Friday, 30 March 2012

Blacksburg Bicycle Women Unite

You may have heard a gender gap exists in the U.S. for bicycle commuters. It may seem obvious and appear normal that more men bike than women do. But when we look at thriving cycling cultures in Europe, this is not the case. At all! In Germany, half of all riders are women. In the Netherlands, it’s more than half. That is significant. As such, women are increasingly being studied as 'indicator species' for safe infrastructure that supports active transportation lifestyles. This is a matter of health and sustainability people! Can empowering American women to bicycle, in fact, lead to environmentally conscious mobility, increased health amongst an obesity epidemic and sustainable transportation for future generations? I'd like to think so.

Exploring what motivates women to bicycle is a hot topic! A national lens born by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals has opened those doors. Building on the Women Cycling Project, I had the opportunity to attend the National Women Cycling Forum two weeks ago. The room was packed! An inspiring energy and communal spirit permeated the air as women (and men!) discussed an exciting feminine opportunity to lead an active transportation revolution in the U.S. - part of National Bike Summit 2012.

During last week's webinar, 'Empowering Women to Bicycle', Finnuola Quinn and Kit Keller encourage us to use the National Women Cycling Forum as a springboard for action in our own communities - and we're doing just that at Virginia Tech!

Let's face it. Most bike commuters in Blacksburg are men. Whether it be the lack of bike lanes and sharrows down North Main Street or women's risk-averse attitude towards the many distracted drivers on our roads, far too few women bike in Blacksburg! It's time for this to change. In SGA Transportation, we understand women need the right kinds of encouragement to commute by bike. Despite the MAMIL (middle aged man in lycra) at the bike store confusing us with power-to-gear-ratios when asked a simple question on how to shift into an easier gear, the ladies of SGA Transportation invite all women from our Hokie community to discuss barriers in bike commuting.

As part of Womens Mobility Week (April 22-27), be sure to attend the Virginia Tech Women Cycling Forum! Mix and mingle with other women who commute by bike at VT, share stories and swap advice on everything from biking in skirts with class projects to navigating the Prices Fork round-about. We'll discuss barriers and safety concerns VT women have about biking in Blacksburg, then brainstorm how we can empower more women to bike while creating a culture of respect for active transportation. We're currently looking for panelists! If you'd like to lead part of the discussion, email with your ideas.

At the event, we'll be recruiting models for the big Blacksburg Cycle Chic Fashion Show on May 1st!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Celebrate Bicycling in Blacksburg - Cycle chic fashion show style!

It's been confirmed. On the evening of May 1st, SGA Transportation will host the first of its kind in the New River Valley - Blacksburg Cycle Chic Fashion Show and Commuter Celebration! Inspired by one girl's travels to the land of Copenhagen Cycle Chic during UNFCC Climate Change Conference (thank you, Sierra Student Coalition!) to blogger lessons learned from Velo-city Seville to exciting progress made through Womens Cycling Project, Blacksburg Cycle Chic captures it all; and promises a wheel-stylish night on the Virginia Tech campus. Hokie Nation is well on its way to bicycle friendly university status while a thriving bike community embraces Blacksburg's Bike Master Plan. A bicycle revolution in our small college town is underway. It's time to celebrate the people who pedal everyday!

Wait, you're telling me biking is cool and sexy, and that we should celebrate? - Precisely! All over the world people are taking back the bike for transportation. Call it urbanesque and strange, but cycle chic culture is hot and if you can bike in a skirt on your way to work then it's even hotter! Here's a definition and some history:

Cycle chic is the culture of bicycle commuting in fashionable, everyday clothes and accessories. It aims to take back bike culture by showing how the bicycle once again can be an integral, respected and feasible transportation option, free of sports clothes and gear, and how it can play a vital role in increasing the life quality in cities. Cycle Chic is associated with the utility cycling practiced in bicycle-friendly cities such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen. It is a growing trend in cities that are now investing in bicycle infrastructure, education and facilities.

Coined by filmmaker and photographer Mikael Colville-Andersen, Copenhagen Cycle Chic is a famous street style photography blog that celebrates everyday people choosing the bicycle as their main means of transportation. The blog has spurred a global movement to normalize urban cycling while promoting the idea that cycling infrastructure should fit around the needs of women in high heels. The message may seem odd to many transportation planners, but if everyday cycling cultures are to flourish, roads must be designed for a slow city that embraces safety and pedestrian-friendly features.

Blacksburg is home to its own distinctive cycle chic culture. Let's explore its diversity. Here's our vision:

Blacksburg Cycle Chic is a unique town-Tech collaborative celebration that will showcase local groups striving towards regional transportation sustainability and active lifestyles while revealing bicycle heroines (and heroes!) in our Hokie community. Opening with presentations on cycle chic culture and concluding with a full fashion show where the runway is a cycle path, it will be a wheel stylish evening with the winning combination of fashionable clothing, women and bicycles. Blacksburg Cycle Chic is not only about pretty people on pretty bikes, it’s about inspiring others to rediscover their bikes for transportation. Come take part in Blacksburg Cycle Chic – a big idea for a small city where the models are everyday citizens and student cyclist commuters.

Blacksburg Cycle Chic kicks off the New River Valley’s Clean Commute Days and National Bike Month May.

Have creative suggestions to make the evening even more exciting? Want to get involved? With six weeks left to plan, there is much work to do! Email Lyndsay McKeever at