women & Bicycles participants and provide them with all the resources they’ll need to bike confidently in the D.C. area.
“Generally speaking, women admit to being more intimidated by the perceived risk of bicycling, maintaining appearances, and the responsibilities that come with being a primary caretaker in the household,” Pierson says. “What we’ve found is that we all just need a little encouragement, and a place to go to ask questions. So we’re going to provide a gentle nudge, and create spaces to tackle these perceived barriers together at meetups, workshops, and group rides. And we’re going to have a lot of fun in the process.”
On the heels of WABA’s launch party, the League will bring together hundreds of leaders from across the country at the second annual National Women’s Bicycling Forum. On March 4 at the Renaissance Washington (999 9th St. NW), more than 25 diverse female leaders from bike advocacy, industry, policy and racing will present at the all-day forum. Keynote speakers will include Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, and industry trailblazer Georgena Terry.
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.