She’s cycling, all on her own! #Bikeygees
Cycling is a great way to get around… and have fun!
Laughter and quiet shrieks echo across the huge stretch of grass at Berlin’s Tempelhofer Feld. Two women are running alongside a bicycle, the rider still rather wobbly. After a few metres they let go, seconds of nervous watching pass by, and then comes the moment of enthusiasm: She’s cycling, all on her own!
#BIKEYGEES is the name of a volunteer group with the aim of teaching migrant women to ride bikes. Anne Seebach and Annette Krüger are the initiators. They’ve been offering cycling practice for women since November 2015, working in conjunction with various emergency accommodation facilities in Berlin.
Some forty women have come together on Tempelhofer Feld, fifteen of them newcomers who want to learn to cycle. “We need a lot of helping hands for our training sessions. Each participant needs two or three volunteers to stabilize and secure her. It’s a real physical challenge!” says Annette Krüger with a laugh.
The wannabe cyclists at this session are women from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, but there have also been learners from Morocco, Armenia and Brazil. The initiators work in close conjunction with a network of volunteers. Thanks to a partnership with “Give Something Back To Berlin”, that network has now grown into a large group of women from all over the world.
The #BIKEYGEES want to give women an opportunity to move freely around Berlin. “Public transport is expensive. Aside from that and the intercultural aspect, it was important to us from the very beginning to see cycling as a sustainable approach to granting mobility and independence. The aim is to foster greater perspectives and hopes for women who have limited scope for action through the loss of their homes,” says Annette Krüger. It also helps break down fears and reservations and build new friendships. Many women stay in contact after their training sessions and get together for new activities. There’s already a Syrian-American language exchange and a teacher giving German lessons. Communal cooking, singing and theatre trips have also come about.
Meeting on an equal footing, breaking down barriers between helpers and recipients – these are important factors for the organizers. “It’s incredible what goes on. Recently, a participant gave an interview about #BIKEYGEES for a Syrian radio station – and she arranged it herself.” Annette Krüger sounds touched and impressed. She has another wish for the future: “Maybe one day a former participant can teach other new arrivals to ride a bike – that would be great.”
No one expected the #BIKEYGEES to be such a major success to begin with. The organizers are now getting enquiries from accommodation facilities across Berlin, so many that they can barely keep up. But they’re making plans for #BIKEYGEES branches in other parts of the city – the group wants to pass on their experience to other volunteers and provide bikes and equipment to accommodation facilities.
All this popularity is very encouraging, says Annette Krüger. “One thing I’m really pleased about: the learners identify with the project. One Syrian woman, for example, is an illustrator, and she designed a logo for us. That’s just great. That’s exactly what we’re aiming for: for women to feel they can get back into action.”
Aside from “private” cycling practice sessions, the #BIKEYGEES also emphasize road safety. Starting august 21, the #BIKEYGEES will be teaching cycling theory and practice in Arabic, German and English, every third sunday of the month at the JVS Wassertorplatz in Kreuzberg. Please get in touch beforehand by email. Practicing hours are from 14-16.00h.