Posted by: *carrie* | May 1, 2010

May is National Bike Month

Today begins National Bike Month.

I was one of those kids who spent hours upon hours riding around the same tiny neighborhood on her bike, nearly every day the weather permitted. It was fun. It allowed some freedom. It was active.

Then, I turned 16 and started driving. I didn’t touch my once-beloved bikes again.

A few years ago I started noticing cyclists around town and began feeling nostalgic for cycling. Soon I had a cheap bike and was on my way to becoming a bike commuter and even sort-of active in the local cycling community.

So why am I talking about bikes on this feminist-y blog?

Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think that it has 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.

-Susan B. Anthony

When I really got involved in the local cycling advocacy was when I started participating in the local weekly “ladies ride”. Most of the ladies are about 10 years my junior, in better shape, and on much sweeter bikes than I. Sometimes the rides are very casual. Sometimes they completely kick my ass. I love every one of them.

These also served as my introduction into the real value of women-only spaces. I learned that lots of women are hesitant to bike because they are afraid: of traffic, of hecklers, of getting sweaty. Seriously. There are women who avoid cycling because it might get them a little sweaty.

I love biking because it’s fun. I love that I can commute around town: to work, to the grocer, to farmers’ markets, to bars. I get some exercise. I do less damage to the planet than when I lazily hop in my car to drive those 3.5 miles. Often  biking is as quick, if not quicker, than driving and I don’t have to deal with parking.

It’s pretty interesting that what I loved about biking as a kid is still part of what I love about biking now. There really is a sense of freedom on those two wheels that is different than the freedom of the car. There’s also a lot of opportunity to take care of yourself. If something happens to my bike, I can probably fix it pretty easily. What’s more, even if something happens I’ve never fixed – I’m pretty confident I can figure it out. (Also, bikes break down way less than cars!)

I know – us wimmin folk aren’t supposed to have any spatial skills or be any good at fixin’ machine-type parts.

Bikes were important in the first wave of feminism precisely because of this. It allowed women freedom to move about town. It gave them opportunity to be in control of their transportation and even fixing it if something went awry.

Momentum Planet has a great article about the role of the bike in the womens movement.

If you’re not a cyclist, I encourage you to check it out. You can get pretty nice used bikes from local bike shops for decent prices. Whether you’re in a city or a small town, biking is an efficient way to get about town, to get some exercise, and to be nicer to the earth.

Happy Bike Month everyone!

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