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Park Slope could be seeing more cyclists biking their way through the neighborhood in Spring 2017, if two local mothers succeed in creating a new community activity for pregnant women.
Jessica Rich, a nine-month pregnant cyclist, wants to start an expectant mothers bicycling group with Angela Azzolino, founder of Get Women Cycling. According to Azzolino, Get Women Cycling is a membership-based program, which provides its participants with the services, engagement and education they need to get them cycling and to keep them cycling. Because the program also collaborates with partner businesses and community agencies with common goals, Azzolino said it was a no-brainer to team up with Rich.
“I started to just kinda look around to see if anyone knew anyone who was pregnant and riding – nobody knew anybody. It didn’t mean that nobody was there – it was just there was nowhere for us to congregate and meet and talk about the importance of biking when you’re pregnant and the importance of continuing the exercise you’ve been doing,” Rich told NYCity News Service. “I think it could just bring more of a community feel if you see a bunch of big bellied women riding by.”
The duo planned to hold an information session on Tuesday, Oct. 25, at Ride Brooklyn’s Park Slope location, but it was cancelled two hours before doors opened. Azzolino said not enough people had signed up for the event, at which Rich intended to share advice and her story, “33 Weeks and Still Going Strong,” before she would go into labor the following week. Rich also wanted to address things women should know about bike riding while pregnant, like exercise benefits, safety, gear and equipment, and to plan a group ride with Get Women Cycling.
While Rich mainly biked down Henry Street in Brooklyn Heights for the last eight months, she also enjoyed biking around Prospect Park. The 38-year-old only stopped biking last week – at 36 weeks pregnant – because it had gotten too cold out. Many, including her family and friends, advised her against riding while pregnant. But that did not stop her from continuing to exercise and trying to connect with others.
Rich said she does not expect much animosity from local residents, who have voiced their frustration with Citi Bikes and cyclists at recent Community Board 6 meetings. But some locals do care and applaud Rich for her pursuit to build this new kind of supportive community.
“I think, as cycling in Brooklyn becomes safer with so many protected bike lanes, different kinds of people, who may not have thought it was safe to cycle 10 or so years ago, are empowered to do so,” Libby McComb, store manager of Bicycle Habitat in Park Slope, told NYCity News Service.
Despite the event’s cancellation, Rich said she hopes to still pursue this plan in the spring after she spends a few months at home with her baby and is medically cleared to bike again.
“I’m going to do cycling no matter what. For me, this was how I stayed healthy, how I stayed fit,” Rich said. “So if I could help other women have a really easy and enjoyable pregnancy, that’s just amazing."