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.
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.