The Tucson Bicycle Belles, a new group created by cycling advocate Kylie Walzak, is designed to help women overcome barriers to cycling.
Walzak describes the Tucson Bicycle Belles as “a group of women cycling enthusiasts who want to share the joy of low stress cycling for everyday pleasure with other women who, for a variety of reasons, just don’t feel comfortable riding bikes by themselves.”
Walzak said the group which launched last month doesn’t emphasize one type of riding over another, but just wants to get women on the road.
“We just emphasize riding bikes to places for fun and maybe combining a little bit of educational opportunities,” she said.
Bicycle Belles member Janet K. Miller said she loves the fact that anyone can easily join and take ownership in the group.
“What I love about it — that she wired into it – is that it belongs to everybody who joins and all you have you have to do to join is ‘like’ the Bicycle Belles page on Facebook.”
Walzak said while the group is certainly for women, men are invited to many of the events.
“In the steering committee meetings, we talked about pros and cons of keeping it a women specific group,” Walzak said. “A lot of women felt really strongly that we have a majority of women at all of our events because there are some women who are going to feel intimidated in a workshop or a class where there are men around.”
“But also, come on, we don’t want to exclude men,” she said.
Walzak said their latest event was a bike ride to a movie at the loft where men were invited to join the ride.
However, Walzak said the classes they host will be devoted to women to provide a “stress free environment for them to learn.”
Miller said this type of group is pure fun, but also could be a big help in getting women on bicycles.
“For me it is fun, but I think there is a really important component of helping women get riding,” she said.
Walzak said listening to women tell her why they didn’t ride bikes at tabling events for BICAS and Living Streets Alliance planted the seed for the group.
“Women say,’ I would ride my bike more but I just don’t know if I trust myself if I got a flat tire. I don’t know if I could fix it.'”
The Bicycle Belles have plans to create a flat tire changing class in the near future as well as a class about transporting children on bicycles.
“We also want to do a workshop where people who carry their children around on bicycles come and show other women what their getups and setups look like,” Walzak said.
Walzak said she wants to create and host a lot of events to make it easy for women to get involved.
“Ideally we want a calendar of events.” she said. “We all have really busy lives and so we figure that if we throw enough events out there, there are going to be a couple that you are going to excited about and can go to. It’s not like you must meet here every Thursday at this time for this ride.”
The group’s first event was a presentation about what kind of lighting cyclists need at night to be legal and safe and then they went to a local bike shop to demo different light setups.
That was something Miller thought was a great idea.
“Getting women feeling more confident about riding at night and being safe was brilliant,” Miller said.