This photo of two women on bicycles was taken in Seattle on August 24, 1898. Seattle had an extensive network of bicycle paths back then; it would be two years before the first automobile arrived. These women were sharing the joyful freedom of bicycling together.
I started S.L.O.W. Rides with Senior Ladies On Wheels in order to give my contemporaries a chance to rediscover that joyful freedom. Many of my friends parked their bikes in the basement years ago, and now feel hesitant to get those bikes back out. Comfortable routes for bicycling away from hills and traffic are not obvious to people traveling by car or transit, and hesitant riders are nervous about being left behind when riding with more experienced companions.
Inspired by Cathy Tuttle, Robin Randels and Michael Snyder of Spokespeople, who pioneered easy-pace neighborhood bike rides in North Seattle, I became a Ride Leader through Cascade Bicycle Club and started offering low-stress rides in central and south Seattle.
In the three years since I retired, I've explored all around my hilly Central Seattle neighborhood to find calm, low-traffic streets that bypass the steepest hills and connect with Seattle's network of trails. Following these low-stress routes, I've organized rides to showcase neighborhood assets such as pocket parks, neighborhood greenways, p-patches, public art, and community events.
S.L.O.W. Rides welcome riders of all ages and identities - anyone willing to ride SLOW and enjoy the company of others. Almost all of the 24 rides I've led since October, 2013 have included at least one other gray-haired woman, one or two men, and a few people half my age.
At first I was surprised that experienced riders would want to come along, but it turns out people enjoy the relaxed sociable atmosphere and the chance to explore unfamiliar routes. And everyone especially loves to welcome the nervous rider with a bike freshly retrieved from the basement. "I used to ride everywhere when I was younger, but it's been years..." "I might have to walk up the hills, is that OK?" "I'm not sure I can keep up with you..."
"Don't worry," we say. "We won't hurry!" The slowest rider sets the pace, and we really mean it.
S.L.O.W. Rides with Senior Ladies On Wheels are offered through Cascade Bicycle Club's Free Daily Rides program. Helmets are required on all Cascade rides. You can find S.L.O.W. Rides, and hundreds of other free rides, on the Cascade website, www.cascade.org.