Monday, February 15, 2010

Raise a pint to Susan B.

"Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel. It gives woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance."

Happy Birthday Susan B. Anthony

From Women and Bicycles:
"The advent and the ensuing popularity of the safety bicycle, with its appeal to both sexes mandated that women cast off their corsets and figure out some way around their long, billowy skirts. The answer to the skirt question was to be found in the form of bloomers, which were little more than very baggy trousers, cinched at the knee. Bloomers provoked wrath in conservatives and delight in women cyclists, and the garment was to become the centerpiece of the "rational dress" movement that sprung up at the end of the 19th century. The rational dress society statement of purpose reads in part: The Rational Dress society protests against the introduction of any fashion in dress that either deforms the figure, impedes the movement of the body, or in any way tends to injure the health. It protests against the wearing of tightly fitted corsets, of high-heeled or narrow toed boots and shoes; of heavily weighted skirts, as rendering healthy exercise almost impossible.... (Dodge, 126) The bloomer quickly made a host of enemies, however, and many a bloomer clad women complained of being ridiculed, fined, and even treated "like a prostitute" by local authorities."
I've written on this blog before about the injustice in women's cycling - especially in racing. I just road last weekend in a first season Cat 3 race and several cyclists taking the start line in the race were women - one I shared several struggling (I was the struggler) miles trying to catch back on - she took her pulls, she was a cyclist. I think there are several places were we can look to share the roads - the first is just making the bicycle more female friendly.

Last October Scientific American published an article "How to Get More Bicyclists on the Road". While the SA article focused on U.S. cycling in general it shed a strong light on men vs women where there is a 2:1 gap. Curiously that was a similar gap a bit over a century ago, just before the explosion of the "Golden Age of the Bicycle" - Susan B's age. Many historians credit the meteoric rise of women adopting the bike for that Golden Age - could women be the catalyst once again?

From the article, "Women are considered an “indicator species” for bike-friendly cities for several reasons." and its author Linda Baker in Europe where urban biking is a way of life women ride "In the Netherlands, where 27 percent of all trips are made by bike, 55 percent of all riders are women. In Germany 12 percent of all trips are on bikes, 49 percent of which are made by women."

Why? Safety and utility. Women, despite our nods to equal rights and parenting, continue to be the primary adults responsible for child care and household shopping - translation: bike routes need to be organized around practical urban destinations to make a difference. And where women go more often than not so go children - more kids (boys and girls) on the bike means a new generation that understand the bike's beauty and worth. Do you get where I'm going here? Maybe just a future of more livable cities?

Happy Birthday Susan -
February 15, 1820 – March 13, 1906

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