Just Gals Being Gals

Editors: This story was originally published in Issue 162 of our quarterly Tube Times magazine, one of many perks of membership in the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

In San Francisco, where men outnumber women who bike, how can we create welcoming and inclusive spaces for all women, trans* and femme-identified people? That’s a guiding question for Gals with Gears, an SF Bicycle Coalition program founded and organized by women over 50 years of age, offering their peers welcoming monthly rides all over the Bay Area.

“I was tired of pulling up to intersections along Market Street on my bike and being the only woman, much less the only woman over 50,” said Lenore McDonald. “I seized on the idea of organizing rides for people like me.”

Looking around at the gender imbalance among people biking, Lenore co-founded Gals with Gears along with fellow SF Bicycle Coalition members Carla Stern, Maggie Robbins and Alexis Jakob. They continue Gals’ rides to this day, in which people with a range of biking experiences are welcome and nobody is left behind.

“I think there is a special comfort level knowing that you’ll be amongst women on the older side, that there is always a sweep rider and that there’s no rush or competition,” Carla said. “That said, the Gals are open to all women, and we always have some riders way under 50, too.”

Gals with Gears aims to empower all women to embrace the fun and freedom of biking. In addition to a warm, welcoming environment, ride leaders offer practical tips.

“We show women how to fit their helmets correctly and how to put their bikes on a Muni bus, and we insist on observing rules of the road,” Lenore said.

Beyond enjoying regular recreational rides, Lenore and the Gals also prefer making their everyday trips throughout SF by bike.

“I personally appreciate the independence, convenience and empowerment that come with biking. You aren’t beholden to bus and BART schedules or the availability of parking,” Lenore said. “Experiencing the sensations of the city from the seat of my bike has enriched my life and enabled me to appreciate this beautiful city and countryside we live in and around.

“And it’s just more interesting than passing through a place in the cocoon of a car,” Lenore added.

Want to join Gals with Gears on their next ride? It’s listed along with all of our Women Bike SF events for women, trans* and femme-identifying folks at sfbike.org/women.

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