What Women (Cyclists) Want
The Bicycle Belles are taking on the Calgary pathways. Here’s why it matters
Photograph by Kimberley Nelson
When most Calgarians think of a cyclist, they’ll probably picture a young male, clad in stretchy cycling gear, speeding down the roads or the pathway system.
The numbers collected in the 2013 Bicycle Program Yearbook only enforce this idea. The survey data highlighted the gender divide among cyclists in Calgary: 79 per cent of the cyclists recorded were men and 21 per cent were women. The highest percentage of women counted was at 29 St. N.W. at Foothills Hospital, and even here women only accounted for 39 per cent.
Back when this data was released in July, a group of Calgary women started talking about how to get more females out and on their bikes. The result of that conversation is Bicycle Belles, a group that formed this summer. The group is now run by about eight women and gets the support from groups such as Bike Calgary and Cyclepalooza.
According to Kimberley Nelson, one of the women involved in the organization of Bicycle Belles and the president of Bike Calgary, the goal of Bicycle Belles is to make Calgary more welcoming for female cyclists and to improve the gender gap in Calgary. “We are looking to encourage people that would not typically ride their bikes,” says Nelson. “If we can show them how beneficial and easy it can be, they may start looking at biking as a viable option for other trips.”
Nelson explains that many females she knows have felt uncomfortable on the road. Even though they understand the benefits of cycling, it is still difficult to convince women who have never done it to get on two wheels. Bicycle Belles is looking to fight this fear, both with its short-term and long-term goals. “Our short-term goals are to organize a series of rides for the fall and winter, to keep momentum going and to find out what women want,” says Nelson. “For the long-term, we want to make the decision to bike just an everyday consideration and see how we can assist in breaking down barriers.”
The group’s inaugural event – a bike ride followed by brunch at Craft Beer Market on September 27 – was set up like a workshop to ask women what they want when it comes to cycling infrastructure in the city.
While the group is still in its infancy, it’s attracted a lot of attention and is slowing changing who uses the Calgary pathways. “We need to show the city that they [young men in full cycling gear racing dangerously] are quickly becoming the minority, and families, women and the local commuter are out there,” says Nelson.
The Bicycle Belles’ next event takes place on Sunday, October 5 at 1 p.m. The group leaves from Edworthy Park. The event costs $10. Tickets are available at Eventbrite.