1. Please introduce the Skirt Ride movement which as I see is all over Romania.
Two sisters from Bucharest, Romania (Oana and Andreea) passionate about urban cycling started a blog project in 2009 called Velobello, a blog about bicycles as women’s fashion statement in Bucharest and all around the world, inspired by the well known global cyclechic movement Copenhagen Cycle Chic.
The project tried to be an inspiration for women because Bucharest is a city where bike riding is not always a bliss. One year later, we said that online was not enough to encourage women to cycle and we decided to get out on the street, in dresses and skirts. The name came naturally: SKIRT BIKE. It’s short enough to be memorable. It’s in English because most things in English sound good and it expresses very well the concept of the event.
SkirtBike is an event that takes place once a year in Bucharest and from 2012, the event became a cycle chic movement which goes off in 8 cities of Romania – Bucharest, Timisoara, Sibiu, Iasi, Baia Mare, Arad, Drobeta-Turnu Severin and Cluj-Napoca. In 2012 we also moved the blog from Velobello to SkirtBike.
2. Who started it, what’s the purpose? “Who” organises it, is it a movement or just a gathering in different times?
Celebrating the great diversity of female cyclists in Romania and encouraging those who don’t already cycle, SkirtBike focus on the independence and empowerment that cycling can provide to all women, particularly to those from backgrounds that wouldn’t ordinarily advocate such modes of transport. Skirtbike wants to encourage women to give it a try and see what they can achieve and also to inspire and to increase the number of women who choose bicycle for their daily transportation.
SkirtBike has a team in each city, composed mostly of women passionate about cycling.
3. When did it start, how many cities are involved, how many rides do you have in a year?
First SkirtBike in Romania took place in 2010, in Bucharest. Even if it was a bad weather, around 150 women survived to heavy rain and cruised the Romanian capital taking part in SkirtBike which was meant to promote the use of bicycle instead of cars. The event was colorful, fun and encouraging. Now the movement goes off in 8 cities and brought together around 2000 women this year (in all cities).
4. How is cycling in Romania? I hear a lot about bad infrastructure but is it a developing thing? Are there more people getting on bikes these years?
It is true that we have hundreds of kilometers of bike lanes in Bucharest, but they are not passable and are all built on the sidewalk. The cars are usually parked in bike lanes or they are filled with pedestrians; there are many holes and the bike lanes are often full of obstacles. In other cities from Romania, like Timisoara and Sibiu, the authorities are more careful regarding bicycle infrastructure. However, from year to year, I think it’s a big increase among cyclists, people ride to work even if they don’t have an adequate infrastructure. Even among women, cycling is not just a fashion item, it became a means of transportation or recreation.
In June 2012, Green Revolution Association and Daedalus Millard Brown did a study on a sample of 750 people, about urban cycling in Romania. Some findings: over 53% of people who ride a bike in the last 3 months did it for recreation, 12% have used it as a means of alternative transportation and 35% of people use bicycles on both arguments; between 80% and 92% of those who participated in the survey confirmed that the development of bike lanes for cyclists and bicycle parking, adopting a legislation to protect cyclists and fines for those who blocked the bike lanes are four measures that will encourage cycling in Romania; 67,2% of people think that the number of cyclists increased in Bucharest; 214 people of the 750 people surveyed use a bike daily, 50.2% have a MTB and 23% have a city bike.
5. Is cycling a fashionable thing on Romania or are you trying to connect the two things together?
As in other countries, cycling is a trend with a huge momentum and we try to maximize this by adding a little bit of glam and chicness to it. Connecting fashion and the bicycle is a different way to promote cycling and advocate for it as urban transport, as a hobby or a way of life and we strongly believe this approach has a huge impact on our readers and followers. A picture is worth a thousand words so we usually post pictures with beautiful women that choose to express themselves in a cool and fashionable way and most important, open minded women that are not afraid to match a bicycle with the dress.
Foto: Daniel Vrăbioiu