By Jashima Wadehra
My favorite childhood activity was bike riding- yours too? So when I met the inspiring and refreshing Angela Azzolino recently at the Stop Street Harassment Rally in New York, her infectious energy, beautiful freckles and passion for women’s cycling had me SOLD. Stay tuned to see what this executive director of Get Women Cycling is doing to get women back on bikes!
“When I was 16 years old my uncle gave me his Schwinn Varsity 10 speed, my first road bike that I used to commute to high school. On weekends, I’d ride over the Brooklyn Bridge and visit my grandmother who lived in the Lower East Side. I discovered something new every time I rode. I smiled more and was never bored. My passion for cycling grew from those impressionable teenage years when many girls stop riding bikes. After high school, I commuted by bike to college and to every job I’ve held since graduating.”
As a child, I spent 99% of my time outside on my bike. There was something empowering about being able to get myself from point A to point B without anyone’s help or public transit. Cycling also gave me a sense of emotional and mental freedom, the wind whipping through my hair (under my helmet!) and the sun beating down on my back- It felt exhilarating. Let’s be real, when I kicked off those training wheels, I thought I RAAAAN the neighborhood!
|Photo via the Get Women Cycling website|
Angela also founded Get Women Cycling to encourage women to take charge of their independence and fitness. I, as a woman, used to feel that cycling was better suited for men, and one of my greatest concerns was my appearance. I somehow felt that my fat rolls whilst sitting on a bike or my helmet hair afterwards made the whole experience “unsavory.” I asked Angela to tell me about the benefits and concerns many women have with cycling. She said,
“Frequent cycling, at any level, offers you reliable and affordable transportation, tremendous physical health benefits including reduced risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity. Bicycling also reduces stress, combats depression, promotes mindfulness, and improves self-esteem. Finally, bike riding is sustainable, helps to reduce traffic congestion, produces zero carbon emissions and is great for the environment overall. The gender disparity within cycling is real. Non-gender conforming and female identifying individuals bicycle less than their male counterparts due to several reasons, the 3 biggest are safety concerns, child responsibilities, and grooming issues. If we think about ways to address these known barriers we’ll get more women cycling and we will also be doing things to help attract many more people who are still hesitant to try riding. “
But things are changing.
“Major cities around the world are shifting gears and rallying for cycling as a viable transportation option. Bike share schemes are popping up everywhere, local bike shops are offering community rides and workshops, industry manufacturers are producing female specific bicycles and products that open up the cycling community to greater diversity and enables cultural shifts. Ironically, there also seems to be a revival in the natural hair movement. Greater visibility, acceptance, and support for free-flowing locks and bicycles is the perfect combo for feeling confident in ourselves and in our ability to lead healthy lives.”
The community at Get Women Cycling is supportive, open and nonjudgmental. If you don’t live in New York City but you’re interested in cycling in a group, check for local cycling organizations in your area. It’s worth it!
Do you already bike? Will you give cycling a try?
Jashima Wadehra is a writer, entrepreneur, artist and lover of all people based in NYC. She can be found dancing and traveling her way through life.
Follow her on Instagram @TheChatterBoxLife and check out her new blog TheChatterBoxLife.com