Cycling Visionaries Awards – Project Details

Women Cycling School

Women Cycling School

Escuela BiciMujer (Women’s Cycling School) gets women on wheels and onto the street! 235 women from different backgrounds and ages who never learned to cycle or who never gained confidence to bike in the streets have become urban cyclists. 50 enthusiastic volunteers power the school making possible the dream of many. We are transforming the landscape of the city by transforming women’s lives.

While in countries such as the Netherlands 25% of the trips are made by bicycle, in Santiago, the capital of Chile where our project is conducted, only 3% of the travels are made by bicycle. When we started in 2006, only 10% of this small pool of cyclists were women. Within such a masculine environment, we decided to fight this inequality by creating Macleta, an NGO that took the challenge of understanding women’s barriers for bicycling in the city and advocating for their necessities. In 2007 we developed the first Escuela BiciMujer (“Women Cycling School”) and taking into consideration the specific barrier women face(such as family responsibilities, lack of time, multiplicity of roles, tight budget, risk adversity) we developed programs to support them along the process of becoming urban cyclists.

Two types of participants can get involved in our school: Those that have never ridden a bicycle (“learning to pedal” course) and those that know how to bike but are afraid of biking in traffic conditions (“come down from the sidewalk” course).We investigated a method to teach adults how to ride a bike and decided for a “hands-out” methodology. One of our instructors guides and encourages each participant during the process of gaining balance while they power themselves alternating each foot on the ground at the time. Hence, the participants are their own only impulse and support, which facilitates their empowerment and independence. The participants of the second course go to the streets in small groups with an instructor that helps them to gain confidence, and teaches how to deal with cars and buses, how to face the intersections, security implements and transit laws.

We also developed manuals for instructors and participants. Several NGO-friends have joined us and made this project their own, making this venture possible. “Recicleta”, an NGO that recycles abandoned bicycles, constantly repairs and donates bicycles for our project; “Ciudad Viva” has helped out by creating didactic material with us; “CicloRecreoVia” closes streets every Sunday and reserves some space especially for our school; “Movimiento Furiosos Ciclistas” repairs and adjusts bicycles for our participants, and “Bicicultura” has provided a platform for disseminating our project. Within a few short years we became a part of a vibrant community of dedicated people who are fostering cycling culture in Santiago.

Our School has become well known in the capital. We have developed 11 courses, covered 9 districts, trained 30 instructors, involved more than 50 volunteers and graduated 235 participants. A big range of women from 18 to 65 years-old, with different socio-economic and educational backgrounds, have left their fears behind and become new urban cyclists and more importantly, they have turn into more aware citizens that want to collaborate to create a more equal, environmental, decongested, and friendly city. We are convinced that each of our participants carry with them the message of making this a better place to live one pedal at a time, with the powerful but simple act of two wheels.

Our former participants recognize the changes that the schools have made into their lives. After each version of the school we hear statements that fill us with satisfaction. Here some of them we want to share with you:

“I feel that I have gained way more than just confidence and a sense of safety”

“Using the bike as a means of transport implied something deeper than just pedaling. It has meant a change of mind and meeting brilliant and worthy people”.

Macleta wants to participate in Velocity 2014 to nourish our project with new ideas and continue to make our project grow. At the same time, we want to make our knowledge available for the worldwide community. We know how to replace the required budget with passion and creative solutions, thereby creating tangible change in women’s lives and the city’s quality of life.

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