Why Girls Ride Out.

 
About a year ago I was riding to the shop from where I live in the South End. As I turned on to Pine Street, I passed a fellow female biker and politely smiled. I rode by another woman on a bike as I passed Dealer.com and I smiled at her, too. Then I passed another rider in front of ArtsRiot and another in front of ReSource -- both ladies, again. I passed another lady rider as I turned on to Main Street. As I proceeded by T.D. Bank, a male biker passed me on his way down the hill and I began to observe a gender ratio I was more familiar with: several men, a woman, several more men, a woman...
 

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I walked into Bike Recycle Vermont with a big, silly grin on my face. "I just passed 5 female bikers in a row!" I said to my coworker, Dan.

Dan thought about it for a second and started nodding his head. "That's pretty cool," he said evenly.

"Have you ever witnessed that many women commuting on bikes in a row?"

Dan -- a self-identifying feminist who has spent thousands of hours in the saddle -- considered the question with a furrowed brow and then seemed genuinely surprised by whatever was going on in his head. "Yeah, you know... I've never really thought about it... but I've never passed that many female riders in a row. I know there's a gender gap, but that really paints a picture."

 

ImagePhoto by Michelle Peters

 

So here's the thing. 

If you're reading this, you likely understand why bicycling is important. It's a simple solution to some very complex issues. To keep it simple: if more people rode bikes, we'd all be healthier, happier, and the world would be a better place.

While women account for over 50% of the population, in the U.S. only 1 woman for every 3 men gets around by bicycle.

 

Photograph by Annie FolletPhoto by Annie Follett

 

Meanwhile, women are great influencers. We tend to make the household financial decisions, we carefully consider lifestyle choices and influence our friends and families with them, and we are change makers. We talk to one another, we like doing stuff together.

If more women rode bikes, more people would be riding bikes: those women would ride and their children, friends, and families would follow. Biking would become the norm, and the world be be a little bit better.

But not many women choose to ride bikes, and for decent reasons.

 

ImagePhoto by Michelle Peters

 

Women tend to have an aversion to risk, and U.S. streets generally aren't safe for cyclists. Women's clothing and society's expectations for us to always look "nice" make sweating to get places and helmet-hair far less appealing. And perhaps worst of all: doing something slightly out of the norm - which, a woman riding a bike unfortunately is - can draw attention and therefore draw more sexual harassment and cat-calling.

And this is where Girls Ride Out comes in.

 

ImagePhoto by Ashley Moore

 

During Girls Ride Out, there is safety in numbers. There is innate commiseration over the shared obstacles to biking that -- for one short, fun, casual bike ride -- seem to disappear.

Only an idiot cat-calls a group of 60 badass women on bikes with a boombox. Only a fool tries to speed 40 miles per hour past dozens of people on bikes. No one cares that your bangs are greasy and plastered to your forehead because we're riding bikes and our bangs look gross, too.

On Girls Ride Out, there is no competition, no game, no need to explain ourselves... if you're a lady and you ride your bike, you are safe and celebrated here.

Photograph by Annie FolletPhoto by Annie Follett

 

The first Girls Ride Out brought out 60 women -- a remarkable number for a small city like ours -- and I'm looking forward to seeing both new and familiar faces at the next ride in October. We'll have a different pre-planned route, a fun end destination, and a new bumping sound system to play Beyonce, Adele, Nicki Minaj, and whoever else you want to hear on the ride.

I'm excited to watch Girls Ride Out evolve. Moving forward, I'm committed to making the ride welcoming to a broader group of female-identifying people from all gender-identities, ages, races, and socio-economic backgrounds. In October, I hope to work with King Street Center and Boys and Girls Club to engage some of the young women Bike Recycle Vermont has hosted through programs in the past.

 

ImagePhoto by Michelle Peters

 

Girls Ride Out is at once a super chill feel-good event and a completely radical experience. I hope you'll come check it out next month. Click here and "like" Bike Recycle Vermont on Facebook in order to see updates for future rides.

 

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By Christine Hill

Featured image by Annie Follett

Christine is the Outreach Director for Old Spokes Home & Bike Recycle Vermont. She organizes Girls Ride Out, a monthly bike ride for ladies.