A group that wants to encourage more women to take up cycling got into gear Saturday with an inaugural ride and brunch.
The inspiration for the Bicycle Belles’ formation was last year’s municipal bicycle count, which found women made up only 21 per cent of the 19,476 cyclists counted in the survey.
The Bicycle Belles want to get more women on bikes through events like Sunday’s inaugural ride and by speaking to women and learning what may be preventing them from pedalling.
Eleanor Bash, a spokeswoman for the Bicycle Belles, said one of the things they’ve learned so far is some women don’t feel safe negotiating traffic and encountering aggressive motorists.
“The lack of available infrastructure can be a little more intimidating for women,” she said.
Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, a cycling advocate and a two-wheeled commuter himself, said the city’s planned network of cycle tracks — bike lanes separated from traffic — should help cyclists and would-be riders feel more safe on the roads.
“That will bring us from nowhere, to parity with some of the most progressive cities in North America,” Carra said.
“Separated cycling infrastructure will encourage more people to ride.”
But grassroots groups also have a role to play in getting more people on bikes, and women are definitely an under-represented group, Carra added.
“I’m really excited there’s a move afoot to encourage more people,” he said.
The Bicycle Belles plan to offer clinics aimed at empowering women them to claim their place on the roads — and in the culture of cycling — with tips on things such as safe winter riding and bicycle maintenance.
“It can be intimidating to go into a bike shop and be treated like you don’t know what you’re talking about or you don’t know what you want,” Bash said.
The Bicycle Belles also solicited ideas from women at Saturday’s ride that could provide fodder for future events, said Bash.
In the meantime, the Belles plan to hold their next event on Oct. 5: a group ride from Edworthy Park to Inglewood, where participants will participate in a 90-minute session at a local studio.
You can find out more about the Bicycle Belles and their upcoming events via their Twitter account (@bikebellesYYC) or Facebook page (https://facebook.com/bicyclebellesyyc).