Three Women who are Pushing Boundaries in Bicycling

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Renée Moore Tweet Us @bikearlington@bikearlington March 3, 2020

Renée Moore is a former Program Manager for BikeArlington.

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These three women are inspiring a new generation of women and girls around the world to use bikes for transportation and exercise.

No doubt you have heard the year 2020 is the 100th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage. One of the most famous suffragists, Susan B. Anthony had something to say about bicycling:

“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.”

Bicycling has done a great deal to emancipate women in America. But there are still places in the world where bicycling is seen as harmful for women. However, women across the world are pushing boundaries and embracing bicycling despite backlash from their society.

In honor of Women’s History Month, I’ll be sharing the stories of three women who are making bicycling history in their respective countries.

bamboo bicycle

Bernice Dapaah in Ghana

Bernice Dapaah is a young entrepreneur from Ghana. After graduating with a degree in Business Administration she decided to return to her hometown in Kumasi, Ghana and start the Bamboo Bikes Initiative. She uses mostly bamboo to create bikes. For every plant they use, she plants ten bamboo plants. Her company enables children to get to school faster than walking, increasing their learning time and maximizing their time in the classroom. Additionally, she employs mostly local women to harvest the bamboo, build the bikes, and sell them in markets around the world.

Doaa Naeem in Saudi Arabia

Doaa Naeem and her sister Fatimah Naeem are helping to normalize bicycling in Saudi Arabia. Women have only been allowed to cycle in Saudi since 2013. And there are few places where women can safely ride in Jeddah: only on beaches and in parks. They must also have a male guardian and be dressed modestly while biking.

Both sisters say they treasure the time in the morning when they can bike. It’s great physical exercise for them in a place where exercise for women is not prioritized. It’s also a wonderful bonding activity for the entire family. Naeem has worked to share her love of cycling with other Saudi women and even teach them how to ride. She encourages family and friends to join her on rides and helps them rent bikes if they need it. Her persistence has paid off. She recently was asked by the Saudi Cycling Federation to help start a Women’s Saudi Cycling Team. This journey has taught her a few lessons, she says, “for sports like cycling you just need to have a brave heart for the first time. You just have to do it so everyone will follow you and do the same.”

Zulekha Dawood in Pakistan

Twenty-six-year-old Zulekha Dawood is the organizer of a woman’s biking group in Karachi, Pakistan. Zulekha works for a community center known as the Lyari’s Girls Café. One day while hosting a girl’s boxing club she noticed some boys riding bikes and thought: why can’t we do that? And her cycling group was born! She started out with seven girls in 2018 and it has grown to over 30. This is no easy feat as cycling is seen as a vulgar act due to having to straddle the seat. There’s a lot of pressure to quit biking as the girls reach the age of marriage. She hopes to resist that pressure as much as possible because she loves riding her bike and setting an example for other women. She knows that when girls see them riding, they are inspired to shed their fears and ride a bike.

Sign up for a Bike Class

The persistence and dedication of these women will hopefully inspire you to encourage more women in your life to learn to ride a bicycle or to increase your own biking skills. You can start by signing up or sharing the information about one of our low-cost biking classes.

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