She could feel them watching her as she pedaled through the darkness down Sixth Street.
She couldn’t see them, but knew they were there. Suddenly Anna Rose-McComb caught a glint of small eyes peering at her from the storm drains as her headlight scanned the road.
“I stopped because I thought they were so cute and then they kind of lunged at me,” Rose-McComb said.
Being ambushed by raccoons is one of the many things that Missoulians experience from the seat of a bicycle, said Rose-McComb, membership adviser and personal trainer at The Women’s Club.
This month the Women’s Club teamed up with Missoula’s Bike Ambassadors to help beat the statistic that only 25 percent of sustainable commuters are women.
They created a group called the Missoula Biking Betties, which motivates women to log how many miles a week of sustainable commuting they do, whether it is biking, walking, bussing or carpooling. The women also have a chance to win prizes.
The Biking Betties started logging miles this week during Bike Bus Walk Week because people will already be thinking about riding their bikes.
“A big challenge is to keep the momentum going throughout the month,” Rose-McComb said.
Tuline Kinaci, Missoula bike ambassador and recent graduate of the University of Montana, said the group’s main goal is to get women excited about biking.
“Everywhere I go I’m like ‘Ladies! Ladies! Get into this, here’s where to go, here’s how to do it,’” Kinaci said. “You get free stuff for not using your car. It’s a win-win.”
The group has a Facebook page with information about where to pick up and drop off commuting logs.
Each week they draw winners for a wide variety of prizes: everything from jewelry from Betty’s Divine to biking jerseys from bike shops around town.
“There’s some really cool stuff we’ve gotten donated,” Kinaci said. “There are two really nice jerseys.”
For Missoulian and Biking Betty Rachael Hall, logging miles and winning prizes isn’t a new thing. She is part of Missoula in Motion and logs her commutes to and from work.
“I was the grand prize winner for St. Pat’s, and we won in our category for having the most commuters,” Hall said.
Hall said she is excited to log the 15 to 25 miles she rides a day, not just the couple miles to and from work.
While Hall and other Betties enjoy the time on their bikes, Kinaci said others are hesitant because driving often seems faster. Safety is another obstacle, particularly for women, Kinaci said.
In addition to promoting sustainable commuting, Kinaci said her goal is to help educate Missoula about biking laws and etiquette because many bikers and drivers don’t know how to interact with each other.
“I got yelled at to ride on the sidewalk today,” Kinaci said. “You can’t lump all drivers together, but there is a percentage that think (bikers) are in the way.”
Kinaci said a bike is a slow-moving vehicle, “except you don’t have a big metal box to protect you.”
“I want to open the floor for people who don’t feel safe biking, so they can come talk to me and have their questions answered,” Kinaci said.
Rose-McComb said she will be happy with any increase in the number of women commuting sustainably in Missoula.
“If we can get even one person to try it, get comfortable and find safe bike routes to work, that would be the ultimate goal.”
For more information about bike safety, or any questions email firstname.lastname@example.org.