Women, Trans and Gender Non-Binary Program
We greatly value the importance of welcoming and supporting all people at BikeWorks. BikeWorks should be a safe place for anyone to visit regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation, nationality, language, or ability. EBC actively addresses any behaviour that is disrespectful towards any shop user. All patrons, volunteers, and staff must treat all other shop users with respect.
In an effort to make our space more inviting and inclusive every day of the week, we offer a program on 1st, 3rd, and 5th Sundays of each month for women, trans and non-binary persons at BikeWorks South. During this program, the shop is operated by women, trans and non-binary persons.
Those who identify as women, trans or gender non-binary individuals are welcome to participate in our Women, Trans & Gender Non-Binary program by dropping-in. Pre-registration is not necessary, and the program is unstructured: you can bring your bike to work on it and learn, and you can also purchase used bikes or bike parts. The volunteers will be happy to help you based on your individual goals. Regular shop fees apply.
The purpose of our Women, Trans & Gender Non-Binary program is to promote balance by creating a safe, welcoming space for learning, socializing and fixing bikes. Women, trans and non-binary persons are under-represented as cyclists and in the world of bike repair; studies show a 3:1 ratio of male to female cyclists, and the numbers are even more imbalanced in the world of bike repair.
Mechanical repair has traditionally been a male-dominated field. Bike repair shops are often staffed entirely by male mechanics, and genders may be treated differently, sometimes in subtle ways. Differences in treatment could include:
- assumptions that women need more help than men, to the detriment of both
- failure to explain the nature of technical problems to women (making the assumption that women won’t understand or are not interested)
- comments about a person’s appearance
Our Women, Trans & Gender Non-Binary program helps reduce barriers to bringing more women, trans and non-binary persons into our shop, which helps EBC to train & recruit non-male mechanics for public shop days, making those days more welcoming for everyone.
If you do not identify as woman, trans or non-binary, you can support this important initiative by:
- respecting the space and not entering during the Women, Trans & Gender Non-Binary program
- learning about the types of oppression (both obvious and subtle) that people may experience
- being cognizant of how your actions can affect others
- talking to others about the issues behind the Women, Trans & Gender Non-Binary program
Sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination can be obvious or subtle, neither of which are acceptable. The offending person may not even realize that their behaviour is inappropriate. All shop users are responsible for helping to make BikeWorks an inclusive space. In all cases, volunteers can help to combat discrimination at BikeWorks by:
- welcoming all patrons to BikeWorks
- helping all patrons equally, being conscious of who you help, for how long and why
- letting everyone develop their own skills, and assist only where a task is too difficult for the member
- offering assistance in a respectful way if a patron looks confused or uncomfortable
- respecting personal space (do not touch shop users you do not know personally)
If you encounter discrimination or behaviour that makes you uncomfortable:
- if you are comfortable doing so, respectfully intervene by telling the person that you feel they are being disrespectful and would like them to stop
- regardless of if you intervene or not, report the incident, including the date, time and those involved to the BikeWorks Manager, or, if you’d prefer, any member of the Board of Directors
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why do women, trans and non-binary persons have a special program? Don’t women already receive equal treatment?
A: We have strong policies supporting equitable treatment for all our patrons and volunteers.
Sadly, gender-based discrimination still pervades all social spaces, and BikeWorks is still a part of that broader community. We are not interested in preventing those who may harbour (knowingly or unknowingly) discriminatory attitudes from using our shop; we are interested in ensuring that when anybody uses our shop, they are respectful to everyone and aware of the power of their actions.
Because everyone is welcome, and because some of the gender-based assumptions we carry are deeply ingrained, we may still see examples of behaviour from patrons and volunteers, including:
- double-checking the work of a female mechanic with a male mechanic
- asking to speak with a mechanic (making the assumption that a female volunteer must not be a mechanic)
- referring to female mechanics in a diminutive or condescending manner (e.g. the phrase “lovely lady”, while appropriate in some contexts, is usually belittling in the context of the bike shop)
- interrupting non-male mechanics while they are explaining technical matters
- making remarks about non-male volunteers’ or patrons’ appearance
- making sexual advances on patrons or volunteers
- taking tools out of the hands of non-male patrons
None of this behaviour is acceptable, from anyone of any gender or directed towards anyone. But we cannot simply pretend that it doesn’t still happen. Our Women, Trans & Gender Non-Binary program is just one part of a larger strategy we have to address these issues. Anti-discrimination training in tandem with strong policies, and active recruitment of non-male volunteers for other programs are also part of our solution. Our goal is to make the shop a space where no group ever dominates to the detriment of others, while encouraging underrepresented or marginalized groups to fully participate in cycling and bike repair.
We look forward to the day when our Women, Trans & Gender Non-Binary program will not be necessary, but for now, they help us to address real and ongoing issues.
Q: Isn’t separating a group of people based on race, gender, class, etc. called segregation, which is a bad thing?
A: BikeWorks does not exist in a social vacuum. On any given day, the shop is often dominated by males, and volunteers and patrons of all genders carry with them social norms beyond our control. These norms often include expectations that males tend to be stronger cyclists or mechanics. Our Women, Trans & Gender Non-Binary program provides a safer space which explicitly moves away from those expectations.
The existence of these societal norms means that traditionally male-dominated spaces such as bike shops tend to segregate, to the benefit of men, without any conscious intent. Our Women, Trans & Gender Non-Binary program is a conscious recognition of this, and an organized effort at countering the problems it creates, with the goal of shifting BikeWorks so that no gender dominates on any day.
Q: Isn’t restricting access to BikeWorks based on gender a violation of human rights?
From the Alberta Human Rights Commission:
Community organizations can provide services only to men or women if those individuals have been unable to participate fully in society based on their gender, and would not otherwise have access to the services. For example, a recreation organization may set up an exercise program only for women to address the lack of such activities in the community.
It is worth noting that BikeWorks isn’t restricting access to men: as a volunteer-run organization, we program our two facilities 7 days a week. One of those programs includes our Women, Trans & Gender Non-Binary program, which exists because of dedicated women, trans & gender non-binary volunteers who have stepped up to run this program on a day when we would otherwise be closed. Thanks in part to the new volunteers from the Women, Trans & Gender Non-Binary program, we have been able to expand our hours across the week at both of our locations.
In the average month, we have about 200 hours of programmed time at BikeWorks. Our Women, Trans & Gender Non-Binary program composes only about 4% of that time.
Interested in helping us open up even more hours to the public? Volunteer!
Q: What about a program for gay men, or people of color, or children? Aren’t there other oppressed or marginalized groups besides women, trans and non-binary persons?
A: We have programs for youth and for people with special needs, we offer free inner-city bike tune-ups, and we are strong supporters of LGBTQ communities. Are you interested in helping us offer even more programs to groups who are currently underserved? Get in touch with us.
Q: What if someone is trans and male bodied, or male bodied but otherwise identifies as female, or identifies as female only some of the time, or is female-bodied but identifies as male, or doesn’t identify as either male or female, etc etc etc?
A: If you genuinely relate to the experience of being woman trans or non-binary on a daily basis, you are welcome to participate in our Women, Trans & Gender Non-Binary program. And no, you cannot participate if you are man wearing a wig/dress, and we are tired of that joke. We won’t even fake a laugh.
Q: I am a man. Can I just come in and fill up my tires really fast?
A: We do not make exceptions, even for staff or Board members, as then the program would be de facto no longer be a program for women, trans & non binary folks. We cannot sell bikes, allow entry for quick repairs, or process rentals (including returns) unless you are woman, trans or non-binary.
Our Women, Trans & Gender Non-Binary program is currently only offered at BikeWorks South. If you need to access to a community bike shop on a Sunday, BikeWorks North is open to everyone every Sunday.
Q: I am a man. Can I send my girlfriend/wife to pick up parts for me?
A: If you identify as female, trans or non-binary, you are welcome to come work on your partner’s bike at our shop as a participant in our Women, Trans & Gender Non-Binary program. Our volunteer mechanics will happily assist you as much or as little as you need, whether you have never touched a wrench before or you’re a professional mechanic in your day job.
However, if you are a man who is sending a woman in on your behalf with a shopping list while you loiter just outside the door, you are being extremely disrespectful to both the woman who is helping you and to the goals and volunteers of our program. Our aim is to empower and educate women, trans and non-binary folk. Trying to access the shop while it is closed to the public by giving directions to a woman inside is disempowering and belittling the people working inside and reinforces toxic gender stereotypes.
Q: I am a woman shopping for a bike. Can I bring a male friend with me to the Women, Trans & Gender-Non-Binary program to help me choose a bike?
Our volunteers are extremely knowledgeable, experienced and honest, and can help you decide on a bike that is right for you and your needs as well as help you make any needed repairs to it. We work hard to dispel the common feeling many women have that they must bring a man with them to the bike shop to get fair treatment or to speak for them, or that they need a man’s opinion to make a decision on their own bicycle.