Compared to the population at large, Latinas have high rates of diabetes and obesity, putting them at elevated risk of heart disease. At the same time, women are less likely than men to get around by bicycle. In an effort to integrate active transportation into the daily lives of Latina residents, community groups in Queens are organizing a new Spanish-language program to teach women bike repair and ride leadership skills. Corona Plaza and the Queens Museum will serve as focal points for the program, beginning in June.
Members of WE Bike NYC learn bike maintenance skills. Photo: WE Bike NYC
The 12-week, two-part program, launched by WE Bike, Immigrant Movement International, and the Queens Museum, aims to train six leaders who can promote bicycling in the neighborhood. The first nine weeks will focus on bike mechanics and how to lead group rides, while the second phase will offer stipends to lead rides and events with other community members around the neighborhood, including at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and Corona Plaza.
The plan for a Latina bicycling program in Corona began over drinks a few months ago. Elizabeth Jose started WE Bike last year, after an email to some friends and acquaintances snowballed into a series of rides and events for women. When she met Queens Museum employee Prerana Reddy at a happy hour, Jose began talking about her goals for WE Bike, including outreach to more women of color.
“I was intrigued,” Reddy said, adding that the museum has dabbled in bike programs, like the Tour de Queens and DOT helmet giveaways. “It’s something that we’ve done in small ways,” she said, and she saw an opportunity to expand the museum’s involvement.
But Reddy knew that she and Jose couldn’t pull it off alone. To gauge interest from immigrant communities, they connected with Immigrant Movement International, which had worked with the Queens Museum before. The group, already running a health and fitness program for women in Corona, which features Zumba, tai chi, nutrition, and anti-domestic violence classes, asked participants if they would be interested in adding bicycling to the mix. They got a positive response. Group members were particularly interested in an earn-a-bike model, where participants get a new bicycle after learning maintenance and repair skills.