Ladies Roll at 2013 National Women’s Bicycling Forum

Energy. Action. Gear. Business. Politics. Networking. All were on display at the 2nd annual National Women’s Bicycling Forum in Washington, DC this March.

I first heard about the National Women’s Bicycling Forum (NWBF) last October during a coffee date with Susi Wunsch from VeloJoy. She attended their first gathering in 2012 and had great things to say about the event. So when registration opened for 2013, I signed up right away.

Group ride in Washington, DC kicks off the 2013 National Women's Bicycling Forum, sponsored by Black Women Bike DC

Group ride hosted by Black Women Bike DC kicks off the 2013 National Women’s Bicycling Forum

NWBF preceded the National Bike Summit with the theme of “Women Mean Business.” The forum was an exciting combination of women leaders, advocates, entrepreneurs and industry experts focusing on growing the impact of women in bicycling.

Biking Entertainment

Ladies gathered the night before the event to pedal with Black Women Bike DC and enjoy a launch party with Washington Area Bicyclist Association. There was great energy at the party with old friends catching up, long distance (online) friends meeting for the first time and speakers such as Elly Blue and NWBF organizer Carolyn Szczepanski. During the forum, attendees snapped portraits at a photobooth, browsed vendors in the Women Bike Pop-up Shop and the NYC Bike Dancers surprised us all with a performance.

New York City bike dancers entertain attendees between sessions on business, politics and social aspects of women biking

New York City bike dancers entertain attendees between sessions on business, politics and social aspects of women biking

Nuts and Bolts and Tips to Inspire More Bicycling Women

  • Closing the gender gap: The first break-out sessions for the day included a great mix of advocacy, community, retail and industry perspectives—I really wish I could have attended them all. I attended the Insight from the Industry: 3 Keys to Closing the Gender Gap session with speakers from Gazelle Imports, REI, Giant Bikes and Advanced Sport International. The conversation got a bit heated, but pushed forward the need for the bike industry and retailers to start paying more attention to women—from race enthusiasts to commuters to lifestyle riders.
  • Rides and retail for women: More break-out sessions included From Road Block to Gateway: Rides and Races that Engage More Women (covering social aspects of riding—making rides and races a key way to engage more women). I attended Bike Shop Barrier: Making Bike Retail More Welcoming to Women with owners of Pedal Chic, Clever Cycles, West Town Bikes and Huckleberry Bicycles. As a designer selling in various retail spaces, I was really interested to hear what these shops are doing to draw more women. We heard a lot about friendly customer service, thoughtful merchandising and a safe environment to ask questions.

Biking Pioneers, Women Leaders and Innovators

  • Industry pioneer Georgena Terry and owner of Sweet Pea Bikes, Natalie Ramsland were inspiring and full of laughs, discussing everything from steel frames fit for women to the politics of wheel size.
  • US Representative Duckworth used bicycling to recover from war injury: Our lunch keynote speaker was the ever-inspiring Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, first Asian-American congresswoman from Illinois and first disabled woman to be elected to the US House of Representatives. Duckworth spoke about equity, recovery and determination. She lost both legs and damaged her right arm during the Iraq War when the helicopter she piloted was shot down in 2004. She found hand-crank bicycling to be a powerful part of her recovery.
    • NYC Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan received a standing ovation before her keynote speech. Sadik-Khan’s work has made New York City a leader in bicycle infrastructure and advocacy. (NYC is ranked 9th most bikeable US city by Walk Score via Bike Score.) She emphasized the positive economic impact on businesses near new bicycling infrastructure. An amazing speaker, Sadik-Khan offered a tip to NYC visitors: “If you stop for a minute in Brooklyn, someone is going to chain a bike to you.”

The event left me inspired, energized and with new friends that share the same passion—getting more women on two wheels every day.

Photos: Brian Palmer

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