Our zine library received a package from Microcosm Publishing this week. The folks at Microcosm, a non-profit distributor and publisher of zines and related work, very generously donated all kinds of feminist zines to our collection. Today I'll be reviewing one of their donations that we now have available to check out, Dames on Frames: A Feminist Bike Zine.
Dames on Frames: A Feminist Bike Zine is the first in a series of four zines that explore the relationship between feminism and bikes. When Claire Stoscheck was in Bogotá, Colombia — the city that is said to have the most extensive bike paths in the world — she realized that only around 1-2% of the bicycle commuters she saw on the streets were women. Stoscheck began to ask questions about Bogotá's gender gap in bicycle riding, which then led to questions about the relationships between gender and bikes when she went home to the Twin Cities.
Back in the Twin Cities, Stoscheck started learning more about the local bike community. She found that only 1/3 of the local bike commuters were women, and that the bike shops in the area were hyper-masculine and "unfriendly towards people of other genders". (Sound familiar to other bike riders out there?) She decided to facilitate a class that would take a feminist lens to the bike movement. A class that took on some of the following questions:
What's the historical context of this gender inequality in biking? How is city design and planning gendered? Why do less women bike than men? How do various identities — not just gender, but race, class, ability, etc... — affect one's access or ability to bike safely? How does the alternative transportation and bike movement sometimes replicated systems of oppression or perpetuate privilege for the already privileged?
This zine was created as a collaborative project by the attendees of the class, and it answers some of these questions through personal experiences as well as quantitative and qualitative research.
One of the articles in this zine, The Path to Change: How to Get More "Dames on Frames", addresses specific deterrents that prevent women from riding bikes. Laila Davis and Cali Jirsa decided to poll bikers and non-bikers in the Twin Cities to find out which specific deterrents would rank higher for women than for men. They found that women were twice as likely to say "skill" was a major deterrent, and four times more likely to find "image" to be a major deterrent. They then addressed specific reasons why women might feel self-conscious about bike riding, and offered some solutions: women's bike rides, women on posters for cycling events, women led bike classes. They write, "If you are a lady, get out there and ride. Flaunt that skirt and heels if you like or sport that spandex. Women need to be encouraged by seeing other women out there on the road."
In addition to examining why women don't bike in the Twin Cities, this zine features some planning solutions that — if tailored to a specific city's needs and then implemented — would increase gender diversity out on the bike lanes. Some of these possible solutions that are suggested include: anti-sexism trainings in transportation organizations, hiring of more female transportation planners, wider bike lanes that are safe and attractive to women biking with children, safe urban biking confidence workshops, and a gender-equity approach to collecting data to determine planning. If you have other ideas that you would like to see implemented, please leave them in the comments section!
This issue also includes tips for moms interested in pulling their kids around by bike, a centerfold that features women with their bikes, and an ode to bike shorts that have actually convinced me to buy a pair. If you read it you'll probably be convinced to buy a pair as well. Dames on Frames is available at our library. If you'd like to buy it on-line, Microcosm has it available on their website.