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May 11, 2014

Women call inaugural Cyclofemme 'empowering'

Riders started route from Hoosier Park Casino

ANDERSON — Empowering.

That was the word participants were using to describe cycling Sunday at the inaugural Cyclofemme ride. The annual event kicked off its first year in Madison County with about 25 participants, each with a choice of biking a long 29-mile ride or a condensed 15-mile route around the city, starting at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino.

As the name indicates, the ride is themed around women cyclists, encouraging women to participate not only for good health, but to promote social change and gender equality. In its third annual running, the Cyclofemme has reached almost 300 separate riding events around the world. The event also coincides with May bike month.

Julie Ward was charged by the Madison County Council of Governments and White River Bicycle Coalition with organizing the first Cyclofemme for the county, and she said she was pleased with the first year’s response. Ward said there was some negative feedback because the ride coincided with Mother’s Day, but the event is on the same day worldwide and was planned far in advance. She said in future years, it might be moved to Saturday to accommodate potential participants.

“We tried to set up the times so that they were convenient, and didn’t interfere with time with mom or family today, but we might change it up,” Ward said. “Cyclofemme was very doable for us. Bike month is getting bigger and better every year, and there’s a lot of support from the city and the White River Coalition to get it going.”

Ward said biking is an empowering activity for men and women, but is a particularly equalizing tool in poor countries and regions where transportation might be limited. Historically, driving to a job or to run errands might not have been an option for women, and cycling has allowed women to break down barriers, she said.

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