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Toronto's Bad Girls Bike Club wants to help young women get over city cycling fears

Because let's face it, cycling in downtown Toronto can be daunting.

Claire McFarlane and Lavinia Tanzim want young women to know cycling in Toronto can be both safe and fun.

Courtesy Chris Vasquez

Claire McFarlane and Lavinia Tanzim want young women to know cycling in Toronto can be both safe and fun.

When Claire McFarlane first started biking in Toronto she was scared to stray from bike lanes, haunted by stories of cyclist deaths and skittish about riding next to cars.

Three years later, the 20-year-old works in a bike shop and uses her bicycle to get pretty much everywhere in the city.

Now, she wants to impart some of that confidence to other young cyclists in The Six.

McFarlane and her friend, 23-year-old Lavinia Tanzim, have started the “Bad Girls Bike Club,” a group that offers guided rides, safety tips and bike maintenance for teens who identify as female.

“I think that there is a lot of fear surrounding cycling,” she said, noting she often hears from women of all ages who would love to bike but are too nervous to hop in the saddle.

“We just kind of wanted to create a community of women who can support them and show them that it’s actually not that scary."

McFarlane and Tanzim will be leading guided rides from Sweet Pete’s bike shop every Saturday for the next six weeks followed by a brief workshop.

Tanzim hopes they can “lead by example.”

“It’s always nice when you see other people that look like you getting out there and doing the same thing and maybe that will help give you some confidence to also pursue that yourself,” she said.

Cycling advocate Jared Kolb said Toronto’s cycling gender gap is an indicator that more bike infrastructure is needed.

He said neighbourhoods with more bike lanes tend to have higher numbers of female riders.

“But we’re still not at fifty-fifty, even on those corridors, so I think it’s clear that we need to invest in safe, protected bike lanes that form a minimum grid in the downtown core and beyond,” he added.

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