Women on Bikes: The National Women’s Cycling Summit

Today marks the kickoff of the National Women’s Bicycling Summit in Long Beach. Hooked up to the end of the Pro Bike/Pro Walk Conference, the scheduling is designed to try to capture some of the same audience and get them talking about women’s cycling issues in more depth than the agenda of a wider conference allows.

And that’s great.

Some of the topics being addressed at the conference include the marketing of cycling, the underrepresentation of women in advisory committees and policy, and car-free living. But as ever, there’s also a cycling fashion show.

I have not yet determined if the preponderance of cycling fashion shows at these events is to appease sponsors, is because attendees want them, or if they’re really just an undermining of the overall discussion throughout the day. At the Women’s Cycling Forum in March, some of the speakers definitely crossed into the realm of undermining. TLC Minnesota live-tweeted one session, in which the following was declared by a speaker (not by TLC Minnesota):
A lot of women I know comment on bike shop sexism. I’ve certainly encountered it myself, and have selected shops for my own purchases based on places either with some women on staff who help temper the effect of the testosterone, or where I was confident I’d be respected. Novice women bikers, though, often do go into shops concerned with cuteness of the bike, and don’t always get sufficient help with key indicators like fit and comfort. So, sure, the woman is on a bike. Will she stay on a bike? Not if the bike is heavy and not correct for her needs.

Style does matter. It matters to men, as well. But the emphasis on fashion seems to be overdone. I’ve also seen a bit too much emphasis on biking with infants versus promoting cycling more to women with slightly older children who are less expensive to transport via bicycle, and less fragile.

The opening keynote starts at 4:30 CDT. I plan to watch Twitter for some live tweets from the conference. I genuinely hope that more focus is on utility and social engineering, and not on pinkifying cycling to be more “attractive.” I’d like to think of my fellow female humans that they’re not that shallow. I’d like to think of smart conference speakers and conference goers, they think more of the unconverted audiences as well.

We’ll see.

About Julie Kosbab

Julie Kosbab is an online marketing consultant and active transportation advocate living in Anoka County, Minnesota. She was one of Minnesota's only League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructors when certified in 2005, and is no longer lonely in that calling. A past member of the National Bicycle Tour Directors Association, she has 2 children and a garage full of bicycles. Find her on Twitter as @betweenstations, or read her (seldom updated) blog at Ride Boldly!

4 thoughts on “Women on Bikes: The National Women’s Cycling Summit

  1. Reuben CollinsReuben Collins

    Sexism and gender roles is such a minefield topic it's hard for me to even know how to engage. I try to stay completely away from discussion of "how to get women on bikes", and instead try to discuss "how to get people on bikes", which, according to some, is exactly why I'm part of the problem and not the solution. I like that we're having the conversation – statistics do clearly show that women aren't biking as much as men. Nobody really wants to make blanket statements like "Women want _________", or if they do, they're certainly only talking about some women. The other women might want the exact opposite.

    1. Julie Kosbab Post author

      I wouldn't say "nobody really wants to make blanket statements." I have seen a hell of a lot of them. I think people who really get it don't want to make blanket statements.

      It's complex. Some people will be inspired by a mother of 6 who uses bike-only as transportation. Others are going to look at her very expensive custom setup, factor in the time, and dismiss it as an edge case.

      In business, people often use case studies to apply key learnings across disciplines or projects. Many things I see presented at advocacy events could consider doing similar — what can someone learn from the bike-only mom of 6, without it being "see, if she's bike only YOU CAN BE TOO."

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