Cycling is Freedom: #BIKEYGEES program teaches (refugee) women in Berlin how to cycle
Every month, #BIKEYGEES e.V. brings together women from all over the world to learn how to cycle in Berlin. Over 600 women have already taken part in the program, learning how to ride a bike and gaining a new sense of freedom in the process. #cyclingisfreedom
On the third Sunday of the month, a group of women of all ages and backgrounds gather at Wassertorplatz in the heart of the Kreuzberg district of Berlin. Rain or shine, they arrive for the monthly #BIKEYGEES e.V. meetup, where all women – including many newcomers and refugees – are invited to come and learn how to navigate the city by bike. Some of these women are reviving their childhood cycling skills, while others are getting on a bike for the first time after arriving in Germany from countries where they were prohibited from doing so.
Not allowed to ride a bicycle
Roqiya, a young woman from Afghanistan, explains, “In my country, women are not allowed to ride a bicycle.” When she first arrived in Germany, she saw many women cycling to work or alongside their children, and this inspired her to show up at a #BIKEYGEES meetup in 2017. Not only can she now ride her bike with confidence, but she also volunteers her time to promote the organization throughout Berlin and returns every month to help other women learn to cycle.
The idea for the #BIKEYGEES project originated in 2015 when a handful of volunteers first started teaching cycling at a shelter for refugees in Moabit. “We didn’t realize then how huge the need for this is,” Annette Krüger, one of the co-founders of the project, says. “Once we started, we got asked all the time about when we were coming back, so we started doing regular sessions.”
Community driven empowerment
To date, over 600 women – ranging from 15 to 64 years old – have participated in this community-driven empowerment project. Upon completion of a road safety test, the organization donates bikes to participants to help them fully take advantage of the freedom that comes with being able to ride a bike. They have already donated 160 sets of wheels to previous participants, encouraging the women to become part of Berlin’s large – and growing – cycling culture.
“Once we started, we got asked all the time about when we were coming back, so we started doing regular sessions.”
ANNETTE KRÜGER / #BIKEYGEES
Teaching independence and freedom
Not only is the #BIKEYGEES team promoting a healthy, balanced, and sustainable lifestyle, they are also teaching women how to get around Berlin independently. According to Krüger, “Many participants learn very quickly and gain a lot of self-confidence in the process.” Additionally, the project also provides women who are new to Berlin with the opportunity to network with others who share similar backgrounds and experiences. For this reason, many women continue to volunteer with the collective after they’ve graduated.
As a locally driven education and integration project, Krüger reports that #BIKEYGEES is working toward achieving visible results: “Too often, we get stuck in the thinking that as a single individual we can’t effect change, but, what #BIKEYGEES has shown, again and again, is that in just two hours, we can change the life of a woman forever.”
“Too often, we get stuck in the thinking that as a single individual we can’t effect change, but, what #BIKEYGEES has shown (…) is that in just two hours, we can change the life of a woman forever.”
ANNETTE KRÜGER, #BIKEYGEES
A wish for the future
The collective has recently secured permanent office space in Berlin and they are now busy organizing meetups in other parts of the city. The recent additions of training sessions in Marzahn, Hohenschönhausen and Brandenburg is just the beginning though. The team hopes to organize other meetups throughout the city and the surrounding area this summerand, according to Anne Seebach, also a co-founder of the project, they won’t stop there:
“It’s our dream that there will be small #BIKEYGEES groups all over Germany.”