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  • Angela Azzolino (left) with Gina, a GWC member, after a few test rides. Photo: GWC




  • Angela Azzolino tips her helmet. Photo: GWC



wheels

Get Women Cycling gears up to rally support for new riders with launch of its third annual #ShowMeHelmetHair social media campaign

By Gail Eisenberg

“The ‘hat tip’ gesture is a playful welcome to the start of bike season,” says Angela Azzolino, program creator and executive director of Get Women Cycling. “Our goal is to unite cyclists and provide support for active women, female-identifying, and non-gender conforming people by offering a way to engage with cyclists on post-ride appearance — an issue often cited as a deterrent to sustained bicycle riding.”

Gender disparities became apparent to Azzolino in 2014 after she graduated from the Bicycle Mechanic Skills Academy, a 12-week job program launched by the Lower East Side’s Henry Street Settlement and Recycle-a-Bicycle. She’d read about such discrepancies in reports by industry non-profits like the League of American Bicyclists, but when she was promoted from bike builder to mechanic at a Brooklyn bike shop, she witnessed them firsthand.

“As the only female in a consumer-facing gig on the main service floor I began to experience the sexism in the industry; not so much from my colleagues but from patrons and sales reps,” Azzolino recalls. “I noticed how women would enter the shop and look past me to inform the male mechanic of their needs. I noticed women coming to buy bicycles with such enthusiasm and then leaving empty-handed because they were overwhelmed. I noticed a lack of repeat visits from female customers who had purchased bikes and/or accessories,” she says.

A red taillight went on in her head. In 2015 the native New Yorker parlayed her twenty-five years of user experience design expertise to develop GWC, whose mission is to elevate and sustain female bicycle ridership through engagement, education, and service reform.

GWC and its initiatives have received citywide support from sponsors like New York staple Veselka, NYC Velo bike shops in Hell’s Kitchen and the East Village, as well as active bike advocates Cathy and Daniel Flanzig of Flanzig & Flanzig (aka New York Bike Lawyers), the sibling-run midtown law firm whose focus is on representing seriously injured cyclists throughout NYC.

Azzolino’s organization may be young, but her passion for cycling is longstanding thanks to her uncle Pete. He gave her a Schwinn Varsity 10-speed when she was sixteen, and she’s had a bike attached to her hip for the nearly three decades since then.

“Everyone who knows me knows me with my bike. I use my bike to commute and explore,” says Azzolino. “In fact, when I got my first car in 2005, I drove it like I rode my bike, opting for streets over highway because I was so used to riding bicycles. It didn’t even occur to me that I could take the highways.”

The #ShowMeHelmetHair campaign includes a welcome party and fundraiser on May 17th at Joli Beauty Bar, where stylists will demo hairdos and products that work well for helmet wear. Just in time for Bike to Work Day on the 19th.

For more information about Get Women Cycling and the #ShowMeHelmetHair campaign, go to www.getwomencycling.com

Follow GWC on social media: @getwomencycling


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