Empowering women: A bike ride for equality, inclusion and change

March 01, 2021 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council of Edward-Elmhurst Health: We are DRIVEN to create a culture in which all races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, physical abilities and socio-economic backgrounds can meet, share, learn and flourish in an accepting environment. By creating platforms and opportunities that allow us to come together, we can begin to know and understand each other. And through better understanding, we can effectively meet the needs of our diverse patients and deliver on our mission.

"The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights." – Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist

Every March 8 is International Women’s Day (IWD), when people worldwide celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The first International Women’s Day was in 1911, eight years before the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote in the U.S.

Now in the 110th year, women have come a long way but have a long way to go, as they still struggle to pursue goals without bias or barriers. IWD marks a day to pay homage to the past and celebrate what women have achieved, and to rally for a future that is safe, equal and bright for girls and women around the world.

To honor this significant day and what it means for women worldwide, Dawn Piech, PT, MPT, wound care clinician at Edward-Elmhurst Health and avid cyclist, launched a bike ride event called “International Women’s Day Together We Ride.”

“Most people I meet don’t know what March 8 signifies. This bike ride helps get the word out. It’s a way to recognize this day of unity and celebrate women empowerment everywhere,” says Piech.

It is a fitting activity, considering the historical connection to biking and women’s rights that dates back to the 1890s, when the bicycle served as a catalyst for the early women’s movement. For the first time, women had access to an inexpensive and easy mode of transportation that offered them more freedom and independence. Cycling has since evolved from a mode of transportation to a sport.

Piech began cycling about 10 years ago and each year since she has ridden to honor International Women’s Day. In 2019, Piech was training for a cycling event in France when she had the idea for a bigger celebration. She organized the first IWD bike ride on March 8, 2020, and through the power of her ultra-distance cycling groups and social media, the word reached at least 200 riders.

“It was overwhelmingly positive. We had riders throughout the U.S. and internationally,” says Piech. There were riders from California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as Australia, France, the United Kingdom and India.

“We had a group from India, men and women. That was so inspiring to see people without the means be able to find a way to get on bikes and ride,” she says.

This year, Piech says “IWD Together We Ride 2021” will look a little different and offer more flexibility for weather conditions and COVID-19 — the bike ride is now extended over three days and it’s a virtual event, where riders can opt for outdoor or indoor rides. This is how it works:

  • Between Saturday, March 6 through IWD on Monday, March 8, pick a day and time to get on your bike and ride, any distance, any terrain, outside or inside.
  • You don't have to be a "cyclist" to do it. It’s truly inclusive and everyone is invited to the bike party — all ages, all genders, non-binary and LGBTQ+ individuals, all religions, all worldviews, all cultures, all countries.
  • Any bike works and you can ride anywhere you want, on any terrain. Ride outdoors — around your block, down your driveway, on a bike trail — or ride indoors on your stationary bike (try programs like Peloton, Zwift, etc.).
  • Ride as long as you are comfortable, it’s completely up to you. Ride a half mile, mile, 10 miles, 100 miles or more, just try to do your personal best.

“The bike is the medium for connection around the world but it’s so much bigger than that. By participating in Together We Ride, it demonstrates to me that people recognize that there are barriers for women we still need to overcome,” says Piech.

“I hope this ride helps us come together for a common purpose to celebrate the achievements of women worldwide and to raise awareness for the work being done to create an equal world.”

This year, Piech says she’ll do a virtual ride with the Indiana Randonneurs, a long-distance cycling club. She says she is excited about collaborating with Black Girls Do Bike and Major Taylor Cycling Club as well.

The 2021 event has extended its reach and will include riders from Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin, as well as Puerto Rico, England, the United Kingdom, Australia and Ireland.

International Women's Day is about human rights for all. The day belongs to women and men who support women — to all groups collectively, everywhere.

“With the challenges of this past year, it’s important for us to see the sunshine and goodness that’s all around us and that’s been hard to see,” says Piech. “Think of someone either in your past, present or future who inspires you and do a ride in their honor.”

Who are you riding for?

IWD Together We Ride 2021 is a free event. For anyone interested, souvenirs are available for purchase, including stickers, an official patch and a neck gaiter. Learn more here.

Share your ride photos on social media:

  • Facebook: International Women’s Day Together We Ride Bike Ride
  • Instagram #iwdbike
  • Twitter@iwdbike
  • Email: IWDbike@gmail.com

Learn more about International Women’s Day.

Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel … the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.” – Susan B. Anthony, women's rights activist and leader in the women’s suffrage movement in America.

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