Zen Around the City

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Last night, with the help of 10+ other women, I hosted BikeArlington’s very first women’s bike event focused on getting more women biking. We titled the event “Zen Around the City” because we wanted to emphasize the stress-reducing benefits of biking that oftentimes gets forgotten. To reiterate that message we partnered with a local yoga studio, Mind Your Body Oasis (MYOB), to provide the space and offer some yoga. When the event sold out in less than a week, I was confronted with the challenge of accommodating more women. I couldn’t bear the thought of turning women down simply because we didn’t have the room. So we made room – we expanded the event into “The Landing” outside MYOB, thanks to the Crystal City BID and Vornado/Charles E. Smith. The demand was there and the event sold out the weekend before the event, with 115 women registered to attend.

When I started working for BikeArlington 2 years ago I heard about a “Ladies Night” event that Revolution Cycles put on in Clarendon for women interested in biking. As the only female representing my team, I was determined to put on a similar event. First I had to learn the trick of the trade. So I put in my time and I quickly learned that I’m not the only one that wants to get more women riding.  In fact, this year’s National Bike Summit was dedicated to just that!  Why, you ask?  Well if you have to ask, it’s because biking has been and still is a male dominated activity in the United States.  In 2009, women represented only 24% of all bike trips taken, which is very small considering we make up more than half the population. So, still determined to make this happen, I started brainstorming earlier this year with a female colleague and fellow bike enthusiast about a possible event. Long story short, it took us almost 6 months to put the event together (event planning is hard work!), so you can imagine how thrilled I was when I saw those final registration numbers.

Zen Around the City brought almost 100 women from around the region into Crystal City where they not only got to strike some yoga poses, but learned all about biking – from biking with kids, to fashionable rain capes and traffic riding tips.  The night started out with 30 minutes of awesome yoga lead by Founder and CEO of MYOB Amanda Shipe, to de-stress the guests after a hard day of work. Dinner was deliciously prepared by Denise Hicks with Postmodern Foods, who focuses on healthy, raw and vegan dishes, and was fantastic (after speaking to many of the attendees, I can confirm that this was a unanimous opinion).

The heart of the evening, of course, revolved around biking – a panel of 10 hand selected women were stationed around the room ready to talk, demonstrate and teach the ladies about different aspects of biking. The most popular station was the "Bike Maintenance" table run by Revolution Cycles Clarendon Store Manager Katie Knight and former employee Angela Parrotta. The women watched attentively as both Katie and Angela fixed flat tire after flat tire, and some even got to get their hands dirty (literally) and test their skills. Every station got some love though, with the women able to walk around freely and ask questions comfortably (I say comfortably because let’s face it, there are some questions that you just don’t want to ask in front of men).  With bikes and props on display, women were able to get a real feel for how they can make biking work for them, as difficult as it may seem.  Need to transport your kids around? No problem, we had a kid’s bike seat and a "long tail" bike right there for them to see and feel. A little scared to ride in traffic? Most of us are (although we don’t always admit it), so we had expert advice dished out through some fun trivia with Nelle Pierson from WABA and bike advocate Megan Jones.  And of course Kaiser Permanente kept the women busy with blood pressure and BMI (body mass index) readings, on top of lots of health advice about active transportation.  We made sure there wasn’t a shortage of information or fun activities for the women…in fact, we could have stayed there all night.

So all in all, I think everyone had a good time (judging from the smiles on everyone’s faces).  Most importantly, though, I think everyone learned something new. I saw ladies fixing flat tires who said they previously had to ask their boyfriends to fix it for them. There were women thinking about the future and inquiring about the best way to tote around their prospective offspring, when that fateful day arrives, which is just wonderful! Others learned the rules of the road (no, you aren’t required to ride in the bike lane in Arlington). Some women were pleased to find out that there does exist such a thing that keeps you dry when you ride in the rain, while at the same time is very fashionable (rain cape).  And everyone learned how pivotal a role biking for transportation can play in getting your much needed daily exercise in.  So next time, these women might think twice about how they’re getting to the store or to work and hop on a bike instead of in their cars.

Of course I wouldn’t have been able to pull off such a successful event without the help of many amazing women.  You all know who you are, so please accept this as a public thank you letter.  You are all rock stars!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Zanna is the Events & Outreach Coordinator for BikeArlington. She hopes to get more women biking not only to close the gender gap, but to improve their quality of life because at the end of the day, that’s what it all comes down to.

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