Shout-out to St. Paul Women on Bikes!

Across the river, Women on Bikes (WOB) (a program of St. Paul Smart Trips) works to make it safer and easier for women and families to ride a bike through advocacy, education, and fun. They aim to get more women riding bikes, especially women of color, women who don’t consider themselves as bikers, and women who get left out of the conversation on biking.

As part of a recent strategic planning process led by Mill City Consulting, Women on Bikes conducted five focus groups with over 50 people in collaboration with 5 community-based organizations about what barriers women face to riding, and how their initiative  can help address those barriers. WOB was particularly interested in learning more about how to engage people who are interested but not yet sure about bicycling. Themes that emerged from those groups include concerns about safety (especially with children), weather, and the need for bikes in good condition and the right size. Although participants in the focus groups were interested in riding, they face barriers to biking and perceive biking as being for other people, mostly white, affluent males.

In detail, here’s what surfaced from the focus groups:

Hmong Community - Saint Paul Public Schools/Early Childhood Family Education

  • Most people get around by driving or carpooling, not public transportation
  • Biking means being vulnerable, to traffic, car exhaust, and crimes while on a bike
  • Some people don’t know how to ride, afraid of falling and getting hurt
  • Not comfortable riding with children, and don’t have enough bikes for the whole family
  • Feels safer to ride on a sidewalk than in a bike lane, because traffic can come into the bike lane, especially when vehicles turn

 Latino Community - Neighborhood House Healthy Access Program

  • Get around by driving, city bus, and walking (summer)
  • Need access to bikes that are the right size
  • Need places that do cheap maintenance, or fixit stations
  • Biking is perceived as being white, affluent, for nice neighborhoods
  • Concerned about safety, especially with children on city streets
  • Group rides would help people bike more 

Hallie Q. Brown Community Center - food shelf participants

  • Perception that bikers are wild and in the way, also biking is fun and good exercise
  • Safe roads, nice weather, and having a working bike would help get them on bicycles
  • Helmets and working bikes that are secure would help for biking with youth
  • Car traffic, weather, needing bicycles, and cultural barriers for women on bikes are barriers
  • Cost and station availability are a concern for Nice Ride

Saint Paul Public Housing residents

  • Need good, reliable, and affordable bicycles
  • Want to ride in community
  • Want safer bikeways - wider lanes, better protection from traffic, more signs
  • Potholes, ice and snow, not being able to bike on the sidewalk are all barriers to biking
  • Best to hear from people that they trust - family members, schools
  • Classes would need to be in the evening or on weekends, want hands-on classes to learn to fix own bike and learn to ride

 Saint Paul Public Housing Youth Leadership Group

  • Use school bus, walking, city bus, and carpooling to get around
  • Weather is barrier to biking
  • Biking feels unsafe because of traffic, lack of helmets, and poor road conditions
  • Need easy biking pathways to get to destinations
  • Fear of breaking down and traffic is a barrier
  • Want hands-on classes and education around signals

Participants in the focus groups helped identify areas where Women on Bikes (and other organizations who promote biking!) can address some of these barriers:

  • Promoting biking as a fun and recreational exercise
  • Providing more access to bikes
  • Separating bikers from car traffic
  • Partnering with organizations who have relationships with women, families, and youth to promote biking
  • Better promotion of events and opportunities through trusted people or organizations
  • Focus on women is important because women are more likely to take short trips, have safety concerns, and involve children

St. Paul Women on Bikes is working on incorporating the feedback from these focus groups into their advocacy strategies in neighborhoods, communities, and government for the future. Check out their report summary here:

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