The Freezing NYC-DC Bike Ride to Support Women in Cycling

The 2014 National Bike Summit is underway in our nation’s capital, starting with the Women’s Bicycling Forum, with its focus on expanding the share of women on two wheels. You can follow along on Twitter at #womenbike. In 2009, according to the League of American Bicyclists, women accounted for just 24 percent of bike trips in the country.

A team of 11 women made the journey to the Summit in DC from New York City by bike, working their way 262 miles through some of the East Coast’s major metropolises. Among the participating groups were We Bike NYC, Gearing-Up, Black Women Bike DC, the Washington Area Bicyclists Association, and the Philadelphia Bike Coalition. They call their pilgrammage We Bike to DC.

Streetsblog’s Tanya Snyder caught up with a few of the riders after their arrival last night. Kristina Sepulveda of We Bike NYC, a women’s bike advocacy organization, said the journey helped illuminate the connection between transportation and inequality in the U.S.

“One of the high points for me was to see the income inequality that goes through each city and to see how much work has to be done and to see how much of that poverty is connected to transportation,” she said.

Sepulveda works with low-income groups in NYC, and she sees the effect of limited transportation options all the time. “A lot of people I work with in New York City don’t live near transit, and in New York City that makes life very difficult,” she said. “If they were able to have a bicycle and safe routes, they would be able to do things like go to work and go to school safely.”

She said that despite New York City’s tremendous progress on bike infrastructure, unsafe streets still force her to drive her 11-mile commute from the northern part of Queens to the southernmost end of Brooklyn.

“Most of my route does not have bike lanes at all,” she said. “The couple times I have done it is a little terrifying.”

In countries with more protected bike infrastructure, there is much greater parity between men and women who bike. In fact, in the Netherlands, women bike more than men.

Sepulveda and her team set out from New York on Thursday and were accompanied by a van service donated by Women Tours. They raised $15,000 for the trip, enough for everyone to stay in hotels. That was fortunate, because the weather was colder than they hoped for, according to Casey Ashenhurst, also of We Bike NYC.

“The low point for me was definitely the weather,” she said. “It didn’t get above freezing until mid-way through the second day.” In one portion of New Jersey, pedestrian paths were so icy and impassable that they were all forced to carry their bikes over their heads, she said. Eventually, they piled into the van and drove about 30 miles to a highway where they could safely bike again.

But Ashenhurst added that taking to the open road with some of her peers was exhilarating.

“The high point of the trip for me was biking, being able to stretch my legs on the open road,” she said. “New York has a lot of amazing greenways and bike paths along the water, but it’s not the same as being able to go mile after mile on roads with grass and trees.”

Photo: We Bike to DC
Photo: We Bike to DC
  • Hilda

    Very proud of these amazing women. This route was daunting, and the weather could have made them miserable the entire way. All of their pictures, tweets and updates, however, had strong smiling faces showing the power and strength of teamwork, and how it can get you through almost anything. Great job! Way to represent!

  • Eric McClure

    Awesome. I would’ve been crying frozen tears and looking for a rental-car outlet after 20 miles in those temperatures.

  • Ted Glick

    As a two-years-now long distance biker, I was inspired by these womens’ biking trip and by what they said in the interview. I bike through the winter, most days, and I know what it’s like to bike when the temperature is in the 20’s or much lower as far as wind chill if there’s a wind. More power to them for their strength and perseverance!

  • Joe R.

    Props to them for both riding such a long distance, and doing so at a time of year which most people don’t consider good cycling weather. Maybe if more people show that cycling is a 12 month a year endeavor we’ll get more infrastructure built.

    And as a winter rider myself, I admire their tenacity. Between the below freezing temperatures and the winds, I would probably be done after 20-25 miles.

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