Mac Bike organizes another season of Girls on the Move

The Sustainability Network brings together students from a variety of departments and organizations working on sustainability-related projects from around campus. You can get in touch with the network with your ideas or questions by emailing [email protected] or [email protected] or coming to our next meeting at noon on Sunday March 29 in the Harmon Room.

Spring is a glorious time at Mac. With the snow and ice mostly in our rearview mirror and no shortage of sunshine, any excuse to be outside is a good one: studying, hanging with friends or (our personal favorite) biking. At Mac Bike, this time of year finds us up to all sorts of biking mischief. Between expanded open shop hours, weekly group rides and other events throughout the semester, we’re here to suit all your cycling needs.

Over the past few years, though, springtime has also meant the start of Girls on the Move, a unique partnership between Mac Bike and Laura Jeffrey Academy (LJA), an all-girls public middle school just down the road from Macalester. Every year, this program enrolls a dozen or more students from LJA in a six-week program run by students in Mac Bike that teaches bike safety, maintenance and healthy living. Starting this week, five Macalester students (Kenzie Barnwell ’15, Zoe Bowman ’16, Nicola Morrow ’17, Emily Sylvestre ’16 and Caroline Wright ’16) are enrolling twenty young women from LJA for Girls on the Move 2015, and we’re excited to bring back this partnership.

Girls on the Move is divided into two main sections. During the first three weeks of class, the girls focus on learning parts of the bike and basic mechanical skills, including fixing flat tires, overhauling hubs and truing wheels. While most of these lessons are essential for safe riding, some of the jobs the girls learn how to perform involve advanced technical skills.

In the second part of the class, the focus shifts to learning rules of the road and how to ride safely. Since some students start Girls on the Move not knowing how to ride, we cover everything: hand signals, helmet safety and bike lane and trail use in the Twin Cities. Afterwards, the girls complete a bike obstacle course on campus and go on group rides to the Mississippi River and to Izzy’s Ice Cream.

Interaction with the Macalester campus is also an important part of the class. Each weekly lesson starts in the Mac Bike shop in the Doty basement, and on some days we’ll visit Olin Rice to ride the square wheel bike and take turns riding the Macalester smoothie bike. Games and discussions about bikes and the role of women in the cycling community are essential parts of our classes; overall, each session is designed to be fun and educational for both students and teachers.

As with any bike-related education program, sustainability is key to our vision for Girls on the Move. Biking is considered one of the most popular forms of alternative transportation in the Twin Cities, especially among millennials. Whether for maintenance skills, exercise or just riding for fun, giving young people hands-on biking experience is a great way to ensure that this activity continues to be an accessible and enjoyable form of transportation.

However, Girls on the Move goes a step further. By focusing specifically on young women in our community, our program intentionally engages a group of people not often seen on bikes. It’s no secret that the cycling world is generally a male-dominated space and usually caters to older and mostly white crowds. Our goal is to empower young women to feel confident behind the handlebars, so that the next generation of bikers supports not just an ecologically sustainable world, but a more diverse and inclusive one as well.