The Women’s Cycle Forum Scotland turns one

To be strictly accurate, we turned one in June, but it takes time to plan a proper birthday party, which is what our first official AGM turned into.

As always when we’re running these events, we spend a lot of time worrying that nobody will come. So it was a relief to see a good few women gather in George Square on Saturday afternoon, ready for the short ride to the Glasgow Women’s Library. Brief though it was, it still managed to rain on us, pretty hard, so it was doubly kind of the wonderful GWL staff to allow us to park our dripping bikes right inside the library building. And in the end, we needed to bring in more chairs to accommodate everyone who came, possibly lured by our many tweets about cake beforehand.

Bikes at the library

The best bike parking in Glasgow!

As it was an AGM we had some formal business to conduct: first the Co-convenors’ report, and then the statement of accounts by our Treasurer, Alice Lyall. Those members of the committee who were willing to stay on were re-elected, and we now have two new committee members, Daisy Narayanan (elected on the day) and Julia Loecherbach (co-opted afterwards).

With that concluded, we turned to our three guest speakers, who all in some way stepped out of their comfort zones in their talks.

Daisy Narayanan talked about the women who had inspired her in her own journey. These included her own mother and grandmother who set an example of strong women, but also a colleague who inspired her not to hide behind the ‘invisible war paint’ that women sometimes feel they have to don in a male-dominated world. She recalled feeling inspired and uplifted by our series of women and cycling interviews during International Women’s Day, something that got her through a tough day at work.

Anna Richardson talked about bringing a whole new perspective to what she calls the best job in the world – Glasgow’s Convenor for Sustainability and Carbon Reductions, which means she has responsibility for all transport, not just cycling and walking. She is encouraging her staff to stop thinking and talking like engineers and instead to think about how the best and fairest use of space in a city with the lowest car ownership in Scotland. She also drew parallels between women and bikes – the way we sometimes feel as if we shouldn’t take up too much space on the road or in the conversation, and the way we have to learn to ‘take the lane’ whether that be actually on a bike or in real life.

Alex Feechan talked about how cycling, specifically mountain biking, got her through a tough period of her life. With her background in fashion and textiles, she was pretty horrified at the ‘shrink it and pink it’ approach to designing women’s cycling apparel – not just was it not very attractive or well made, it was actually insulting to the tough, talented women she was riding with. She took the plunge and launched Findra Clothing to give women the kit they deserved, designed with us, and the Scottish weather in mind. And she found that some of the lessons she had learned on the bike stood her in good stead in business and in life: that you need to commit, that there will be bumps and difficulties in the way, that the climb up to the top is hard and can seem endless – but that the resulting downhill run will be worth it in the end.

After a brief pause to open some bottles of fizz – alcoholic and non-alcoholic – we then turned to our audience for a final discussion on what we should be looking to do in the future. Interesting, the conversation very quickly turned towards campaigning – providing resources to help people engage with politicians and officials, looking at the specific barriers to cycling that women face in this country, and also about widening and changing the conversation around cycling and our roads and the places where we live. We talked particularly about children and the conditions they particularly need – something that would unlock cycling for many.

And then we were out of time. Thank you everyone who came, who joined, who spoke, who helped and who baked. It’s given us much food for thought and we look forward to spending the next year growing as an organisation and doing what we can to provide a voice for women in cycling in Scotland.

 

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Coming to the AGM? Ride with us!

What’s better than a gathering of awesome women, cake and a few bottles of fizz? All that plus a cycle ride to get there. Our AGM is in Glasgow on Saturday 19th which coincides with both Glasgow Pride and a couple of Orange marches. This means that the city – never exactly the easiest to cycle in for the uninitiated – might feel a bit daunting, especially with road closures to negotiate.

exploring Glasgow

Suzanne Forup exploring Glasgow earlier in the year (hopefully it will be a bit warmer next week!)

However, there’s nothing better than riding a bike in good company, so if you want to join Sally, Suzanne and Lee for a relaxed pootle to the Glasgow Women’s Library, please meet in George Square at 3pm which will give us ample time to get there (and get organised) and allow participants to check out the marvellous GWL before we kick off our AGM at 4pm. We’ll be heading down via the Clyde and around Glasgow Green and avoiding traffic and road closures as much as possible.

 

Three great speakers for our AGM!

As we celebrate our first official year – we really hope you can join us for our AGM and hear from our three great speakers, all in their own way women at the top of their game in the world of cycling. Alex Feechan, Anna Richardson and Daisy Narayanan will all be joining us at the Glasgow Women’s Library from 4-6pm on Saturday 19th August.

If you’re coming – please do let us know by booking your free place here – we have to know how much cake to bring!

Alex Feechan

Alex Feechan, founder of Findra Clothing, has founded a business on bike wear which is the antithesis of ‘shrink it and pink it’. Findra women’s cycle wear is covetable on and off the bike, performs seriously well (the Adventure Syndicate lasses wear it) and, most importantly, is better than anything the men can buy. Read more about Alex here.

Anna Richardson

Anna Richardson, Glasgow councillor and newly appointed City Convenor for Sustainability and Carbon Reductions has a huge job on her hands – transforming a city that is a byword for urban motorways and car domination into a truly human-scaled city. As someone who only started cycling to work a year ago, and who is known for her admiration for the Dutch cycle design guide the CROW manual, she has made all the right noises – and we will be watching with interest how that turns into a real difference on the streets. Read more about Anna here.

Daisy Narayanan

Daisy Narayanan, Deputy Director for Built Environment at Sustrans Scotland  (and recently Acting Director while the Director has been on secondment) is sometimes reluctant to blow her own trumpet, but she’s has been quietly forging away behind the scenes as a woman in the very male worlds of architecture and urban design. As the leader of the team delivering the bulk of Scotland’s cycling infrastructure projects, she has a huge influence on the shape of our towns and cities. Read more about Daisy here.

 

Save the Date: Our AGM

 

Lee Cragie at our launch

It’s more than a year since we formally launched in Edinburgh with the help of Jools Walker and Lee Craigie. Time to look back, and think about where we’re going too

Save the date! We’ve been going for over a year as a properly constituted body, so we will be holding our AGM on Saturday 19th August, at the wonderful Glasgow Women’s Library, from 4-6 pm.

We now have three fantastic speakers to inspire us and it will be a chance to reflect on what we’ve done in the past year, and to look forward and plan what we will do next.

Whether you’re a member or not, come along and be part of it as we launch ourselves into another year of making life difficult for all-male panels and celebrating women’s cycling in all its forms.

Please let us know you are coming – you can book your free place here on Eventbrite

Women’s Read, Ride, Write Tour – 11 June

Join adventure cyclist Jenny Tough and creative writer Helen Boden for a cycle tour of Edinburgh with a difference. This is a FREE event as part of the amazing Edinburgh Festival of Cycling.

We’ll be riding, reading and writing our way around the city, stopping to check out a few independent bookshops and attempting to squeeze in a cake stop too. No writing experience is required, just a bike and a love of books!

The ride will cover no more than 4 to 5 miles, there will be some readings, conversation, writing and have we mentioned cakes yet…

Please note this ride is a celebration of female cycling literature, not a female-only ride. Everyone who enjoys reading literature written by women is welcome.

Who can say no to cake and books, right?!

Pecha Caka – sharing cake and stories with the Women’s Cycle Forum Scotland

Thursday 15th June, Ukrainian Club, Edinburgh – Edinburgh Festival of Cycling. Workshop 5-6pm; main event 7-9pm

Scotland is full of women doing interesting things in and around cycling. We know this from our Women in Cycling interviews, our Facebook group, and from all the awesome women we’ve met in our travels around Scotland. But where are they when it comes to conferences and cycling events?

Megaphone

Are you ready to make your voice heard?

Part of the problem, we know, is that organisers do not take issues of diversity seriously enough, and so they don’t try hard enough to get a range of speakers. But we also know that some women don’t put themselves forward, whether because they feel uncomfortable about speaking in public (well, who relishes it?) or because they simply haven’t had the experience.

cake

Come and share, whether it’s your stories or your food

Our Pecha Caka event, part of the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling, is a chance both to hear from all the fab women we’re missing as a result – and for women in cycling to dip their toes into the public speaking waters in a friendly and supportive event. Built around the Pecha Kucha format of short (20 slides of 20 seconds each) talks on a variety of topics, we’ll have a mix of speakers – from women at the top of their game, to those just starting out. We’re asking people to bring cake in lieu of an entry fee because sharing food brings people together and breaks down the barriers between audience and speaker (and also because we really like cake).

To encourage people to give it a go, we’re running an hour-long mini workshop beforehand. This will give participants the chance to practise and hone their presentations or develop a mini Pecha Kucha (just six slides) and – if they want to – sign up to speak that evening.

So please do come along and join us in Edinburgh on the 15th June. The workshop will run from 5pm-6pm and the main event is at 7. You can come to the workshop even if you’re not planning to speak in the evening, or if you’re not sure if you can. Or you can just come straight to the Pecha Caka at 7 whether you’re speaking or not. It is free, but please do bring some cake to share (or a suggested donation of £2 if you can’t).  Any surplus will be passed on to a good home.

Book here

Walk, Cycle, Vote with the Women’s Cycle Forum Hustings

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In this election year we’re getting political – join us from 6-8 pm on Tuesday 4th April at the Glasgow Women’s Library  for an active travel hustings for the local elections, talking with women politicians from all the major parties. The format will be the same as last year –  we’ll be asking you to rotate between tables of politicians, talking about the issues that matter to you: social justice through transport equity, children able to play out in the street, climate change and carbon reduction, obesity and the inactivity that kills thousands of people in Scotland each year.

We hope that the evening will be an opportunity to get to know female politicians a little better, and hear what each other has to say without the political point making that can happen at mainstream political events. Feedback from last year’s event was really positive – from both politicians and potential voters.

The evening is part of the We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote campaign events – a collaborative partnership of over 40 active travel, environmental, health and children’s organisations focused on engaging with politicians in the run up to the local elections in May. This grassroots campaign is gaining in momentum as it reaches out to people and organisations that want to see the benefits of cycling: a healthier, wealthier and happier nation.

The event is free but you’ll need to book – click here.

Reporting back: our ‘cake summit’

group photo

Taking a break from deliberations in the sunshine

On Saturday 21st January, some committee members of the Women’s Cycle Forum Scotland, and a few guests, got together at the Glasgow Bike station for what we loosely called a ‘cake summit’. We wanted to take a step back from our busy lives and  take the time to talk about how we do what we do – particularly campaigning – and how we could do it better and more effectively, and without losing our sanity! Because it was a cake summit we brought cake to share, and then we spent what turned out to be a glorious winter Saturday in a windowless room, setting the world to rights.

The conversation was pretty wide ranging, but at the end of it we had agreed a few key points that we want to share, and also to try and bring into our own campaigning. They’re not particularly ‘women’s’ points – but perhaps they do reflect a wider realisation that if we’re to bring about real change in the world, first we have to change the narrative, change our own perspective, and change the way we work.

Here were the main things which struck the greatest chord with those taking part:

more than cycling

First: we need to find common ground with people who walk, because that’s all of us, and because it’s something people understand much more widely than just cycling. And pedestrians are just as poorly served in many ways as people on bikes. Let’s talk about how we move, not how vehicles move.

Second: we need to change the way we talk about cycling and who we talk to – blanket certainty is offputting and so is picking fights over what appear to be minutiae. On the other hand, narrative does change minds, and so do great visualisations. So we should concentrate our communication on telling stories and using positive images and visions of how things could be different and how that would improve everyone’s lives.

Third: we need to get out from behind our screens and out of our social media bubble and engage with the real world and the wider public. This means we need to do things differently – a bit of tactical urbanism, activities like Parking Day or just going out and talking to people face to face.

Fourth: we need to ensure that people (including ourselves) don’t feel they have to be experts in things like street design and planning matters in order to have their say over how their streets, towns and cities should change. We should concentrate on communicating the bigger vision, of what we want to see, and let the details be worked
out once the vision has been agreed.

cake

Sharing out the goodies we had brought

Finally: just gathering in the same room, sharing food we had made or brought, enjoying each other’s company and making sure we listened to each other, was refreshing and energising in itself. Campaigning is for the long haul, and if we’re to keep going we need to remember to ‘be excellent to each other’ and keep bringing together great people to share great ideas in a friendly, enjoyable atmosphere.

So what’s next? We deliberately didn’t make an action list, other than writing up this brief summary. We hope that over the next 12 months, some of the conclusions above will be reflected in what we do in our various campaigning roles. And, having enjoyed ourselves and found it useful, we might consider running similar events in the future – day or weekend retreats to gather, reflect and share ideas (and cake).

eclairs

On the Off Chance: Meet us in Perth 18th January

perth_birdOnce again Suzanne and Sally are on their travels – this time to Perth – and hoping to meet up with any cycling women in the area who fancy an hour or so of chat, snacks, beverages and networking. We’ll be at the City Cafe in the Imax Playhouse from 5pm till just before 7

Last time we had a great turnout in Dundee and not only did we get to meet some great cycling women, many of them were meeting each other for the first time and were able to share ideas, contacts, routes and tips about cycling around their area.

So come along and say hello – and who knows who else you may meet …

World Bike Girl – Jan 2017

Join Women’s Cycle Forum Scotland for an evening with World Bike Girl, Ishbel Taromsari. Ishbel has been cycling the world solo for 2 and a half years and has pedalled across 16 countries, documenting her trip along the way.

She’ll be telling us about her incredible journey, from her scariest miles – cycling along Syrian border in 2014 where she was taken to the Syrian Revolutionunnamed Command Centre – to her hardest miles, which was crossing the Andes mountains from Chile into Bolivia reaching 5000 metres.

Ishbel uses the bicycle as a platform to promote human and animal rights, shining the spotlight on the plight of both animals and people in challenging environments. Before cycling the world she was a velodrome track sprinter for Iranian Women’s Team and a velodrome sprinter for Glasgow Life & a Scottish Institute of Sport Athlete.

The event is free to attend, but we would be grateful for donations towards the costs of the evening.

The events are free but ticketed. Tickets must be reserved via Eventbrite.

Sat 14 January 2017, 19:00 – 20:30
Forest Cafe, 141 Lauriston Place, Edinburgh
Eventbrite tickets

Sat 21 January 2017, 19:00 – 21:00
Glasgow Bike Station, 65 Haugh Rd, Glasgow
Eventbrite tickets