Alternative transportation advocates often encourage people to ride bicycles if they can, but that community is facing a big challenge. Women only account for a quarter of bike trips in the United States.
Several female bicyclists in the Buffalo-Niagara region helped organize the area’s first women’s bicycle festival Saturday at Canisius College in an effort to become more visible. The festival is a part of ongoing education efforts to empower women to ride their bikes.
Several classes were taught, including biking on a trail, ways to ride a bicycle, how to commute to work, and what questions to ask when purchasing a bike. GObike Buffalo Community Outreach Director Rebecca Reilly taught a class on using NFTA bike racks.
“A lot of people, they don’t want to slow the bus down. They want to know what theya re doing when they come up there. The NFTA was so kind as to bring a rack and let us use it and teach people,” she said.
Reilly said as alternative transportation becomes more popular in the area, it’s important women be seen because visibility is advocacy.
“The bicycle, particularly for women, no longer are you at the mercy of whoever happens to be at the bus stop,” she said. “You’re not waiting in the dark by yourself. You’re mobile. You can go where you need to go. You can park right in front. It’s a real force multiplier for women.”
Rochester has had festivals like these the past few years and received positive feedback.
Reilly said diversity in the community is improving, but there’s a lot more work to be done.
“People of color, they ride bikes a lot too,” she said. “But it’s harder to get their information because they’re not usually within the advocacy realm. But we’re working very hard to make that more of a reality.”
Reilly said in addition to cycling being dominated by white males, bike shops are as well.
“So the bikes are made for men and they shrink down a bike for women to ride, but it’s not necessarily the right dimensions,” she said. “It becomes uncomfortable. So you’re adding discomfort with a discomfort about the lack of safety on the road or perceived unsafe conditions.”
More information on the Buffalo-Niagara bike community can be found at gobikebuffalo.org