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Women Bike Wednesday: Boise Bicycle Project Women’s Forum

From the massive Bike Expo in New York City to an art exhibit in Portland, Ore., forums on women’s bicycling are spurring — or starting — important conversations about female ridership in communities nationwide. Most recently, the Boise Bicycle Project got the discussion rolling with the first women’s-specific event during the city’s annual bike festival, Pedal 4 the People.  Juta Guertsen, BPP’s Development Director, organized the Women on Wheels Cycling Forum and shared some lessons learned — and a really great resource guide.

What’s been the gender make-up of participants in the Boise Bicycle Project? Have you identified more men than women participating in certain (or all) programs?

I would say it’s definitely more males, probably 70% vs. 30%. This is true from our Board to member make-up, as well as attendance at volunteer and member activities. The gender make-up is a little more balanced for events.

Why did you decide to organize a Forum?

Our Executive Director attended the New Belgium Bike Summit and came back with a list of seven ways to get more women on wheels. He called a meeting with myself and our two female Board members. We had our two-week community-run bicycle festival coming up and accepted the additional challenge of organizing a women’s-specific event. Seeing that I am fairly new to the organization and new to commuting (though not to cycling in general) and doing a successful job of it, he suggested I participate on the panel. It has really helped create my place within and contribute to the Boise Bicycle Project.

What were the main goals of the Forum — and who were you trying to reach, i.e. avid riders, total newbies, all levels?

The main goal of the forum was to create a safe and supportive environment where women could discuss the barriers and concerns they have in regards to cycling more; a place where no question is a silly question. Our goal was to bring a community of women together with varied backgrounds of cycling in an inclusive way. We wanted them to leave feeling more informed and inspired — and maybe make some new cycling friends in the process.

How did you structure the event to be engaging AND informative?

We met at the Boise Bicycle Project and, when they arrived, each participant received a goody bag with a WOW! spoke card, signed copy of Grant Petersen’s “Just Ride,” information on safety, cycling maps and a resource guide from the panelists with words of wisdom, favorite products, cycling groups, etc. The forum was structured using questions that participants submitted on the registration form. We then opened it up for general questions. The women then got on their bikes and we lined up in front of the BBP according to spoke card color (with coordinated ride leaders) before taking off in one big group ride to Whole Foods. At Whole Foods, participants were presented with wine and cheese to enjoy during the bike fashion show (pictured right) presented by a local outdoor gear consignment store, Outdoor Exchange.

What lessons did you learn from doing this for the first time, a-ha moments that might be helpful to other organizers or women bike advocates?

Start smaller and see what works; you can always assess the need and grow it in the future. Don’t expect to target all women in one event. We really wanted this first event to start the conversation and let the need determine future events.

What was the best moment, when you thought to yourself, “Wow, all the work on this totally paid off!”

Seeing all those women on wheels taking the lane on Capitol!

Photos by Kelly Frazier

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