5 April 2024

Women pedal forward with 'bike bus' and film screening encouraging females to take up cycling

| Kellie O'Brien
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Juliana Peloche (centre) will be part of a "bike bus" and screening of the film Women Don't Cycle on Saturday.

Juliana Peloche (centre) will be part of a “bike bus” and screening of the film Women Don’t Cycle on Saturday. Photo: Paul Jones.

Women will create a “bike bus” to the Sage Hotel Wollongong on Saturday (6 April) to watch a special screening of the inspiring film Women Don’t Cycle in a bid to encourage more females to jump on a bicycle.

On the back of the city’s status as an official UCI Bike City, the Illawarra Bicycle Users Group (IBUG) has joined forces with Sage Hotel Wollongong and Destination Wollongong to host the free event.

Event spokesperson Juliana Peloche said the event wasn’t just about watching the film of a woman’s incredible journey from Brussels to Tokyo on her bicycle, but an opportunity to strengthen the bond within the cycling community, particularly among women.

“This film is a testament to the spirit of women cyclists around the world,” Juliana said.

“It also shares the beliefs and desires that IBUG has to increase the number of female cyclists around Wollongong.”

Cycling is strong among men, with large groups of male cyclists regularly seen on a Saturday morning throughout the Illawarra.

However, she had still been asked why it was promoting women and not cycling in general.

“Men don’t actually need any encouragement,” she said.

“The reason why women are not cycling is that they don’t feel there is space for them.

“I think that it being this male dominant field, the lack of infrastructure, the lack of encouragement to see that it is possible to ride a bike in a safe way but maybe they don’t know the best routes to go to places where it would be safer, means there are many different things that might affect the decision to ride or not.”

READ ALSO Women encouraged to get back on their bikes for a leisurely ride with new friends

She said one example was the lack of proper infrastructure around town, with some roads “just terrifying, such as Memorial Drive”.

“They say it’s OK for us to ride bicycles there. I would never ride there and I cycle everywhere,” she said.

“Women, especially if they’re married and have kids, they always have a plus one with them.

“Unless they have a proper bike to carry the kids around, it’s another obstacle, because the cargo bikes are excellent but they’re quite expensive.”

Juliana said the event would start with the “bike bus”, also known as a bike convoy, where participants would join the convoy as it travelled from either Austinmer or Cringila to the Sage Hotel Wollongong by 5:30 pm.

She said while the film was quite emotional and empowering as it followed Anne-Sophie challenging the stereotypes and prejudices that women faced in the cycling world, one of the main goals was the networking that would follow the film to allow people to meet others in the same situation, organise social rides and discover the best routes to take.

“It’s starting these conversations among women in Wollongong, because I think there are lots of cycling events, but they’re usually very focused on competition and championships,” she said.

“But there is this other side of cycling, that is cycling for commuting, for leisure.”

READ ALSO Pedal power: The volunteers pushing to make our cycle tracks more accessible for every age

She said the women’s task force started strongly this year, with its first event being for International Women’s Day and involving a ride around the Illawarra Criterium Track at Unanderra last month.

“When we had the event for International Women’s Day, we had lots of women saying, ‘Oh, I would like to go but I didn’t have a bike’ and ‘My bike is not that good,’” she said.

“It wasn’t the purpose but just saying that it was at the criterium already got this idea of competition and of races.”

She said Saturday’s event was a celebration of women cyclists and an opportunity to establish networks with other women who shared a passion for cycling.

“It’s the most inclusive kind of event we can offer to encourage people to ride bikes because even if you don’t ride a bike, you can still show up and watch the film and have fun and get to know people that might be in the same situation that you are,” she said.

Initially expecting about 60 people, it has now sold out 150 tickets. However, a wait list has been created for those still interested.

The free Women Don’t Cycle event will be held at the Sage Hotel Wollongong on 6 April from 5:30 pm.

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