Yes, it is hard to believe…but cycling–that pursuit in which men shave their legs and wear skin-tight clothing–is a (white) mens’ club. Just take a look at these stats from People for Bikes:
- 87% of U.S. competitive cyclists are male, and 12% are female: At the professional level, women racers earn a fraction of that of men. Despite promises and commitments from professional cycling’s governing body, support for professional women’s cycling has chronically fallen flat.
- In the U.S., men’s cycling trips surpass women’s by at least 2:1. In contrast, in the Netherlands, 55% of riders are women and in Germany, 49% of bike trips are made by women.
- Almost all of the growth in bicycling in the U.S. over the past two decades has been among men between 25-64 years old.
- Girls and boys share similar attitudes about exercise and bicycling until age 14, at which point more girls fear injury and doubt their own athletic competence.
Once upon a time, by providing women with mobility and freedom, the bicycle was considered a key part of the women’s movement of the 1890s. From that beginning, women and cycling have not advanced along the trajectory one would have predicted back then.
Within this context, the Cascade Bicycle Club’s updated Five Year Strategic Plan includes cultivating women cyclists, which fits within their bigger overall emphasis on diversity and inclusion. The broader inclusion and diversity initiative is led by Ed Ewing. Ed is recognized for building the Major Taylor Project into a model that may be scalable across the US.
Cascade’s new women-focused program is called She Bikes Cascade and is comprised of women-only events, classes, and rides. According to Cascade’s Director of Communications, Anne-Marije Rook, the She Bikes classes and rides are aimed to address the reasons women avoid cycling. Too many women perceive cycling as:
- Dangerous: navigating uneven pavement and with automobile traffic feels unsafe
- An intimidating, niche, fast-and-furious boy’s club
- Requiring special bikes and gear
She Bikes’ long-term vision is to cultivate the women’s cycling community through a club calendar with multiple monthly women-only rides and classes. By creating a new category of rides and events, the She Bikes program aims to attract a younger and more diverse demographic to cycling. Low-key events like Seattle Bike-n-Brews are proving to be a great entry point to the cycling community for riders of both genders. She Bikes classes and rides are hosted by veteran Cascade ride leaders like Merlin Rainwater and Madi Carlson.
Upcoming She Bikes Cascade Events:
Tue April 7: She Bikes Cascade Launch Party
Mon Mar 30: She Bikes Cascade: Women’s Fix a Flat
Mon Apr 13: She Bikes Cascade: Women’s Maintenance for Everyday Riders
Sun Apr 26: She Bikes Cascade: Women’s Back to Basics of Bicycling