How to Grow the Bike Community: 3 Ideas from Bike Advocate Chantal Hardy
By: PeopleForBikes Staff
At PeopleForBikes, we believe we can all do more to grow the cycling community. We’ve been doing the work for nearly 20 years and we want to keep the momentum going. We’re committed to improving inclusiveness in our messaging, broadening the audiences we reach, and increasing our staff diversity. Join us as we learn from various voices in the cycling community. Together, we can turn what we learn into action.
Community brings people to biking
Chantal Hardy is the Director of Outreach and Promotion for WE Bike NYC, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in New York City dedicated to women’s empowerment through bicycles. WE Bike NYC is open to all women, female identifying, and gender nonconforming people.
The goal at WE Bike NYC is to provide a safe space for women to ride together, regardless of skill, speed, or riding style. Each month they offer a variety of events to get more women riding, including social rides, training rides, mechanic workshops, happy hours, and field trips.
Keep the community growing
There are plenty of die-hard riders who go out no matter the weather conditions, but that’s not for everyone. New York City weather isn’t always conducive for riding for several weeks or even months at a time. Still, WE Bike NYC strives to provide consistent community. “Even when we can’t host an on-the-bike event, we organize a monthly happy hour, which is open to anyone. Whether you ride or don’t ride, no matter your gender, we love to have this safe community-building time.” Rotating locations throughout the five boroughs, the happy hours help provide people who are unsure about biking with the opportunity to ask questions, meet fellow newcomers, and toy with the idea of riding. Hardy says there are a lot of people who are bike-curious, but first want a community that they trust, before they get on a bike.
Never underestimate the power of the invitation
WE Bike NYC is a community that encourages people to try new things at their own pace. “Sometimes you just need to see people doing the thing you want to do. And also have them say, ‘You can do this too!’” Hardy says she’s seen numerous women start out at the happy hours just asking questions, and slowly they gain the courage to try a bike event. Many times, those people become bike commuters, or train for the 5 Boro Bike Tour, and eventually pay it forward by teaching a mechanic class or leading a ride.
Keep redefining inclusiveness
When thinking about starting something similar to WE Bike, Hardy first recommends just starting. “Just do it: just start, with whatever you have, wherever you are.”
Her second biggest takeaway as a volunteer with WE Bike is that communication is vital. “As an organization grows and changes, it’s so important to re-evaluate things often. Ask yourself what your needs are, what your goals are, what it takes to sustain things.” Hardy says that bringing in the right people, casting a very wide net, getting awesome volunteers, and flexibility have all helped WE Bike succeed. “Constantly think about bringing in a lot of different voices — not just the ones you think you want to hear. Reach out to communities that you’re aware aren’t represented in what you’re doing.”
WE Bike has recently added programming for women in their 50s and older. Hardy says they realized there’s a huge number of people riding in that age range, but not a lot of programming for them. They also support Moms On Wheels, which hosts rides and events aimed at mothers.