What we have been up to:
This week has been mostly receiving data from our survey through the San Francisco Bike Coalition (SFBC) and prepping for our trip to San Francisco. The survey for the SFBC was a huge success! We got about 400 responses, which represents a significant portion of :the women population that belongs to the SFBC. We have started reviewing the responses of the survey in order to pick out general themes from the responses. Other than the SFBC survey, we have also received some responses from The Women’s Building. Even though we didn’t get nearly the same amount of responses, these responses provided very unique perspectives from Women in San Francisco that don’t bike.
The bulk of our work this week has been to prepare for our trip to the offices of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. We prepped question in order to guide the discussion with the participants. This Saturday we actually ran the focus groups, which consisted in two 90-minute sessions. The goals of our focus groups were to expand on some of the themes we noticed when reviewing the surveys and get feedback on some the branding we have developed. We had two 90 minute focus groups that included a variety of women. In the first focus group we had 3 women participate in our discussion and then we had 5 women (including our Professor) participate in the second group. The women who participated ranged quite widely in age (our oldest participant was in her 70s), most where young professionals, and some were moms. Our community partner, Janice Li, led the bulk of the focus group while we took detailed notes. At the end of our focus group we explained how their responses would help us develop our project and lead a discussion of some of our branding efforts. Our day with the SFBC ended with a discussion with our community partners about our plan for wrapping up our project in the coming weeks.
What we have learned:
Here we would like to present some of our main takeaways from the focus groups.
One of the most valuable takeaways from these focus groups was the women’s individual internal experience while biking, and the positive changes they felt in their identities and personalities after they began to bike around the city. The women often described a sense of freedom--as though all of San Francisco was suddenly unlocked and available to them for exploration and discovery. They talked about experiencing increased confidence and assertiveness after biking for a while--qualities that they carried into other areas of their lives. The women also discussed a sensation of strength. They feel physically capable, and generally stronger than they did before they started biking.
All of these experiences are extremely important, and truly answer the question “why should we get more women on bikes.” Getting more women into an arena that is currently dominated by men opens the door to get them into even more arenas that are similarly male-heavy. The women are making their bodies and minds more resilient, and this is so critical in improving gender equality.
Many women in both focus groups touched upon this idea of community. Some said they did not know a lot of women that they could bike with. They wished that biking could be the mechanism that brings like minded females together either through coffee chats, group rides, or some sort of social network.
Us vs them mentality
Several suggested one of the biggest barriers to getting more women on the road was concern for safety but more specifically the us vs. them mentality that has manifested in the dynamics between bikers and drivers. The women would like to see a shift in this negative culture that has erupted on the streets of San Francisco and likely many other places. Until that shift occurs, the women brought up something we have not thought about yet and that is to prepare by predicting what the cars are going to do. As you are biking, think about how cars drive and their predictable tendencies like stopping at lights and stop sign or turning and adjust your biking accordingly. This takes biking safety more into your hands.
Better preparation for mentors
Lastly, when the women were asked if they had ever attempted to get other women involved in biking, many said they were unsuccessful. It was for lack of trying or enthusiasm for biking in SF. However, they said it was more a difference of skill and they became intimidating to the people they were trying to encourage. This calls for preparing the women to be mentors. They need to learn to be aware of other’s level of biking and adjust their biking and teaching style to the beginner. They need to learn skills that suggest support rather than intimidation or being patronizing. This way it is a much more enjoyable time for the beginner and could encourage her to continue to bike.
Our next steps:
At the forum, we got the opportunity to show the women drafts of the logo we have been working on. The drafts had different color schemes and fonts, and after distributing the samples we opened up the floor for commentary on them. The women’s feedback was very helpful. We learned which color scheme they preferred and why, as well as whether or not they found the font to be readable enough. We also learned how they felt about the symbol we used, and what changes, if any, they thought needed to be made to make the logo more representative of the community and more appealing to the people we are trying to encourage to join.
We found that women prefer the blue and orange color scheme the best, but that the font that we utilized primarily in the drafts can be a bit difficult to read. The women liked the symbol, although one participant felt that the graphic could be improved by adding overlapping spikes as opposed to ones that radiate from the center, each at their own angle. Next steps include developing a draft that incorporates this feedback, and giving it to Janice to be distributed to a wider audience for a second round of commentary.
We also took the forum as an opportunity to distribute a short, informal survey regarding the gear/merchandise the women would be most interested in receiving. We asked them to rank their top choices, and out of a list that included over 10 possible items, stickers, water bottles, and totes were the most popular. We can use this information in designing this merchandise, and continuing the branding development.
We also talked about creating copy that could be put on the SFBC website once they create a Women Bike SF section. This copy would include things like a mission statement, information about the work/outreach that the initiative is doing, and information about the importance of the initiative in the broader context of both biking and women’s empowerment.
We talked in depth with Janice about next steps for the survey that was distributed to the female SFBC members. We now have about 400 responses, and we felt it was important to learn exactly what information Janice wanted to get out of the data, and how she wanted it presented to her afterward.
For some of the more open ended questions, we plan to create informative categories based on the responses we are seeing, and then to rank them in terms of the number of times they came up. Other information, such as that relating to demographic, will be put into charts that the SFBC can have in their records. The mapping information will be synthesized by the neighborhoods the participants referred to, and will be used in the creation of the GIS map.
Our next steps for mapping is to begin putting the geographical data from the surveys in arcGIS. Our main goals with the map is to visually map the most and least popular neighborhoods where female members bike. The SFBC will use this information to plan events and direct where they should focus their efforts to maintain membership and reach out to new ones. We plan on receiving help from the GIS library to discuss the best data files to base the map off of.