Bina Bilenky-Trahan and her cherished Bilenky Bike - photo courtesy of Justin Trahan

I learned a long time ago that when you want to create change or incite a movement, you must know why.  You must  also be able to communicate that why.  Because when you do, things happen.  Change comes about from inspiring ideas.  From those inspiring ideas comes the how – hope, motivation and commitment to action.  From that action comes change.

It’s kind of like pedaling a bike.  To begin, you need the why.  Because it’s fun, because I want to go somewhere, because it makes me feel good, because I can…

With the first pedal stroke comes hope.  I can have more fun if I keep pedaling, I can go somewhere if I keep pedaling…

With several pedal strokes comes change.  I’ve made it to my destination and damn, that was fun…

At Girl Bike Love, our goal is to positively impact the number of women riding bikes, identifying themselves as cyclists and adopting cycling as a lifestyle.  But Why?

Why should we and other advocates be focusing on the female rider?  Why its it important to get greater support for women’s racing and events?  Why should the cycling industry spend more time marketing to women?  Why does it matter if women ride bikes?

We all know what an incredible impact cycling can have on our health, our communities and our environment.  Cycling has much more to offer this world than two rubber tires licking the ground below.  Simply put, bikes can save us.

With increased cycling in a community comes change, positive change. One must only look to US cities such as Portland, Boulder and Minneapolis, to see the positive growth that has resulted with the development of a strong cycling culture and attention to bicycle infrastructure.  Fortunately, many communities are following in their footsteps and the list of Bicycle Friendly Cities gets longer every year.

In order to make this shift in our society on a much larger scale, we need to engage the greatest influencers of all time.  WOMEN.

Women are Change Makers

Women make things happen.  Women talk, women write blogs and create communities focused around movement.  According to the Enthusiast Demographics and Industry Trends Survey recently conducted by Bikes Belong, “…female respondents were more active online. Women were more likely to be on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, or have a personal blog or website.”

Women are the greatest influencers of all time.  Women like to tell of their experiences, encourage and support one another.  Women like to share.

For this reason, female cyclists are rarely created individually but more often in groups of two or more.  Women share their passions and empower one another to reach their goals.

Midwest Women's Mountain Bike Clinic - photo courtesy of Sub-9 Productions

Invite a woman out on a ride and the first thing she will do is ask her friend to come along.  Invite two women out for a ride and you’ll have a whole pack.  Invite a dozen women out for a ride and you better close down the streets because it is going to get a little crowded.

Women are Integral to Lifestyle Education

As mothers, educators and health care providers women have a great influence on children and young adults. In the US, women constitute about 70% of public school teachers. The more women that are comfortable with cycling, understanding the health and environmental benefits and how to ride safely, the more women will pass cycling on to others… especially children.

photo courtesy of Yuba Bicycles

Women who are cyclists are going to teach their children, their friends, their friend’s children, their students and their students’ parents that cycling is important.  Women who are cyclists are going to encourage youth to ride a bike to school, creating the next generation of bicycle commuters.  When women see that the roads aren’t safe for children to ride… they are going to do something about it.  Women have an almost 2:1 presence over men in advocacy.

The influence of mothers reaches well in to young adulthood.  The nytimes.com reported on The Immutable Influence of Mothers by Melissa Lafsky: “A study released by The University of Melbourne’s School of Behavioural Science shows that a significant number of college students consider their mothers to be the single most significant person in their lives. Out of a survey of university freshmen, 40% listed their moms as the most important and influential person they’d ever known, compared with 25% for fathers, 17% for romantic partners, 12% for friends, and 6% for siblings. According to U. Melbourne associate professor Jennifer Boldero: Dads are important too, but for many generation Y people their mother remains the most important person …”

WOMEN are change makers

Women Make Financial Decisions

As much as the male population might hate to admit it, women often control the money.  The tenth annual “Financial Experience & Behaviors Among Women” study, run by Prudential Insurance found that 95% of women control the financial decisions made in their households from buying cars and houses to everyday purchases. Marketing strategists know that  Women control over 85% of all consumer purchasing across every brand category.

Women Are Ambassadors for the Sport

Female bike racers are ambassadors for the sport of cycling and their supporters. Cycling is an expensive, demanding, sometimes brutal sport. With low financial compensation, most women who race bikes professionally must find other means of income. Professional female cyclists are well educated, well spoken and do it for love of sport.

Women with the power to maintain a successful career, raise a family and race bikes must have passion and determination.  Women who race bikes make great spokespeople and roll models.

Women are the Future of Cycling

By engaging women in cycling we have an amazing opportunity for impact.  Women can help to build strong cycling communities with the potential to grow in to a cycling nation.  From these communities, from this cycling nation, we can expect a dramatic improvement in health, connection to the places and people around us and a positive impact on our environment.

So, gentlemen, ah-hem, before you try to convince your wife that you really need that new custom wheelset, why not encourage her to come along for a ride?  Maybe the next time another bike finds its way to your home, she won’t mind so much.  Maybe, just maybe she will want one for herself.  She might even suggest that the kids should be riding too.

Why does it matter if women ride bikes?  Because women are the future of cycling.

How do you think we can encourage more women to ride a bike?

Written by Sarai Snyder – Founder, Girl Bike Love – Boulder, Colorado.