In honor of National Bike Month, we’re spotlighting how bicycles are tools for personal empowerment, social justice and community development in our with our “Where the Ride Takes Us” web series. Today’s post comes from Kristin Gavin, founder of Gearing Up, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that uses bicycles to help women transition from abuse, addiction and incarceration

In my early twenties I began using a bicycle for transportation, to get around Seattle and, frankly, to avoid having to pay for parking or wait for public transportation. Nearly immediately, I recognized I was arriving to my destinations in much better spirits than I would have had I driven. This enthusiasm led me to find a job as a bicycle tour guide.

Kristin Gavin, pictured right

Kristin Gavin, pictured right

Over the course of four seasons leading bicycle tours, I witnessed countless emotional and social changes among accomplished professionals and recreational enthusiasts. Week after week the same theme was unfolding: a day in the saddle can be transformative.

It’s a relational experience in which new friendships are established, new places explored, and unforgiving emotions managed. My experiences as a tour guide inspired me to return to graduate school to study exercise and sport psychology – and further investigate how physical activity can be an effective intervention for adults managing anxiety and depression.

Gearing Up is a result of my master’s internship experience at a women’s residential recovery home in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia. Founded on National Bike to Work Day in 2009, Gearing Up is a Philadelphia-based non-profit organization whose mission is to provide women in transition from abuse, addiction, and incarceration with the skills, equipment, and guidance needed to safely ride a bicycle for exercise, transportation, and personal growth.

While in transition, bicycling offers a mode of transportation, opportunities for social connectedness and employment, and positive psychological and physical health benefits. The Gearing Up program helps provide women with regular coaching, mentoring, and support to help them adopt healthy lifestyle changes, promote personal growth, and use biking for constructive confidence building as well as a healthy, practical means of transportation.

In addition to the scientifically proven benefits of exercise in combating depression and anxiety – which for many are both root causes of addiction and obstacles to recovery – exercise-based programs build self-esteem through tangible accomplishment and the ongoing goal of positive progress. Group bike riding in particular has additional advantages, including learning how to build and maintain something valuable (the bike), gaining a mode of transportation for potential employment purposes and, of course, the camaraderie of accomplishing a common goal through teamwork.

Kristin Gavin

Bicycles – they can save the world!

Click here to watch the trailer of a new documentary about Gearing Up.


My Signature

Carolyn Szczepanski
Communications Director

Carolyn joined the League in March 2012, after two years at the Alliance for Biking & Walking. In addition to managing the League’s blog, magazine and other communications, Carolyn organized the first National Women’s Bicycling Summit and launched the League’s newest program: Women Bike. Before she crossed over to advocacy, she was a professional journalist for nearly 10 years.

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