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Archive for the ‘Hilltop YMCA’ Category

This past week, my program Girls in Gear moved into Urban Design, something I am very passionate about.  Opening up people’s eyes at how our streets have been designed and how they can be so much more.

These girls, like the majority of our citizens have only viewed streets for one purpose – to get cars from point A to point B.  Next time you take a walk, be conscious of if you even have sidewalks to walk on.  So many of our neighborhoods especially the lower income neighborhoods, sidewalks have been eradicated to make more room for travel lanes.

Opening up these girls eyes and minds showing them how much more a street can be is critical.  They should know that they deserve simple infrastructure such as a sidewalk when walking to school.  They shouldn’t be ‘immune’ to gun-shells and used syringes in their playgrounds.  The design of a neighborhood creates the tone in how a community will use that neighborhood.  If you’re neighborhood is destroyed by four lane wide streets with cars moving at 4o mph, chances are there will be very little social interactions and enjoyment on these streets.

Aside from the aesthetics of a street, the people behind the scenes creating these streets are predominantly men.  I want these girls to know and believe that if they want to become planners, architects, or engineers when they grow up, they have just as good of a chance as men.  Have you ever stepped outside your house and taken a walk or a bike ride and stopped to collect the way that you ‘feel’ on a particular street?  Do you feel safe?  Intimidated?  Is the street pleasant to be on?  Is it soft with textures of trees, lights, benches, few travel lanes,gardens, etc.  or is cold and isolated with a slab of concrete serving one purpose – to get you to your destination?

The majority of our streets have been designed by men.  Imagine what our streets would look and feel like if the majority of them were designed by women?   The majority of our streets built today are not women and children friendly in my opinion.  This is one of the reasons I’m introducing Urban Design to these young girls.  When a street is designed with women and children in mind, everyone will feel safer experiencing that street.

Enjoy the pics.

Be safe and keep riding.

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Took the girls on a walk audit to score two streets.

 

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Group discussion as we wait to cross the street.

 

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The girls discussing what they saw and felt on the two streets we scored.

 

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Abby Downs discussing streets more than just places for cars.

 

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The girls beginning their designs of their ideal bikeable / walkable streets.

 

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If you follow my blog or just have seen some of my recent blog posts, you can gauge that I’m passionate about empowering women and providing them with the tools to feel confident to ride their bikes more.  I’ve began this great monthly ladies ride ‘2 Wheels & Heels’ which spun from the original up in Cleveland via Lindsey Bower.  There is a niche that’s been missing here in Columbus, Ohio and it’s this inclusive group that I’ve initiated and just with word of mouth and social media, seems to grow like wildfire.

Aside from bringing together all levels of women riders, I wanted to empower younger girls.  Over the summer, I read this amazing research paper by Elizabeth Jose discussing how there really weren’t any girls-specific youth empowerment programs through the bicycle.  The light bulb went off and I knew after reading that paper that I was the right woman for the job; hence – ‘Girls in Gear.’

It is an eight week program held once a week.  There are four areas of study that this program encompasses:

1.  Bicycle Safety.  Learning the basics of bicycle safety over a two week period (lighting at night, hand signals, proper helmet fitting, ABC quick check of bike, door zone, etc.

2.  Bicycle Mechanics.  Two women professionals will come in over a two week period and go over the anatomy of the bicycle, fixing a flat exercises, gear shifting, bike cleaning and maintenance, and brakes.

3.  Urban Design.  Two women professional will come in over a two week period and discuss the basics of urban design and planning.  We’ll be conducting an audit of two streets in which the girls will then have the opportunity to re-create these two streets into their ideal, ‘safe’ street for all.

4.  Public Speaking.  The girls will then discuss in the class how they came up with their street designs.

Upon full completion of their eight weeks, the girls will be awarded a bicycle along with the opportunity to meet Mayor Coleman.  The idea is to not only discuss ‘Girls in Gear’ but to also present their newly designed streets to the Mayor and talk to him about their creations.

I want this program to continue to flourish and expand as far as it can go.  Middle school age is very tough age.  Developmental changes, physical changes, peer pressure – all these components that over consume a young girl.  Girls in Gear empowers them to learn how to fix things, problem solve, communicate, design streets to which maybe one or two them will end up going to school for City Planning or Urban Landscape Architecture – all professions that are still heavily male dominated.  The four areas of focus in this program revolve around the bike however, these development tools can be manipulated to fit into any part of a young girls life and well into adulthood.

I’m just finished my fourth week yesterday and as each week progresses, the girls just impress me more and more.

Enjoy the photos.

Stay safe and keep riding

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Keegan created a ‘bike safety poster on ‘Sharing the Road.’

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Lindsey’s poster was on ‘reflective clothing.’

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Abigail’s was also on ‘Share the Road,’ the ‘do’s’ and ‘dont’s.’

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Anna from Roll and Emily from Paradise Garage were the two mechanics teaching the girls the basics.  They did fabulous!

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Showing the girls the ‘bare bones’ of the bicycle

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After Emily and Anna went through the steps of changing a flat, the four girls practice.  All four changed a flat by themselves.  It was fantastic!

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Abigail pumping up the tire she just changed.

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Alijah and Lindsey changing another flat.  These girls ARE impressive!

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Alijah and Lindsey both practicing releasing the brake, using the quick release and removing both front and rear tires.

 

 

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