Celebrate International Women's Day at free cycling events

Connect to a global movement while cycling. Celebrating International Women's Day March 8, cyclists have six free Chicago area riding events that are open to all.

Nonprofit Inspyrd Movement, founded by Dawn Piech, a Lombard physical therapist and long-distance cyclist, hosts the fourth annual International Women's Day - Together We Ride™ global cycling event March 8-12.

Rather than joining a single organized ride, participants honoring International Women's Day cycle anywhere, any distance, outdoors, indoors, solo or social and post their achievement on Facebook:

"In 2022, we recorded over 1,100 cyclists from 28 U.S. states and nine countries, ranging from 5 months to 87 years old," Piech said.

This year's expectations - over 1,800 riders, 35 states and 20 countries.

Elmhurst rides, plus more

Elmhurst Bicycle Club co-advocacy chairwoman Kim Messina hosts three, 15-mile casual rides through neighborhood streets March 8, 9 and 12 starting at 9 or 10 a.m. Club calendar at provides details.

Cyclists of the Fox Valley Bicycle and Ski Club string out along the Fox River trail in 2022, led by then club president Carrie Halle. Courtesy of Carrie Halle

The Wednesday, March 8, ride heads to Glen Ellyn, stopping at the woman-owned Blackberry Cafe. On Thursday, March 9, riders commemorate the first woman to vote in Illinois at the Carriage House/Lombard Historical Society before snacking at Lily's Cafe, also woman-owned.

Attorney Ellen Martin based her 1891 legal claim to vote on Lombard's town charter, which stated residents over 21 could vote in local elections. Fourteen other women voted. Afterward, the town council specified male gender only.

Elmhurst Bicycle Club publicity chairwoman Kelli Morgan leads a 16-miler at 10 a.m. March 11 from Elmhurst's train station. Riding to Villa Park, participants can enjoy Pilot Pete's beverages and sweet treats from woman-owned Courageous Bakery. Post-ride goody bags are provided, so register ahead.

Also on March 11, Pat Sweeney, Fox Valley Bicycle and Ski Club safety advocate, hosts a 31-mile river ride leaving Batavia River Walk parking lot (Houston and Island streets) at 10:30 a.m. Registration is required.

Trek Ambassador Sheri Rosenbaum leads a 22-miler at 9:30 a.m. March 11 from Trek Highland Park, followed by Pilates at the store. A virtual "Together we Meditate" is also planned for 6 p.m. March 12.

Expanding partnerships

Besides riding, cyclists can support the movement at Wauconda's Side Lot Brewery, again brewing a special "Together We Ride" beer and donating $1 from every pour to WINGS, a local women's shelter.

Piech, Randonneurs USA vice president, has expanded Inspyrd Movement to include partnerships and sponsors with numerous U.S. organizations. This year they collaborated with woman-owned cycling apparel company Jules Threads to create a jersey, buff and T-shirt.

Sale proceeds will fund a Buffalo bike donation through World Bicycle Relief to the Siihasin Bike Program in Arizona's Navajo Nation. It's a heavy-duty bike for carrying weighty cargo over rough terrain, a valuable resource where road infrastructure is poor.

Think safety year-round

Winter biking at this latitude requires attitude. Inertia can be a negative force, no matter the season. Now, especially, it involves more energy and willpower, more attention to weather/road conditions, heck, more time just getting dressed.

Safety also looms larger, beyond the cold and associated slipperiness. Fewer cyclists on the road means less motorist awareness. As a driver, I admit I'm not as cognizant of those few biking outdoors, unlike in warmer months when more cyclists attract attention.

This same lack of driver attention nearly wrecked an errand ride in January. Not expecting cyclists, a right-turning motorist blocked the crosswalk and only peered left, ignoring other traffic and force-stopping me as I suddenly braked on the sidewalk.

"Look both ways" didn't occur to him, even after I wildly gesticulated in a neon-yellow jacket. Only after I bellowed, "Hey!" three times and repeatedly jumped up and down did he glance my way, realizing he'd nearly taken a life.

Clasping hands in apologetic prayer, he silently, sheepishly begged forgiveness. Recalling similar driving errors myself, I forgave.

Unintentional, unthinking driving mistakes like that came to mind as I attended the recent arraignment of a motorist involved in a vehicle/bicycle crash that did take a life.

Emergency room nurse Nancy Nozicka died as she biked on St. Mary's Road near Libertyville last July. The SUV driver was cited for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident.

Lake County Division of Transportation data reveals 13 reported incidents involving cyclists on St. Mary's Road from 2004-2021. Per Alex Carr, Lake County Deputy Communications officer, none led to serious incidents or fatal crashes until this past July.

I've spent little time in courtrooms, thankfully. I'm a legal system rookie, never having collided with a moving vehicle nor supported anyone in court who had. Though a simple traffic case, this was unfamiliar territory.

I didn't know the victim, her family or the driver. I sat in that courtroom's front row with two other cyclists wearing our club jerseys, expressing quiet, visible support as fellow biking community members.

One takes for granted this case will grind on - next court date is March 8. But taking safety for granted is done at one's peril for anyone, biker or driver, sharing the road. For cyclists especially, it's not the riding attitude at any latitude.

Bike plus Haiku - Bike-ku?

With spring arriving, riding season will be in full swing, as will National Poetry Month in April. I'm challenging all you creative riders who enjoy communing with nature on two wheels: Compose your thoughts, emotions, experiences about riding in a haiku, three lines of five, seven and five syllables. Send it to this column's email address.

I'm eager to share your reflections with readers in April.

• Join the ride. Contact Ralph Banasiak at

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