Pedalpalooza & Why Bicycle Festivals Are Important for Women

Fabulous Lady’s Ride Success!

On the night of  Wednesday, June 24, I led my first ride with our local Portland bicycle festival, Pedalpalooza: The Fabulous Lady’s Ride. See the proposed route here.
Highlights: The ride was fairly small, so everyone got to know each other and hang out. This led to some great conversation about bike safety and livable cities. (More on this later.)
Since the group was small, I opted out of doing some strutting through town and we rode to get beers at Bailey’s Taproom first instead of up Broadway and through the Park Blocks. 
Racking up on SW Broadway
Then it was onward to Jameson Square for decking out our bikes with glitter, stickers, glow sticks, confetti, and the like. We also had cocktails in plastic cocktail glasses. Fabulous!
Scenes from the Fabulous Lady’s Ride
From there, the fabulous ladies and gentlemen rode to White Space Gallery, an art gallery in a lovely old brick building where we could get more cocktails and browse art. This was an incredibly fun time.
By now, the ride was supposed to go on a lot longer, but we were enjoying ourselves thoroughly. The remaining members of the ride decided to stay local in the Pearl rather than hustle out to Irving Park, which was a great shame because we missed a fabulous presentation of Bikie Girl Bloomers.
Bikie Girl Bloomers, invented by fabulous lady cyclist Karen Canady, are my latest fashion must-have, and yes, I wore them on the Fabulous Lady’s Ride! They are comfortable and fashionable, and you can wear them with whatever skirt or dress you want, no problem. Although the dwindling group missed a great chance to see them live and talk to the artist, I still absolutely recommend you check them out and get a pair you like!

This is how the ride ended: The Fields Park, an electric bicycle to try for a spin, and sparklers at dusk.

So why are bicycle festivals important for women?

Here are 3 big ways:

1. It’s about safety.
As I mentioned before, women are particularly concerned about safety issues regarding bicycles, and it’s not just fear of skinning a knee. Cycling was– and de facto still is– a male-dominated field, centered around cycling long and fast and with special gear; the risk is part of the rush. However, as the League of American Bicyclists Women’s Outreach reports, women often ride differently than this, using cycling to link trips such as a grocery stop and to travel with small children. Women are also more likely than men to run errands by bicycle or to commute by bicycle to work, whereas men are often on ‘joyrides’. (Not that there’s anything wrong with a joyride; on the contrary, cycling is incredibly enjoyable!)

These factors together may explain the observations we noted during the ride that in cities with more female riders, the streets tend to be safer. And that is good for everyone, because cycling is not just for adrenaline junkies, it’s for everyday life and for families and for livability in a city as a whole.
Bicycle festivals are important to get women over the fear of cycling. Cycling in a group is safer (maybe an inattentive motorist can miss one cyclist, but more difficult to miss 10 and if you manage to miss 100+ cyclists, you really should be off the road permanently). Cycling with people who know the ropes and routes can do wonders to assuage the fear of cycling many women have. Plus, seeing others’ cool and safe ways to haul groceries and small children show first-hand that it is both possible and practical and, in fact, not overly dangerous.

2. It’s about diversity.

Promoting a healthy lifestyle to people of all genders and races is extremely important for creating a society that meets the needs of everyone, and this is a big reason why cities all across America hold special bicycle festivals just for women. On July 18, Boston Women Bikes will hold a bicycle festival for women-identified only, with 50, 32, and 10 mile rides.

Only days ago, Citi Bikes in NYC was the subject of a New York Times article on gender inequity in the bike share program, after launching a campaign to get more women involved. This was based on the shocking (to them) discovery that only 25% of riders using the program were women.

Without women in the streets on bicycles, no one is there to make the needs of women known, and that was another big conversation we had on the ride. “You just don’t know until you’re out there,” was a quote we agreed upon. What if there are dark areas of a bike path where you can hardly see what’s around you beyond your light? What if there is a scary blind intersection? What if the city is piling wet leaves into the bicycle lane leaving a major slipping hazard? Or a common annoyance, what if you find a busy intersection in which motorists/pedestrians/other cyclists are super rude? (That last one is more of a deterrent than you might think!)

Getting everyone out is the best way to find out whether current conditions are actually meeting people’s needs, and if not, exactly what needs to be done.

3. It’s about activism. Really!

The streets are yours to use, and bicycle festivals like Pedalpalooza encourage you to be yourself and enjoy your city in a way that promotes health and sustainability. After seeing cyclists everywhere for a month, sometimes naked or dressed in wild attire or blasting music or with glowing lights or on some rides all of the above, motorists will learn to watch for cyclists on the road. You are changing people’s perspectives of cyclists, and this will go a long way toward changing the world.


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