8 Inspiring Stories of Women and Bicycles
Lead photo courtesy of Afghan Cycles
Women and bicycles have been a powerful combination since the beginning. Susan B. Anthony – who was an American social reformer and feminist who played a pivotal role in the women’s suffrage movement – said that bicycles have “done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”
It is not surprising then that bicycles continue to be symbols and tools of freedom, independence and mobility. In places where women are often marginalized we find stories of pioneers who are pushing social boundaries and breaking taboos, following in this great female tradition.
Take a look at a few examples of women who continue to do great things on two wheels.
1. Women’s Only Bike Ride in Yemen
— Bushra Al-Fusail (@734555200) December 20, 2015
With female bike riding almost unheard of in Yemen due to conservative views of immodesty, a small group of women have ignored social warnings and taken to the streets in the first-ever women-only bike ride. “Biking was our way of showing that nothing can stop us – not bombing, not cultural taboos, this is our right; we have a right to live and the right to movement.”
2. Afghan Cycles Documentary
An inspiring story of women and girls taking up cycling on the streets of Afghanistan despite social protest. This documentary film currently in production provides a fascinating insight into the difficulties these women face in order to enjoy the simple pleasure of riding a bike.
3. Pedalling Through Gaza
Amna Suleiman rides past a stationary truck on #Gaza’s main road. She is the leader of a tiny group of women who are biking publicly in Gaza for the first time in years, defying #Hamas and the conservative culture. Check out the story in the @nytimes سليمان تركب بيسكليت على الشارع الرئيسي في غزة. آمنة تقود آمنة مجموعة صغيرةً من الفتيات للواتي – ولأول مرة منذ أعوام فتيات تركبن بسكليتات علنً
After nearly a decade of rule by Islamist Hamas women are once again taking to the road on two wheels. For the past decade restrictions have existed that essentially kept females from riding bicycles. Now, with these restrictions slowly falling to the wayside a few brazen women are finding and sharing the joy and freedom of cycling. The club’s leader offered this piece of advice to the group of young riders: “I want you, when you get married, to make riding your bikes a condition of marriage.”
4. The Ovarian Psycos of LA
A group of women from working-class communities in North and East LA have come together to challenge preconceptions of femininity and to “fight back against femicide, rape, the normalization of our disposability, [and] the war being played out upon our spaces.” This brand new documentary film tells their story.
5. UBI Women’s Mechanic Scholarship Fund
Sixteen women sponsored by United Bicycle Institute and QBP spent 2-weeks at UBI learning new skills in bicycle mechanics and improving their knowledge of the cycling industry. This is the first ever all-female class that has been held at the institution. “It’s difficult to describe the level of enthusiasm that an entire class composed entirely of scholarship winners creates. On day one, the energy in the classroom was positively electric and the enthusiasm held through to till the final day of class.”
6. Rwanda’s Star Female Cyclist
Women in Rwanda now have a home-grown cycling hero to whom they can look for inspiration. Jeanne d’Arc Girubuntu won second place in the individual time trials at the African Continental Championship and is currently training for the likelihood of joining a UCI squad in 2017. She hopes to be an inspiration to others: “I want to show all the women in Africa – the poor, black women – that we too can race bikes, be successful, and make money. We do not need to follow the culture of getting married young and having children and working the fields.” Read about her incredible efforts and the increased activity of female cyclists in Rwanda.
7. WE Bike NYC
A group in New York City are pushing to get more women on two wheels. WE Bike (or Women’s Empowerment Through Bicycles) is encouraging urban women to join their male counterparts who commute, race and fix bicycles and they’re doing it by teaching mechanics classes, holding cold-weather clinics and making women feel included in the city’s cycling culture. One of the group’s founders tells us, “when women’s [biking] was organizing WE Bike back in 2012 it was really at the start of a visible movement around gender equity in bicycling…The women’s movement in cycling didn’t just materialize in the last 10 years, or five years, but, there’s been a recent resurgence in organizing around identity in gender.”
8. Reclaiming Public Spaces in Pakistan
Women in Pakistan are riding together to help encourage other women to take up cycling. Three groups (in Dhabas, Lahore and Karachi) took to the streets with the aim to mobilise women and reclaim public spaces for them. The rallies, which were organized through social media, helped re-inspire the love of cycling in its participants. One of the organizers shared: “being able to cycle in public for the first time in 15 years was a delightful experience. I can’t wait to buy my own bicycle and take on the roads of Lahore.”