Sema Gür and Pınar Pinzuti were not as hopeful as they are now when they started the "Fancy Women Bike Ride" in 2013. The two women from the western Turkish province of Izmir are astounded by how far they have come now as their unusual campaign not only attracted a large number of fellow women but also earned them an award from the United Nations. Gür and Pinzuti are the latest recipients of a special award bestowed to people promoting bicycle riding. They proudly displayed their awards as they rode their bicycles in Izmir's Atatürk Square, where they started the first ride.
The idea was simple when they conceived the event: Promoting bicycle riding among women and hence, contributing to a healthier lifestyle. "Fancy" in the title refers to the required attire, "their best dresses." Over the years, the annual ride inspired other women in 30 countries and 155 cities, creating a success story for the duo.
The duo was supposed to receive the award at an event in New York but the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of the event this year and instead, they received their awards by mail. They are the first Turkish recipients of the award. It is given to people promoting cycling on World Bicycle Day on June 3, a day designated by the U.N. thanks to the efforts of Leszek Sibilski, a Polish American sociologist and track cyclist, in 2018. Women are recognized for their leadership in promoting cycling.
The ride is the brainchild of Gür, a history teacher, while Pinzuti is credited with spreading it to the world. Gür herself is a late fan of cycling and actually learned how to ride in 2013, the year she started the ride. "I noticed there were fewer women riding bicycles here, and I felt the need to do something about it," she told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Wednesday, in front of an iconic clock tower where she joined other riders nine years ago. She consulted her friends and decided to put a spin on what would be a rather ordinary gathering of bicycle riders: a dress code. She was not expecting a big turnout when she posted ads promoting the ride on social media. "We weren't expecting even five people," she said, but when the day came, some 200 women showed up. Today, about 50,000 people attend the annual Fancy Women Bike Rides across the world, and the campaign has received awards from several organizations. "The greatest award is still hearing a woman telling me that she started riding bicycles after seeing our campaign," Gür said.
"This award motivates us to continue the rides. Our purpose is to encourage more women to ride bicycles and pave the way for a reassessment of transportation options for a sustainable world," she said. Gür invites women with their "fancy" outfits to join them in this year's ride, scheduled for Sept. 18.
For her part, Pınar Pinzuti, who was among the first riders, said she has been telling others about the benefits of bicycle riding and joined her friend Sema when she heard the idea. "I later moved to Italy and lived in Milan. There, I organized the first Fancy Women Bike Ride in 2017 and saw immense interest. Since then, other countries and cities have adopted the event," she said. "We never thought it would grow that much, but it encourages us to contact more people get our message out there. We now have Turkish expatriates around the world organizing the rides and spreading our success story. This also helps them integrate into the countries they live in (through socialization)," she said.