What motivates women to ride? Why don’t more women take up cycling? How can the metropolitan area be improved for cyclists? What role does cycling play in our lives?
These are but a few of the themes explored over the last 18 interviews with the women of Women BikeDC. Yes, 18. I finally counted them all.
I created this page as a sort of “table of contents” and links to each interview can be found below. Again, a heartfelt thank you to the women who took the time to consider these questions and to be part of the series. I loved talking with you.
And, of course, thanks to all of you for reading what we had to say. It was a good summer.
Cycling is my life. It is part of me. I have become much more healthy and so appreciative of my mobility. I’m trying to maintain my youth, too. Use it or lose it!
Cycling is not, in fact, unsafe, but many people, especially women, feel it is. It’s also not that hard, especially when you introduce e-bikes into the mix, but people don’t realize the options for slower speeds, flatter routes, and better bikes.
I’ve biked through this entire pregnancy on an e-assist midtail bike, often riding with my kids. People are amazed that I can do it, but with the e-assist, biking is no more strenuous than walking. In fact, now that my belly is huge, biking is easier than walking because I’m not vertical. It’s flattering that people call me Superwoman, but the reality is that they’re wrong. I’m healthy, but no more so than the average pregnant chick.
I understand that many people need cars (due to health issues, transporting kids, living extremely far from work), but are all the individuals with D.C. plates on Massachusetts Avenue every morning really necessary?
Increase gas taxes and parking to pay for better roads and support for all modes of transit, including driving, biking, walking, and metro. I think if driving were made inconvenient, many more people would look at bikes as a serious option.
I still sometimes have moments where I’m in awe of being able to propel myself through the world with whatever strength I have in my legs (and with the bike’s mechanical assist). This, in turn, gives me a different body image than I’ve ever had – whatever my body might look like is completely overshadowed by its ability to get me where I need to go.
As women in public space, we are subject to male commentary. Sometimes about our bodies (“Nice ass!”) or sometimes mansplaining (“Do you know your lights are on? You don’t need your lights on during the day,” by some wobbly little newbie).
Sometimes the comments are a type of condescending approval or encouragement that really irks me. The dude telling me as I go up Walter Reed “You can do it!” No shit. I’ve been riding up this hill daily for 7 years.
First, take bicyclists seriously. Actually, take vulnerable road users seriously, aka, anyone not in a car. I believe that if we make our streets safer for pedestrians, it falls into place for the rest of us.
Then, more bike lanes! Protected bike lanes! Improve connectivity! It’s nice to have some stretches of buffered or protected lanes, but if they suddenly end in sharrows or nothing at all, that doesn’t help the less confident riders. Better signage would help, too. Oh, and take better care of the pavement, especially in the bike lanes.
–Tin Lizzie Rides Again
For me and a lot of women on my team, there is a direct correlation between our development as endurance athletes—-often literally from practically nothing—-and our development as strong, independent, badass women.
I love seeing both journeys, and the interconnection between them is something that should be celebrated and promoted.
I have learned to approach many hurdles in life as if they were a ride on a new road. At first you might feel apprehensive and tentative, but once you do it, it becomes clear that all it takes is committing to that first push of the pedal. You may go slow or even fall at first, but if you keep at it, you will get there.
Women are expected to look pretty and be delicate and dependent, among many other things. Riding a bike requires uprooting at least some of those gender assumptions, forcing ourselves and others to rethink preconceived ideas of what women can or cannot, or should or should not do.
My favorite thing about riding in D.C. is the community. These people just rock and make riding a bike fun. I mean, who else is going to think riding around Hains Point countless times during the middle of winter of is a good idea?
I find the bike riding population in D.C. to be eclectic and interesting. I talk to a lot of people, sometimes I don’t get their name or their history, we just share the moment we are in and then ride on. Biking is about being present in the moment you are in and not trying to predict the next day.
First and foremost, riding bicycles has brought me closer to the vibrant biking community of D.C. It has heightened my appreciation of nature & my environmental concerns. I also believe it has made me a healthier and much happier individual.
Mostly, I ride because it’s my favorite way of getting around. I like seeing street life and buildings as well as the landscape and nature at the pace that I can take them in. I also enjoy the chance everyday encounters as I travel around the community. This isn’t to say you won’t find me ferrying teenagers around the suburbs in my mini-van. But I like to arrange my life so that, when I can and as much as I can, I bike instead.
There is a feeling you get when you are just relaxing on a ride, maybe as you sit up and glide into your destination, take a deep breath, and feel at home with yourself and the world. I’ve found that– in situations far removed from the bike, such as meetings– I can re-create that feeling and settle into the work. When there’s controversy and drama, I can summon that centered sense of self and be more effective.
I started riding when I was 7 or 8. On a trip to the county dump with my dad, we found a gem of a purple bike in the heaps of trash and took it home. He fixed it up, my grandpa spray painted it pink, and I was off!
I’m over 50, and getting back into biking as a significant part of my lifestyle has led me into a whole new area of serving my community and region as an advocate. I’ve learned about infrastructure, Safe Routes to School, bike master plans, and I’ve met a whole new group of people in each arena of interaction that have enriched my life.
Even when I run into a bike-hater, I’m challenged to be the advocate– to win his/her heart and mind– or at least try to defuse the anger. This volunteer advocacy recently turn into a paying job. It’s something I never thought I’d be doing at this point in life, but I’m doing it because it’s fun.
Once I moved to D.C., I began to regularly cycle around town. This city is nice and small, pretty flat, and the public transportation is just good enough to tolerate using, but bad enough that it is frustrating to use every single day. Plus, cycling is so cost effective and efficient. It saves money and is faster than public transportation and cabbing. So, of all the forms of transportation, I prefer cycling.
On a bike you fully experience everything around you. You catch the small details that you would never notice zooming by in a car. All your senses are heightened. You feel the ground and the weather. You see landscapes. You see people. And you also see yourself. I’ve done some of my best thinking atop a bicycle!
My mind is generally moving 100 miles per hour. The squirrels in there never seem to stop spinning. Being on my bike quiets the squirrels and allows my mind to focus on one or two things– avoiding pot holes or other riders, usually. I’ve found that the more I ride, the saner I am. When I have something to work out, I’ll go on a bike ride and allow my brain to quiet down a bit.