Fancy Free: Why the Fancy Women Bike Ride?

Susan B Anthony quote

Most women who ride a bike don’t need Susan B Anthony to tell them how liberating the bike can be – and yet far too few women in Scotland cycle today, a pattern that is repeated pretty much everywhere outside the Netherlands and Denmark. 

We know why. They’re the same reasons most men in Scotland don’t cycle, but in spades: hostile roads, complicated journeys, fear of traffic and the extra layer of harassment that comes from not just being female in public – but putting yourself out there on a bike. Unlike some parts of the world, a woman in the UK may no longer attract criticism for how she dresses, at least not openly – until she puts her leg over a bike and then suddenly everything from what’s on her head to the colour of her jacket and the height of her heels seems to be fair game.

Women cycling on the road

The Fancy Women Bike Rides are a truly global phenomenon and they have spread pretty much by word of mouth from their start in Izmir in Turkey to across the world. They are first and foremost about women getting out there and making themselves visible not through fluorescent yellow jackets and reflective stripes – but by being in-your-face ‘fancy’: fierce, fabulous and fun. It’s about women reclaiming their own cities, riding together  and not apologising in any way, shape or form for taking up space on the streets. 

Fancy Women Bike Ride, Edinburgh. Photo (c) Andy Catlin 2019. All rights reserved.

For some of the women who joined us outside the Scottish Parliament on a drizzly Sunday afternoon for Edinburgh’s edition of the Fancy Women Bike Ride, the novelty was riding a bike in the city centre. For others, the novelty was riding one in a dress (or even wearing a dress at all). Either way, none of us was used to being greeted by smiles and waves from passers by, or indeed cycling with our own personal press-photography pack. Drizzle and a dreich grey sky didn’t dampen the effect – this wasn’t just cycling through Edinburgh, it was taking it by storm.

Women gather for the Fancy Women Bike Ride in Edinburgh. Photo (c) Andy Catlin 2019. All rights reserved.

There are many initiatives out there to encourage women (and men) to cycle more – indeed many of us who organised the Edinburgh FWBR have been deeply involved in them and have seen how they can change lives. But the FWBR is not about encouraging women to cycle – it’s about inspiring them, and not just to ride a bike but to see their city differently. It’s about having fun  – and then going home and working out how we can change our streets so that we can (if we want to) cycle like that every day of the year.

Fancy Women Bike Ride arrives at the Meadows. Photo (c) Andy Catlin 2019. All rights reserved

With thanks to Andy Catlin for the use of his photos – you can see his whole album of the day online here.

Join us for a Big Climate Conversation!

Join us at Civic House in Glasgow on Thursday 24th October 17:45 – 19:45 for a chance to have your say about how Scotland responds to the Climate Emergency

The Big Climate Conversation is a programme of national events designed to engage the public, communities, businesses, industry and the public sector in a discussion about ending Scotland’s contribution to climate change. We’ve decided to take part by hosting our own because we feel Scotland needs a diversity of voices to join the discussion about climate change, reflecting the lived experiences of those who are often at the sharp end of climate justice.

Poor public transport, complex journeys and unsafe streets disproportionately affect women, often forcing them into transport poverty or leaving them reliant on running a car. For other women, the bicycle is a freedom machine and allows them to carry out their daily journeys as well as providing much a much-needed boost to health and wellbeing. We want to bring together as wide a variety of people as we can, cyclists or not, to understand some of the barriers to living more sustainable lives, including how we get about.

Come and talk about what climate action means for you, what your priorities are and what you think the Government, local authorities and business should be doing.

Sign up here (it’s free)

AGM and after party for the Fancy Women Bike Ride!

As you may have seen on social media the Fancy Women Bike Ride is coming to Edinburgh this year on Car Free Day (Sunday 22nd September) – joining over 100 cities and counting around the world.

Fancy Women Bike Ride

The Women’s Cycle Forum Scotland are delighted to be involved in organising this event in Edinburgh which aims to increase the visibility of women cycling not through hi vis but through high levels of fabulousness. Please join us and hopefully many other fancily dressed women outside Parliament at 4pm on Sunday 22nd September for a ride in and around Holyrood Park – you can sign up on Facebook here.

The fun won’t stop after the ride either because you are all invited to join us for an after party at the Bike Station afterwards, when we will also be holding our AGM. Join us from 6pm for a celebration of cycling women in all our many forms and to help us shape our plans for the future.

Pecha Caka rides again: saddle up for an evening sharing stories (and cake)

Wednesday 12th June7pm at the Ukrainian Club, Edinburgh (or 5:30 if you want to practise beforehand) – Free but please sign up on EventBrite if you’re planning on coming.

cake

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

Back by popular demand, and for its third fabulous year, we’re delighted to be running our Pecha Caka event again as part of the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling.

For those who haven’t attended, this is a friendly event combining shared food and short (six minutes 40 seconds, to be precise) presentations from anyone who has something to say and 20 images to say it in.

Becky Taylor explains the aerodynamics of her superbike last year

Based on the popular ‘Pecha Kucha‘ presentation format, this will be a relaxed and low-key event with a warm reception given to anyone prepared to stand up and talk – whether they’re a practised speaker or a nervous beginner. Past speakers have ranged from MSPs to women who just like to ride their bikes – with the occasional diversion into sketch and song. We’ve heard about everything from aerodynamics to ‘mental bears’, activism and finding one’s feet – and (virtually) visited Canada, New Zealand, Outer Mongolia and the Outer Hebrides – all in the course of an evening’s entertainment.

 

For those who need it, there’s a short workshop/practice session beforehand where attendees (whether they’re speaking or not) can learn more about the format, share tips, and practise their presentation skills.

If you want to speak, please let us know (email Sallyhinchcliffe@gmail.com, or if you’re coming along you can sign up here – bring good food to share, preferably home made (it doesn’t have to be cake) or a small donation.

Meet Up! Join us in Inverness

Trike in InvernessIt’s been a bit quiet in recent months – mainly because we’ve all been busy with other projects and events but we’ve decided to revive our casual meet ups in various places around Scotland – starting in Inverness!

So if you’re interested in finding out a bit more about what the Women’s Cycle Forum is and does, who we are – and also meeting other cycling women in the area, why not come along? We’ll be in the Black Isle Bar from 6pm on Friday 17th May – drop by if you can and say hello!

 

Save the Date: AGM announcement and making your voice heard – November 3rd

consultation and lego

There are better ways of doing consultations about our cities, towns and streets – including using Lego!

It’s been a busy year for those of us involved in the Women’s Cycle Forum Scotland, which has meant that although things have been quiet for us here, we’ve been working to bring our perspective, and the perspective we hear from our members, to all our other activities within cycling. One of the things we hear a lot is that consultations – of which there have been a lot in recent weeks, with more in the offing – are an area where people struggle. Even if they’re not ‘nonsultations’ or bafflingly technical to a lay person, people often end up suffering from consultation fatigue, or simply don’t have the time to attend an event held in the town hall on a Tuesday lunchtime in November. And when you have made the effort to respond, it can all feel like a giant waste of time. And yet, the alternative – not being consulted – seems worse.

With a lot of important consultations happening around Scotland just now and in the coming months, we want to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard, especially those who tend to be overlooked. So we’re delighted to announce a joint event with We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote that will try and demystify the process of consultations, challenge some of the ways that they happen, and establish what the barriers are to people getting their perspective across. As well as providing information about how to increase the likelihood of your own response being effective, we’ll be feeding back to the powers that be how they can best consult to make sure that they hear from women, minority groups, those with disabilities and other groups who stand to benefit most from a refashioning of our towns and cities.

The free event will be held at the City of Edinburgh Methodist Church, on Saturday 3rd November, 2018, from around 11-4, followed by a short Women’s Cycle Forum AGM. More details coming soon, but please save the date – and let us know what you’d like to know about the exciting world of consultations.

Join us at EdFOC – Pecha Caka and Women’s Read and Ride Tour

As Edinburgh gears up for its annual Festival of Cycling we hope you’ll join us for two great events that we’ll be running to amuse, amaze and above all inspire you in your cycling life.

cake

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

On Friday 15th of June, we will be repeating our fabulous ‘Pecha Caka’ event at the Ukrainian Club – a Pecha Kucha evening, but with added cake. This kicks off with a pre-event workshop for those who’d like to give public speaking (and particularly Pecha Kucha) a go but don’t quite know where to start.

Last year we had wonderful line up of women, some experienced speakers and some stepping up for the first time – recounting adventures from Kyrgyzstan to closer to home, and covering campaigning, the law, and women’s lives in cycling. This year we’re hoping for a similar variety – we’ve already got some fab women lined up who we’re really looking forward to hearing from, but if you’ve got a story to tell, and you can tell it in just over six minutes and 20 slides – we want to hear from you!

The workshop runs from 5:30 to 6:30 and then the main event starts at 6:45. You don’t need to be speaking to attend the workshop, it’s there for everyone who thinks it might help them build their skills.

The event is free but please do bring some cake to share if you bake or a £2 donation if you don’t – Book here.

Continuing with the cycles and stories theme, the Women’s Read and Ride tour, run jointly with Cycling UK Scotland on Sunday 17th June is a chance to join epic cyclist Kate Rawles – just returned from riding from Colombia to Cape Horn on a bamboo bike – on a much less epic potter around the independent bookshops (and a cafe…) of Edinburgh. This is a celebration of women writing and cycling and writing about cycling (men are of course welcome to join the tour), and it will be an excellent warm up for Kate’s main EdFOC talk that evening.

The ride is free, but we challenge you to get out of the bookshops unscathed, so make sure your bike has roomy panniers. Meet at the Meadows for a 3pm start, finishing at 5:30 at the Pleasance.

Tell us your tales of cycling liberation for International Women’s Day

Thursday 8th March is International Women’s Day and in the run up to it, Sustrans published this handy report about about gender and active travel which is well worth bookmarking for future reference. It highlights – with ample evidence based on both current research and asking the women themselves – how our transport policies have led to women facing additional barriers to cycling – over and above the hostile road environment all cyclists in the UK face – and it ends with a call for more women to be involved in transport policy at all levels, something we are right behind.

However, we also think that IWD is a time to be positive, and in honour of Susan B. Anthony and her famous quote about bicycles, it’s the liberation that cycling brings, rather than the barriers, that we want to celebrate this year.

Let me tell you what I think of bicycling... I think 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.

“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling… I think 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.”

So go on – tell us about the moment when you felt that feeling of freedom and self-reliance yourself, taking to two wheels – or three – and tag it with the hashtag #untrammelledwomenhood. We’ll be tweeting and blogging some of our own as well.

We look forward to hearing your stories!

Short notice: Meet us in Inverness this Wednesday

Anyone here in or around Inverness?

Women’s Cycle Forum founders Suzanne Forup and Sally Hinchcliffe will be in Inverness this week for some Walk Cycle Vote business and while we’ve arranged to meet a few people involved in cycle campaigning already, we wondered if there were any other awesome cycling women out there who’d be up for a chat, meet up, maybe a drink & a nibble or two?

So we’ll be ensconcing ourselves in the Black Isle Bar from about 5pm on Wednesday 10th January (yes, that’s the day after tomorrow! Sorry about the short notice). If you’re around and want to say hello, drop in and join us. We’re meeting afterwards with local campaigners from 7pm in the same place

bikes in Inverness

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.