Monday was the 2nd National Women’s Bike Forum, held in Washington, DC. The room was filled with the energy and enthusiasm of hundreds of women (along with a handful of men) interested in all aspects of bicycling, but especially how to get more women on bikes. We listened to inspiring stories of women bike builders, women bike shop owners and managers, women executives in large bike companies like Giant and Fuji, and women leaders.
Three presentations stood out: Georgena Terry, talking about her career as a builder of women’s bikes; U.S. Representative Tammy Duckworth, discussing her career in the military and the challenges she has faced as a disabled veteran who rides a hand-crank bicycle; and Janette Sadik-Khan describing her incredible accomplishments under New York City Mayor Bloomberg to make NYC so much more bike friendly.
Among the highlights from these amazing women:
• Terry never let the fact that she had polio at 2 years of age limit what she could accomplish
• Terry pioneered the idea that a women need different bikes because we are shaped differently, our center of mass is different from a men’s, and in general our muscles are smaller.
• She and newer bike builder Natalie Ramsland (founder of Sweetpea Bicycles in Portland, OR) share the vision of getting more women onto comfortable, properly proportioned bikes before they’ve started putting in a lot of miles on a bike.
• Duckworth, after describing her challenges recovering from the loss of both legs and severe injury to one arm (when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq), suggested that bike groups connect with disabled riders, veterans and others, to make them feel welcome and give them opportunities to ride in groups. She also encouraged bike groups to invite local politicians to get out and bike, especially women.
• Sadik-Khan cited numerous statistics to describe her accomplishments in NYC, including adding 200 miles of bike lanes in 3 years, reducing on-road fatalities (all fatalities, not just cyclists) by 50% and making bikes a mainstream transportation option (by britta). Some of the projects have clearly had an economic benefit, for example a 70% increase in bike retail sales since 2007, and a 50% in overall retail sales in an area where various traffic calming and bike-friendly facilities have been implemented.
Carol Ireland is a board member and officer of Bike Delaware.