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Successful Outreach to Low-Income Women and Moms
Last week, Women Bike hosted its latest webinar on "Getting More Moms and Families on Bikes" — with a great line-up of panelists and an amazing turn-out of engaged participants. Stay tuned to the blog tomorrow for the recording and slides!
One common barrier that came up during the conversation was the up-front expense of family-oriented gear and the challenge of engaging low-income women and families in riding. It's certainly a big issue that we'll be digging into more deeply, but I was immediately reminded of the amazing work around this issue being done by Cycles for Change up in Minneapolis.
Following-up on the discussion last week, I checked in with Claire Stoscheck, the Cycles for Change Community Partners Bike Library Director, to provide some insight into their successful efforts to engage women and moms from diverse economic and racial demographics....
Cycles for Change is really committed to equity in its programming; how does that extend to your outreach to women and families?
The goal of Cycles for Change is getting access to bikes and bike education to the communities most underrepresented in the bicycle movement and culture. Apart from targeted outreach through community partners to diverse economic and racial communities, we also work to eliminate the gender gap in cycling, as well as empowering women riders by working with community partners who are led by and for women in the Twin Cities. Through our Community Partners Bike Library program, we provide women with free bikes to borrow (fully accessorized for transportation purposes), as well as trailers and tag-a-longs for people with children. We have found that many women — in particular women from the diverse immigrant communities in the Twin Cities — do not know how to ride a bike. We teach extensive Learn to Ride classes to adults in order to open up the world of cycling to more women.
What specific programming do you offer that makes cycling more accessible to low-income and underserved communities? What barriers have you discovered — and overcome — for women with this program?
The programs we offer to make biking more accessible include the Community Partners Bike Library, in which we partner with 18 community partners to lend 275 bikes and 30 trailers to low-income community members, following up with bike education classes and leadership development programming. We also offer an Earn-a-Bike program where participants can learn basic bike mechanics and volunteer six hours in order to earn themselves a bike free of charge.
These programs help to overcome one of the major barriers for low-income women: cost. The programs are completely free of charge. In addition, the Bike Library teaches Learn to Ride classes so women who don't know how to ride can learn, and we offer child trailers to accommodate women with kids. The Bike Library loans bikes that are customized for each individual, so that we find the right fit for women no matter her size or shape and provide her with a comfortable ride.
Finally, through our leadership development we are working with and empowering women leaders in the bike movement from diverse backgrounds who then are inspirations to others in their communities to break cultural norms and ride a bike, despite the taboos.
What has been the response or feedback from participants or the community?
The response to the Bike Library has been tremendously positive. You can read some of the stories and testimonials in the 2012 Bike Library Zine called "Pedaling Forward"-- just click here to read some amazing stories about the joys of cycling by participants in the Bike Library!
What advice or tips would you have for other advocacy organizations, bike shops or co-ops who are starting outreach to women generally or moms / families specifically?
Be conscious of access to bikes and trailers, and find a way to provide women with free or very affordable bikes. Be conscious of women with families, and offer trailers and tag-a-longs for the kids. Try partnering with non-profits that work with diverse communities and have bi-cultural and bi-lingual experience who can help bridge language/cultural barriers. Offer child-care and interpretation/translation. Be aware of structural barriers that women face to biking, including poverty and double responsibility (in our patriarchy, women are expected to not only work but also do the bulk of housework and care-taking). Work to change the structures! For more information please contact me at email@example.com or visit www.cyclesforchange.org
What's your organization doing to engage moms — from diverse backgrounds? Share in the comments!