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Leanne Kavanaugh challenges gender norms, one pedal at a time

By Amy Juschka Leanne Kavanaugh, a fixed gear enthusiast and bicycle mechanic in Mount Pleasant, is aiming to transform bike…

By Amy Juschka , in City , on October 25, 2007

By Amy Juschka

Female fixed gear rider

Leanne Kavanaugh, a fixed gear enthusiast and bicycle mechanic in Mount Pleasant, is aiming to transform bike shops into female-friendly spaces. Kavanaugh was frustrated with bicycle repair shops and the Vancouver bike scene in general, which she describes as, “very male and hetero dominated.”

Wanting a space that would “empower women and support their self-sufficiency,” Kavanaugh and her co-workers at Our Community Bikes (OCB) initiated Womyn on Wheels, a bicycle repair workshop geared exclusively towards women and trans-gendered people.

OCB is a non-profit bike shop specializing in repairs, bicycle part recycling, and educational workshops.

Kavanaugh began working at the shop only eight months ago, but has already made a lasting impression with her women-only workshops.

According to the 25-year-old, entering a bike shop can be a stressful affair for women as bike culture tends to be a male-dominated space. She says many women feel uncomfortable taking their bike in to be fixed and this workshop allows women to learn how to service and maintain their bikes themselves.

Kavanaugh feels that programs like Womyn on Wheels are important for the empowerment of women.

“They allow women into the club and change the exclusivity of it.”

The workshop has been well received and Kavanaugh is happy with its success. For her, a bicycle is an agent that can empower a woman, making her feel strong and independent.

Womyn on Wheels has been running every fourth Monday since June and hosts around six to eight women per class. The workshop costs $5 to $10 an hour and usually runs for a three-hour period.

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