Get Women on Wheels at Your Workplace

By: Anna Walters, Bikes Make Life Better

Want more people to ride bikes for transportation? Start focusing your efforts on women! Women are the “indicator species” when it comes to adequate and safe bike infrastructure, and research shows that in places where more women ride, more people in general ride.

This starts to make sense when you consider that on average, women take 110 more commute trips per year than men, and more than 40 percent of the women in two-adult households with small children add non-work trips into their commutes. Women, not men, are the ones covering more ground on any given day! Targeting women; designing bike programs, products and incentives with them in mind; and aiming to be as inclusive as possible helps everyone in the long run.

Recently, we worked with three of our clients — Stanford Research Park, Facebook, and LinkedIn — to implement women cycling clubs and programs, with the aim of creating a safe and supportive community for women. Here’s how we did it.

Women on Wheels at Stanford Research Park

At Stanford Research Park, we launched a “Women on Wheels” group last fall. For our kickoff event, a crew of 20 gathered in a conference room for a lunch that morphed into a collective therapy session. Women around the table shared how they had been marginalized in the overwhelmingly-male world of biking. Comments ranged from:

“It’s so annoying to be dropped on a no-drop group ride,” to “It sucks that I have to chauffeur the kids while my husband gets to ride,” or “I’m inclined to bike, but I have to be presentable at work.”

Everyone agreed it was nice to feel like they weren’t alone.

SRP’s Women on Wheels kick-off event.

Next we coordinated a real no-drop group ride around Stanford’s campus with dinner plus another social lunch at an outdoor food truck park. Again engagement was high. Some members started making plans to meet up the next day and ride to work. Others were planning weekend rides.

SRP’s first W.o.W. ride with dinner at the finish line.

The enthusiasm for Women on Wheels bowled us over. It was clear that a love of biking + the same office address aren’t always enough to build a community. It’s often that X-factor — identifying as female in this case — that solidifies or galvanizes a group.

For our next event, Women on Wheels is hosting a lunch with the TIBCO women’s pro cycling team. After that, we’re screening the movie Motherload with the hopes of introducing everyone, not just women, to the joys of cargo bikes.

WTF at Facebook

A parallel narative played out at Facebook last August, when our staff there launched the Women Trans Femme Bike Club (yes, that’s WTF for short, and we think it helps pique interest). This was Facebook’s first formal women’s bike club, although it had been running women-only bike repair classes since August 2018. The group gained more than 100 members in the first month alone — an indicator that we’d hit a nerve.

On average, WTF hosts two group rides and two bike maintenance classes a month; several employees join each offering and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. At the end of a WTF bike maintenance class, one participant remarked: “Having a class geared towards the ladies is nice. I’m normally not intimidated by the guys, but having a forum focused with us girls in mind does make things a bit more casual and comfortable.” We agree!

A Facebook Women Trans Femme (WTF) group on a dirt ride around Bedwell Bayfront Park.

The team behind the Liv pop-up bike shop at Facebook.

When it comes to outfitting women with the right stuff, Facebook is ahead of the pack. In April, Liv — a brand that makes bikes and gear for women — set up a miniature bike shop at work. They gave away wildly popular T-shirts, but more importantly, they carved out a space for women in a male-centric (bike) world.

In the new year, Facebook is lining up some inspirational speakers. The staff there also plans to focus on more social events, which they think will help foster togetherness needed to solidify the community.

Women-Only Repair Classes at LinkedIn

LinkedIn started offering women-only bike repair classes last year, and attendance was nearly double that of a regular class for the inaugural offering. And the team is working on future programming in 2020.

Ready to Start Your Own Women’s Cycling Group?

Great! Aside from start-up considerations we laid out here, we have some best practices to share:

  • Focus on social, especially at first: We’ve found that in the beginning stages, it’s important for participants to bond with one another. Physical biking actually takes a back (tandem) seat to general connecting and experience-sharing. Casual hangs, like a catered lunch or a coffee date work best. These events are low-commitment, welcoming to all levels of cycling experience (since no actual cycling is involved), and the perfect backdrop for the getting-to-know-you process.
  • Listen: It’s important for group organizers to listen to what participants are saying and then respond or adapt the group accordingly. For instance, if participants share that they’re afraid to bike around cars, offer to ride with them to work or suggest a low-traffic route. If members are looking for buddies to gravel ride with, organize a ride or clinic, so all they have to do is show up.
  • Let it be organic: The hope is eventually the group will self-organize, and you, as a business, won’t have to provide as much direct support. Give participants the tools they need to communicate with the group, and then stand back.
  • Brand it: Having an emblem to rally around feels good, especially for a group centered on empowering women. Below are logos created for the Women Trans Femme and Women on Wheels groups.
  • Don’t be afraid to be political: A women-only cycling group is political — it’s a counter to the male-dominance of the bike world. Take cues from the women in your group when it comes to advocacy, and be prepared to support their self-driven initiatives. For instance, one employee at SRP suggested the group commemorate the 100-year anniversary of women getting the right to vote with a women-only bike parade in 1920s cycling clothes. Wouldn’t you love to see that?! We would!

Bikes Make Life Better is dedicated to helping employees at large organizations use bikes for healthy sustainable transportation. They’ve helped design bike programs, facilities, and fleets for Airbnb, Facebook, Kaiser Permanente, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Netflix, Salesforce, Stanford, Walmart and others.