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Bike PGH plans Women and Biking Forum

| Friday, March 24, 2017, 8:57 p.m.
Victoria Robinson
Victoria Robinson
A cyclist inspects her wheel before heading out for a ride.
A cyclist inspects her wheel before heading out for a ride.
Cyclists get some maintenance pointers.
Bike PGH
Cyclists get some maintenance pointers.

Victoria Robinson says interest in women's bicycling has moved from what was a Pittsburgh-rooted blog to a national movement.

Robinson, who lives in a town near Orlando, has had a major role in that effort. She has helped turn that blog, called Black Girls Do Bike, into a nationwide group with chapters that promote riding for women.

She will bring her enthusiasm on April 1 to East Liberty, where she is a featured speaker at BikePGH's fourth annual Women and Biking Forum at the Ace Hotel.

“When I first thought about bicycling, I was discouraged because I would look at the people bicycling past my house and they were all men,” she says. “And they were all white men, too.”

Alexandria Shewczyk, BikePGH's communications and marketing manager, says the forums are meant to make cycling more accessible for women and people of all genders.

“Many women don't know about cycling and all the resources out there for them,” she says.

Robinson says the 70 chapters of Black Girls Do Bike — which are open to riders of all ethnicities — spread knowledge by holding weekly rides and workshops on cycling mechanics and other issues.

The forum will feature a talk by Robinson on how she started her Florida chapter and nurtured it to a community of more than 200 riders.

There also will be a variety of workshops on such matters as the basics of bike mechanics, safe riding in the city, getting involved in competitive cycling and bicycle advocacy.

Registration will include workshops, Robinson's talk and a post-forum ride.

Robinson, 44, says she got involved in cycling after she had some heart problems in 2010 during the birth of her son, Devin Patrick. The issues were caused by exposure to toxic mold and her survival led to what has become her mantra.

“I say it every day and it never loses its meaning,” she says. “Every beat of my heart matters.”

A friend from her native South Carolina suggested bicycling as a heart-strengthening activity and one that's easy on the joints. Robinson says she liked the idea, but quickly became aware of the white-male issue.

In 2012, she began searching for information on women's cycling and came across Black Girls Do Bike and Monica Garrison of Crafton.

“We started talking and decided to try to take this beyond just a blog, but to make it into a group that could help all women, not just black women,” Robinson says.

Her first “group” ride in Florida drew three riders. Now, she has more than 200 riders in her chapter who show up in varying numbers for the get-togethers.

Robinson has an MBA and law degree and is the founder of Wise Counsel Professional Consulting, which offers legal and business management advice.

Website-founder Garrison, now living in Verona, says there is even a chapter in Antigua. The Pittsburgh group has 292 members.

Garrison has taken part in previous women's bike forums, but Robinson's presence this year is allowing her to “have the year off.”

The message and the effort is the same, after all.

“We just want to show women a way to get on their bikes and keep it moving,” Robinson says.

Bob Karlovits is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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