by Vanessa McCracken
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“I, Vanessa, swear to invest my energy, strength, and passion to inspire one more woman to ride a bike. I believe in the power of the pedal for positive social change; for building a healthier, happier, smarter world. I pledge to be an ambassador of the bicycle; to HONOR the past; CELEBRATE the present; EMPOWER the future of women in cycling. I promise to start the revolution; to live the change I want to see; to rally another to ride with me.”I signed this pledge during the first Cyclofemme event in 2012, and I renew my commitment to it every year during the annual Mother’s Day weekend ride. Cyclofemme is a global celebration of women and bikes, a grassroots movement that unites women, men, and children around the world as we all ride together to empower girls and women to discover or re–discover the joy of riding a bike. It is a simple idea that is powerful in execution. I lead a lot of bike rides throughout the year – I lead over 150 last year alone – and my main goal on every ride is to help empower women to feel confident and capable on their bikes. But our annual Cyclofemme rides always feel different. There’s something truly magical about them. I have to believe it’s the power and energy that comes with knowing we are riding together with thousands of other people, in hundreds of other cities, in dozens of other countries, all united in our focus and goal to share the freedom that bikes bring to us and others. This year was our fifth time hosting a Cyclofemme ride, and it was even more special than years past. This year, Cyclofemme took its “empower the girl” message to a new level by partnering with World Bicycle Relief to help provide bikes for girls in Kenya. World Bicycle Relief provides “simple, sustainable bicycle transportation to people in rural and emerging regions of the world with the vision to eliminate distance as a barrier to independence and livelihood.” In addition to organizing bike rides to celebrate women on bikes this year, Cyclofemme sought to raise money to empower girls by providing them with the transportation necessary to give them access to education. With a matching grant, every $147 donated provides two Kenyan girls with independence, options, and access to education. We had not planned a fundraiser because we are committed to raising money for Best Buddies Central Valley and didn’t want everyone to feel like we’re constantly asking them for donations. However, at the very last minute – last minute as in, after all the riders had gone and we were setting up the post-ride festivities – I decided the cause was too special to not ask and I made a little donation jar. I told the riders that Sunnyside Bicycles would match any dollar donated, which would then be doubled by the matching grant. My goal was that we would be able to buy one bike. We ended up raising enough in that short, unannounced, unplanned fund drive to provide bikes for seven girls! I kept getting goosebumps as riders quietly slipped money into the jar, because again, it is a simple idea that is powerful in execution. Everyone contributed a little bit that collectively became a lot. This shared momentum, as Cyclofemme calls it, reminds me that small gestures can have big impacts, and I’m inspired moving forward.
Riding my bike means so much to me. It’s freedom, independence, peace, joy, clarity, strength, health, power, inspiration, and resilience rolled into one. I’m thankful to the Cyclofemme movement for reminding me how lucky I am to know the joys of riding a bike, and for continuing to inspire me to seek out new ways to share the power of bicycles with as many girls and women as I can! #empowerthegirl #ignitethewoman
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