Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fashionable Ladies Crusading Through Town!

Fashionable Ladies Crusading Through Town!
By: Melissa Bell

Supporters of the “Let's Double the Number of Women & Girls Riding Bikes” campaign will zoom through downtown Long Beach for a friend and fundraiser on Saturday, March 24th .

Bike enthusiasts who donate $40 can join a morning bicycle tour, enjoy a healthy lunch at SIP Lounge, and support Women On Bikes So Cal (WOBSC); a non-profit organization, based in Long Beach, which focuses on advocacy for women bicyclists. Their current campaign project aims to increase ridership among under-represented women; as well as, to improve health and community issues like traffic congestion, safety, and pollution.

“The effects of the Let’s Double the Number of Women & Girls Riding Bikes campaign will create an atmosphere of confident women & girls who feel good about themselves because they will be more knowledgeable about cycling, can safely ride and handle a bike, provide basic maintenance when needed, are more physically fit and active, and are reducing the amount of pollutants by riding bikes locally rather than driving”, says Cali Bike Tour’s Elizabeth Williams. “Getting women to ride bikes will cause them to encourage their children and husbands to ride as well. This campaign will be a catalyst to cause communities to be more active, health conscious, and eco-friendly”, she concludes.

The goal is to raise $10,000 by summer 2012 to create the first League Certified Bike Safety Instructor (LCI) scholarship program for women. The program will then train women to teach others about bike safety; encouraging them to feel more comfortable about riding regularly around town. This would be a huge step for WOBSC’s goal to help double the number of women and girls actively riding bikes in Southern California by 2017.

A report by the Alliance for Biking and Walking, said that women represent just 24% of bicycle trips and 15% of Long Beach bike-to-work commuters.

Pat Hines, director of Save Moves, believes that, “Women who aren't regular riders feel intimidated by bicycling because they don't know what kind of bike is best, where to ride and how to ride. A program like this can provide this kind of information.”

Another aspect to this campaign is to promote ridership for under-represented women. Williams’ Cali Bike Tours is in collaboration with WOBSC and believes "there might be a disadvantages when contributing to mothers who don't speak English or the women who live in shelters or the women who believe their hair has to look a certain way in corporate America and fear jeopardizing their career advancement”, she said.

There is no discussion to whether or not there will be Spanish speaking workshops for the LCI program. However, this will be a huge factor in reaching their goal of increasing the number of under-represented women riders. Outreaching to not only Spanish speaking, but targeting the community as a whole will definitely benefit everyone.

Will bicycling will be just another trend? Especially with all the fancy priced gear and expensive frames. Baden doesn’t consider this to be an option. With the economy seeming to get worse and gas prices rising up, and up with no end in sight; biking seems to be a lifestyle change rather than a fad. Plus who is to say you need that fancy bike? A secondhand bicycle will provide you with the same experience.

“Ladies have a unique skill that I don't believe we have as men, they are excellent litmus paper for determining whether a trend will remain a fad or become a social norm”, said Graham Baden of Pedal Movement. “Having ladies on bikes means biking has now become socially acceptable. This was not the case a few short years ago.”

Another concern brought to light by Pedal Movement’s Graham Baden, is that most girls, and young women will not associate themselves with city officials. He says, “While there are some really fantastic women championing it like Suja Lowenthal and Melissa Balmer, I worry that they are a bit out of reach for the average girl. The ladies leading the mission are fantastic role models and I look up to them. But city employees are not the best at making things cool, I'm sorry to say. If we're not able to find and support a young eager trendsetter generation of girls to ride bikes, it will never take hold.”

This is another factor to consider. Most young women are not interested in politics or what politicians have to say. Therefore, striving to get them to do something without someone they can relate to is going to be difficult. At then end of the day it should be about the joy a bike ride can provide.

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