International Women’s Day: Shawna
We are celebrating International Women’s Day 2020 at Bike for Good! This is one of a series of blog posts celebrating some wonderful women we work with. We are also running Spokes not Blokes sessions at our West and South Hubs, a Women’s Ride, and a film night showcasing amazing women in cycling.
Shawna is one of our regular volunteers, originally from Canada, who regularly supports our Wheelbeing team by assisting with led rides.
‘It was amazing to see so many cyclists, dancing around the streets, watching them swoop and fly, like a river; it was so beautiful.’
Be back by dinner, don’t go too far
I’ve been told I learned to cycle when I was around 8 years old. I have a vivid snapshot of my mum holding the seat and shouting ‘just go straight, just go straight!’ and me freaking out. When I eventually got my confidence, my sister and I drew a whole city network in chalk on our driveway and we raced around it.
I remember as a kid it was a recreational thing, ‘be back by dinner, don’t go too far’, but when I got to high school I stopped. I probably could have cycled to school but I felt so judged. I thought people were looking at what I was wearing, and I stressed about wearing a helmet because of my hair, and trying to wear a skirt and cycle.
After my Masters I went to Europe for the first time. It was in Amsterdam where I was totally blown away by bikes. It was amazing to see so many cyclists, dancing around the streets, watching them swoop and fly like a river; it was so beautiful. That’s when my sister and I knew we needed to rent bikes so we could join in.
Cycling as an adult
Amsterdam was my first time on a bike in I couldn’t remember how long, and it was incredible to feel that childlike playfulness again. We were laughing so hard and felt so full of life and joy.
Witnessing that cycling was people’s main or only method of transport was a game changer for me. It made so much sense and to everyone in the Netherlands it didn’t seem like a big deal, with not a single piece of lycra in view.
I was so inspired that when I got back to Canada I dug my bike out of my Dad’s garage, albeit in horrific shape. I brought it back to Toronto on a Greyhound bus. I didn’t have enough money to get on the subway so I had to ride the bike home. There was no air in the tyres, and the seat was all the way down. This bike had been sitting for ten years. I cycled that piece of s**t with my huge bag all the way home, and it was the most beautiful initiation to bond with my bike again.
I fixed it up, spent a lot of money, and was continuously maintaining it. In hindsight, it would probably have been cheaper to buy a new bike. But I wanted to learn how to fix it, and how it worked. I found a place in Toronto similar to Bike for Good, and learnt so much there.
Glasgow’s biggest fan
Now cycling in Glasgow, I love it. It feels great to cycle all year round, I can’t do that in Canada! I just waterproof up and maybe ride a bit slower. I find that there are so many opportunities in Glasgow to be off the road, in parks or properly segregated cycle paths.
The cycling community across Glasgow is so welcoming – people are so open and friendly. The Bike for Good community is amazing. It is such a nice treat to invest in something that makes me happy. It’s been great to meet so many people who also love bikes!
Everytime I walk in to Bike for Good I’m welcomed so warmly by the mechanics, the atmosphere feels so inclusive and understanding. I was worried as a volunteer that the fact I can’t commit consistently would be a problem, but Janie [Volunteer Coordinator] and the organisation in general have been so understanding and open. I feel I can just drop in when I have the time and I’m always welcome. There is such a need and demand for these spaces, seeing it grow really quickly is so exciting.
Bike for Good is leading by example, showing how positive and welcoming cycling culture can be. In Toronto cycling is an elitist, extreme thing to do. In Glasgow it’s not like that at all.