Mujeres en Movimiento, Biking With A Purpose
Four women have been organizing female bike rides in Portland since 2014. Carolina, Elizabeth, Olivia, and Lale.
In the male-dominated sports world, cycling might not be the first sport to come to mind. When it comes to testosterone-expending, high-drama athletics, to many American football, boxing, or even tennis would rank top on the list. In Portland, considered by several transportation experts as the country’s most bicycle-friendly city, “riding my bike” has a far different interpretation than it does elsewhere. However, even with the “Bike Town” reputation, there’s a group of mujeres creating a much-needed female space in the male dominated bicycling culture.
No training wheels for her.
Carolina Iraheta Gonzalez, a North Portland native, remembers distinctly the first time she rode her bicycle. Mostly, she remembers the unglamorous dismount; “when my parents let go” says Carolina, “I fell into the rosebushes between the street and the sidewalk.” After a significant pause she adds, “it was traumatic. But it didn’t stop me.”
Lale Santelices was born and raised nearly 7,000 miles south of Portland, yet, shares a similarly different story. Instead of her parents teaching her to ride, it was her female cousin. And instead of falling on a rosebush, she fell onto gravel. Lale recalls, “She was holding onto me and then I looked back and she wasn’t there. And of course… I hit the brakes and I fell over.”
These mujeres have stories of movement, even when her story ends with a hard knock. But despite the setbacks, they rise and remount because they just love it. “Getting endorphins going and [getting] that happy mood” is what Lale says riding is all about. Carolina agrees and adds, “There’s definitely this freedom when you’re riding a bike and the air is going through your hair.”
“She was warned. Nevertheless, she persisted.” – Mitch McConnell
The Senate Majority Leader’s now famous words toward Senator Warren could also summarize Mrs. Cabral’s journey into bicycling. Olivia Quiroz, Multnomah County Health Department employee and Elizabeth Cabral’s sister, could share many stories about growing up the hard way. You see, these sisters are known for their resilience. Olivia attributes a lot of it to their upbringing in The Dalles, Oregon.
Elizabeth recalls her dad warned her it would be difficult to learn to ride. Then Dad started to teach her. After falling a few times her dad, tired of picking her up, insisted she learn solo. Elizabeth recalls being observed and dad insisting, you can do this on your own! In hindsight Elizabeth ponders, “I think that he thought I would just keep falling and eventually give up.” That’s what most 8-year-olds would do, but not her. Elizabeth just kept getting back on her bike until she finally got it.
“Wise Latina” – Sonya Sotomayor
The Supreme Court Justice’s noteworthy self-description applies here too. Because amongst these four women there are 30+ years’ worth of ridership experience. Furthermore, they not only ride as a hobby but all four have taught bicycle safety classes, advocated for transportation infrastructure improvements, and worked on statewide campaigns for safer streets. When Carolina, Elizabeth, Olivia, and Lale speak about bicycling, folks ought to listen. Olivia Quiroz knows that the Mujeres have earned a lot of credibility through their consistency on the road. Ultimately, the goal is to close the female ridership gap. Elizabeth, a Street Trust staff member, shares “only 30% of bicycle riders in Portland are women. [The gap] is even higher when we talk about women of communities of color. There’s a lot of work to do to change that.”
Mujeres en Movimiento is doing their part by reaching out to more Latinx women. These ladies assure ThinkMujer that they will continue riding and making waves in the local cycling scene, along with other groups with a similar mission: that of creating a cycling community for women of color. They also view themselves as part of a larger movement - which include groups like ‘Ride like a girl’ ‘Black girls do bike’ ‘Ovarian Psychos’ of Los Angeles and ‘ABC Club’ of the Cully neighborhood - to reclaim bicycling for the non-hipster, spandex-less crowd.
Carolina shares her viewpoint on people of colors’ attitude toward bicycles. When told of the common misperception that Latinxs don’t ride - Carolina disagrees, “it’s not that Latinxs don’t ride bikes; that was never my experience growing up in North Portland in the ‘90s; it’s more that Latinxs ride bikes differently.” Eluding to the difference she sees between riders of communities of color and the mostly male and largely white Portland cyclist.
ThinkMujer Walk and Bike Ride - May 13th 2017
These ladies want to grow the small yet significant circle of female bicyclists through Mujeres en Movimiento’s quarterly rides and through special events such as the ThinkMujer’s 1st Annual Walk and Bike Ride on May 13th. ThinkMujer anticipates 50-75 women on bicycles and others joining on foot through a 3-mile loop. To join the activity you must be registered for the ThinkMujer Conference the day prior. Post summit, the ride will begin at 10:30 am on the west side of the Tillikum bridge on SW Moody Ave. Bicycles will be available only to those who register and you don’t have to be an expert to ride. “I’m super excited” shares Carolina, “it’s going to be the perfect opportunity for 1st time riders.”
To register for the ThinkMujer Summit and save your spot at the Walk and Bike Ride visit: https://thinkmujer.org.
If you would like to reach out to the Mujeres en Movimiento cycling group, give them a Like on Facebook or email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article by Edward Gutierrez. Follow him on LinkedIn.