|My $99 Canadian Tire Special. Still going strong.|
I don't recall ever cycling to school. We lived up hill from my primary school and downhill from my junior and senior highs. But when I started kayaking seriously and had to get to the other end of town every morning at 6 and every night at 6, it was clear I'd have to get there on my own. So I cycled. And then I would sometimes ride to Uni too, even though it was walking distance. I don't recall ever receiving any training in riding on the road. Or anyone worrying about it being dangerous.
And when I moved to Oxford, pretty much the first thing my new friend and I did was go out and buy bikes - matching white ones with flowers and baskets. And with a great group of friends we explored all sorts of places around Oxfordshire on our bikes. And I cycled in Harare - the wide roads were lovely. Until we got to Edinburgh, cycling had just seemed the obvious solution -- it wasn't a 'thing' for me, I didn't race. I didn't know how to do any maintenance. I wasn't 'into' bikes. I just found them convenient.
Edinburgh changed that. Living just off Leith Walk kept me off my bike for 5 years. No way I was cycling up and across the bridges to get to work ever day. And I didn't know about any of the off-road paths that would have allowed us to get out to East Lothian or to Cramond. All those years we took the bus, or walked. But then we had a baby and just didn't have the time to get her to nursery and get to work, so we moved house and bought bikes. It was an entirely pragmatic response, and I didn't regret doing it, but when I saw http://citycyclingedinburgh.info/bbpress/ mentioned in the Evening News, I checked it out, and found a wealth of people and information that helped me cope with the hostile roads that was encountering on a daily basis. Even though I considered myself an experienced cyclist, I found I needed their camaraderie and advice to cope. They also opened my eyes to issues like road design and the finer details of the Highway Code (especially as it pertains to pedestrians). So, when POP came along, it made sense to join in, and try to help improve conditions for others.
So, unlike others, who have rather wonderfully described POP as an epiphany my attitude to bikes has always been rather hum-drum - it gets me where I need to go and under my own steam. That's why I particularly love the first 5 points on the Guardian bike blog. But it also makes me feel rather useless when asked about 'getting people [ie women] cycling'. Yes, having had all those blue bikes, and equally boring blue raincoats, I love the fact that you can get girly accessories - baskets, pink gloves, flowery helmets. But ultimately, it's about freedom, and efficiency, and health (mental and physical). And those shouldn't be gendered.
Decent infrastructure and safer streets are needed so that women who want to cycle can feel just as independent, save just as much time and money, and be just as healthy as all the lyrca-louts and businessmen commuters.
So rather than 'encouraging women to cycle' my goal is to make cycling something that isn't gendered, and then we won't need to organise special events. It's not women we need to change, it's the environment.
|Me and my girl on our tandem.|