It is with great pleasure and wholehearted support that Swift Industries donated touring gear to three amazing ladies involved in this year’s WeBiketoDC ride from New York City to the National Bike Summit in Washington DC to represent a diversity of women’s voices at the summit.
Our second story comes to us from Katie Monroe, from the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia: Women Bike PHL
“Winning in Women’s Bike Advocacy” was the name that the League of American Bicyclists gave to our panel presentation at the National Women’s Bicycling Forum, but none of us really thought it fit. Yes, Nelle Pierson, Liz Jose, and I all do outreach work to get more women riding bikes, and we have been successful in that work in DC, NYC, and Philly, respectively. But we don’t tend to see it in terms of winning and losing. Try sharing, collaborating, building, inspiring.
The room was packed when Liz, myself, and Nelle took the stage to talk about our work with WE Bike NYC, the BCGP’s Women Bike PHL, and WABA’s Women & Bicycles. Folks had come to learn how to “win” and we did our best to pass along the organizing ‘rules’ that we’ve each independently discovered doing similar work in three cities. If you want to get more women on bikes, we shared, you have to 1) tap into existing networks (for me, the Girl Scouts of Eastern PA), 2) create events that truly appeal to your specific audience(s), 3) be accountable to your audience — show up, be consistent, listen to feedback!, and 4) recognize how you are both building new communities and connecting existing ones. I shared stories from my “Girl Scouts on Wheels” project, Liz explained how her “Mujeres en Movimiento” program came to be, and Nelle laid out the nuts and bolts of her innovative “Roll Model” program.
As we each spoke, I was struck by more than just the present experience of getting to share the work I care so much about with an excited audience. It sounds cheesy, but while I was up on that stage in DC I was also thinking about all the experiences that went into that moment. Liz, Nelle, and I all started our programs based on gut instincts about what the bike world needed — more spaces for women on bicycles — but the insecurities and challenges that plagued us each in the first year(s) of our programming would have been difficult to surmount without a lot of support and encouragement from each other. These women were there for me when I had questions, needed help, had lightbulb moments I wanted to share, etc.
That spirit of collaboration culminated in the #WEBiketoDC ride we had just completed together — a ride from NYC to Washington DC for the National Bike Summit that brought together 10 leaders in women’s bike outreach from New York, Philadelphia, and Washington DC. We rode together to raise awareness about our respective programs (the three mentioned, plus Black Women Bike: DC and Gearing Up), and bring attention to the need for a more diverse bike advocacy conversation. We struggled together through sub-freezing conditions, spotty bike infrastructure, navigational challenges, injuries, and more to get to the Summit. Up on stage, we proudly wore the matching purple jackets we had worn on our #WEBiketoDC ride: a symbolic reminder of the spirit of support and collaboration we were trying to convey.
Swift Industries generously donated product to the #WEBiketoDC ride, and I couldn’t think of a better match. My favorite quote from the Swift promo video is: “They’re interested in people — not a thing. Their products are meant for empowering you to do something.” The rear panniers that came with me on my #WEBiketoDC journey helped empower me to do this crazy, cold ride. They were the perfect storage place for the layers and layers of wool, the spare tubes (I had the honor of first flat of the trip — less than 2 miles in!), and the bananas that carried me to my destination. And they’re beautiful to boot.
Because Liz and I were empowered to ride to DC and to present at the Bike Summit, we were able to empower OTHER folks to get more women on bikes in their communities, too. Here’s the pledge card we handed out at our presentation:
[pledge card front and back]
Feel free to print it, fill it out, and post your pledge on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram using the hashtag #womenbike. We have a lot more sharing, collaborating, building, and inspiring to do.
*Note: Bike advocate extraordinaire Jess Mathews was slated to be part of this panel discussion as well, but unfortunately couldn’t make it due to bad weather. Learn more about her INCREDIBLY COOL work here: