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How to Host a Women Bike Forum
Where do I even start? I remember asking myself that question in 2011. The energy and interest to address the gender gap in American bicycling was reaching critical mass, but what’s the first step in addressing such a complex challenge at the national, state or local level?
You don’t have to have all the answers. Sometimes the best thing you can do is simply start the conversation.
Increasingly, individual leaders and bicycling organizations are starting that conversation with a gathering of female riders and bike-curious residents. To help make these events as successful as possible, we created our latest guide: How to Host a Women’s Bicycling Forum.
Afterall, a small gathering is how the wheels started turning for the League’s Women Bike program — at the Alliance for Biking & Walking Leadership Retreat in 2010. At that gathering, Alexis Lantz, then the Planning and Policy Director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, stood up during lunch. She had a proposal that energized every female leader in the room: a Women’s Caucus. That caucus was short and informal — but incredibly inspiring. There was so much to talk about: issues we face as women within our own organizations and the broader movement; and how we increase the number of women in bicycle advocacy and boost female mode share out on the streets.
We knew we weren’t the only ones talking about these issues. In 2010, the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals conducted a Women Cycling Survey. More than 11,000 U.S. women shared why they bike, what would make them ride more and a wealth of other opinions. The insight was not only revelatory; it was also a spark for new discussion about the importance of women’s voices in the national conversation. Adding to the momentum, a local bike advocacy organization soon took a bold step to start a targeted effort at the local level.
In 2011, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association hosted a local Women’s Bicycling Forum that brought together a diverse panel of female leaders with different cycling experiences and expertise — and set the course for sustained programming to address the gender gap in bicycling in the D.C. region.
Inspired and energized, we knew it was time for a national campaign to get more women on bikes. That’s why we launched Women Bike in 2013 and why we continue to grow the National Women’s Bicycling Forum as one of our signature events. There’s nothing more powerful than uniting your efforts with people who share your passion. There’s nothing more inspiring than meeting trailblazing leaders who can help you propel progress in your community.
One of the League’s core beliefs is that bicycling brings people together. Women Bike believes that bringing women together can be the start of a revolution in your community, as well.
So, as the number of women’s bicycling forums and summits grow, we wanted to share the experience and lessons learned from events that have been held across the nation. Our hope is that this report will help guide your efforts to strategically convene and begin to grow the women bike efforts in your community in unique and powerful ways. And we hope you’ll share you success with us, as well, by posting your events and stories on our Facebook page and Twitter feed!