Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Woman, Riding Bike

Last week there was an intriguing workshop at the Goethe Institut -  a German language and cultural center - in Accra.  Called Woman on Bike, it focused on the intersection of art, gender, fashion, and (of course) bicycles.

Since all these subjects intrigue me, I was intent on attending, but could only manage to get there one day out of the five.  Dropping by on Wednesday afternoon, I found a small group intently discussing both the possibilities for bicycle-themed art/graphics/performances and for getting more people - especially women - to ride bikes.

Bicycles are present on the streets of Accra but not in large numbers, and I can count on one hand the times I've seen a woman pedaling anything with two wheels.  Until last week, that is.  I joined the Woman on Bike group for their daily ride and, with five females saddling up, more than doubled my count.

We tooled slowly around the city, starting on the quiet suburb-like lanes of Labone before venturing into the vehicular madness around the Burma Camp Road and Trade Fair.  I've heard plenty of excuses for why folks don't like to ride bike here, the traffic and the road-side open ditches always high among them.  But riding in a group was profoundly comforting: our number made us collectively a larger vehicle than one biker alone, and we knew someone was there to help us if we tripped into that ditch.

Were drivers always kind?  No.  We had large trucks rumbling by way-too-close and tro-tro drivers pulling over sharply in front of us to pick up their next passenger.  But, even as a group with a high number of fairly novice riders, we tackled one of the most difficult stretches of road to bike in Accra - the beach road between Labadi and La Palm hotels - and came through unscathed.

The ride reminded me how good it feels to get out on the bike, and how fun it is to ride with others.  I hope last week's workshop helps more of Accra's citizens find, and never forget, the joy of biking.

Note: This workshop ran in conjunction with the Pret-a-partager exhibit at the Nubuke Foundation in East Legon.  A collection of work from a Dakkar-based artists meeting in 2008, the exhibit has been showing around the continent and is in Accra till Sept. 17.

Starting out brings smiles.
Our biking lineup battles Accra's taxis for supremacy on the road.
The joy of biking is irrepressible, even on this potholed and cars-go-too-fast section
of Accra's beach road.
Fearless leader and workshop facilitator Zohra Opoku
speeds toward the ride's finish.
Trying out my new point-and-shoot's automatic photo-panorama function
as we take a rest at the Du Bois Center.

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