Monday, March 4, 2013

Grow Your Own Local Women's BIke Summit (or come to Women Bike Chicago)

As you might have heard, building on the women's cycling forums in the winter and fall of last year The League of American Bicyclists is hosting a third all out National Women's Bike Conference tomorrow in Washington D.C. This is of course completely exciting news. But...  If for you, as for many cycling parents, this is not the optimum time for you to be traveling to D.C., don't despair!

Click here for what I found to be one of the best aspects of the page about the fall forum. That's right... a link to the Women's Cycling Project, with a how-to-grow-your-own-local-forum guide. I just love it. Er, loved it.

I think the whole idea of growing your own local forum taps right into the power that many cycling women, parents and otherwise, have found through their local connections.  Many of my favorite Chicago women attended the forum last September, presenting and attending the forum in California which was very exciting.

 A small federation of local Chicago women riders has been plotting away this winter on our own local women's forum and what we have cooked up is Women Bike Chicago- A day of Dialogue and Demonstrations.  To be held at the University of Illinois at Chicago the 23rd of March from 9am to 1pm. Coming up very soon. Please grab a women friend (or three) interested in learning to get out on two wheels and come.  Email us at to get our Eventbrite link and register.

  Our space at the University is not huge so we have room for  70 women to pre-register and come.  Inside will be a handful of sessions, a short keynote, coffee, refreshments and a place to try and meet to chat with other women about bikes. Please come and bring a wanting-to-ride friend along.

An unoffical program of sessions so far includes information on getting back on a bike over 50, using bicycles to create community, practical tips for dressing to ride to work or anywhere, and how to make the most of a trip to the bike store from women shop owners.  In the halls, we will have a chance to meet up and talk with women city riders about finding quieter routes to some of your favorite places to ride.

Outside, there will be bikes to test and hands-on city riding demos.  Experienced women riders will  coach ladies who wish to learn about using a bike as transportation in Chicago techniques and skills key to starting out in our city on two wheels. We can help you figure out the right size of bike you should be riding too. West Town Bikes and some of the Cal Sag program will be on hand to teach basic maintenance.

Afterwards, we would all like to have a celebratory meet-up at Simone's in Pilsen, just a short ride south.

How did we grow our own small forum and how can you grow yours?

The link to the Women's Cycling Project guide is very helpful and our progress followed much of their outline. Without the fashion show.

Getting Started

First, we met as a very small handful of riders to see what we might want to have and how much energy we could pour into it. How big, and what-do-we-miss-here that we felt women could bring to each other in a Chicago-focused Women's Forum. We felt that women of all ages are sometimes left out of images and left out of any idea of them as riders. Women over 50, trans and younger riders are not always clearly represented at forums. We hoped to have women speakers of all ages and cultures here in Chicago.


We brainstormed what time of year is getting close to when it's warmer to ride but still when weekends are not filling up with springtime fun. In Chicago we figured that would be... late March.


Finding a solid location took time as we knew that a hands-on area would be really important. One of our main goals with the confab is to help women take the lead to try growing their trips around the city even just by a small bit.  The University of Illinois offered us generously a small set of locations that we checked out and tried to match with our goals- a place to ride, space for kid care and enough room to meet.  Other options were Park District field houses or other small cultural non profits with goals similar to our small forum.


Our publicity is just emerging. We have a twitter feed@wbechi and blog at  and are on the Chainlink which is a huge platform for the Chicago cycling community.  With the kind help of Active Transportation Alliance we will be publishing fliers to post around the city in places, not only where current women riders go but also where potential women riders may be.

As we struggled to find a good location we drew in more help and began to brainstorm about some sessions and deeper goals. Women Bike Chicago falls shortly after the annual Bike Swap and we hoped to take a fresh tack with our sessions to create something unique to Chicago women, both potential and already-riders, and we reached out for volunteers to help with the demos and riding opportunities.

Sewing the last weeks together

We are now sewing together the last weeks before Women Bike Chicago happens and we need you to help, volunteer, come and be part of the day please!  You can reach us at Chicargobike will carry updates as the program of sessions becomes official and we get close to the actual date. Please stay posted to progress on our little forum and let us know if you create your own!

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