Counterpoint to Open letter to the Board and members of CRW re: women-only rides

Kathy Horvath



The club has been through a tumultuous several years with external events such as the pandemic, the social upheavals following the murder of George Floyd; and internal changes such as a large influx of younger riders with ambitious goals for speed and ascent, and gravel bike riding. I am proud that we are a “big tent” cycling club, and reaching out to under-represented groups is especially commendable, although we are a recreational cycling group first and foremost. As the club’s offerings have expanded, I am concerned about unintended consequences where some core principles and values have been overlooked that made us one club and not a federation of special interests. In particular, designated women-only rides are counter to the club's efforts to be gender neutral, most recently with the change in the club's name to Charles River Wheelers.

Rationale for Opposition:

Women-only rides discriminate on the basis of gender, a protected class along with race, religion, national origin, age, disability and sexual orientation. Listing rides that are not accessible to club members for any of these reasons violates this basic principle of civil rights. I attached additional letters from club members to reinforce the values and ethics that are ignored with women-only rides, and how these rides offend people who have experienced discrimination on the basis of race and religion. Further, men are in a very awkward position to raise objections about rides that some might think are supporting women. Many, myself included, would argue that women-only rides do not support women. It puts a wall around them on these rides and implies that the club is incapable of offering “safe” rides for women. If anyone has concerns about “safety”, the concerns and responses should apply to all rides and riders, not just a few women. 

The use of the survey of ridership done in April - July, 2022, as a rationale for women-only rides can be challenged. The timing of the survey may have led to more bias in the ratio of female to male riders, as noted in one of the attached letters of support. In addition, it is important to remember that CRW is an IRS section 501(c)(3) charity. A statement from CRW’s application to be a tax-exempt charity under section 501(c)(3) makes it clear that CRW’s services “are not limited to any particular individuals”.


The rationale that the rides are popular and therefore should continue, also is seriously flawed. Discriminatory behavior has often been “popular” and it is still wrong. I have resisted doing populist actions such as circulating a position statement and getting signatures - although many people have offered to sign such a petition. This issue supersedes  any kind 
of majority vote of approval by the membership. How many people have to be offended by women-only rides for the Board to take this issue seriously? Just think of another protected class, e.g. what if there was a Christian-only ride? How many Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists would it take to make a case that this is wrong? I think a small number who were offended would quickly get such a blatantly discriminatory ride stopped.

Common Ground

As an outreach program, the women’s ride program is not inherently offensive. It is the women-only rides that have led to this discussion. Those in opposition to designated women-only rides believe that the mission of the women’s program can be accomplished without rides that exclude members by gender. 


Mission statement of Women’s Program The goals of the women's program as stated in the mission statement below apply to many potential and new members to the club, not just women: to foster connections with other members, to feel included and welcomed especially on their first rides with the club, to discover how best they can participate in the club offerings and meet other members with similar interests and capabilities. Integration of new members into standard rides is the ultimate goal. If ride offerings have been inadequate to appeal to women riders, I think it is short-sighted and probably sexist to think that all riders would not appreciate the opportunity to participate in a different approach.


"If you're not yet familiar with the Women's Program, our goal is to invite more women, non-binary, and female-identifying folks onto the road, foster connection with other women in the club, and act as an on-ramp to other co-ed areas of the club. Many of our fellow female club members have shared that they would like to know more people on rides BEFORE they show up, want more social opportunities together, hate getting dropped on our club rides, and don't often feel a sense of belonging with the club. If you meet someone interesting on a ride, it's hard to know if you'll ever see them again. And, feedback suggests that as a new female member, the club can sometimes be intimidating. So, our goal is to build thoughtful events and opportunities within the club to create personal connections and encourage women to participate in all that CRW (Women's, co-ed, adventure, gravel, weekend rides, etc,) has to offer. We offer monthly women's-only no-drop rides, occasional workshops and events, some recurring rides, and also try to identify other integrated club opportunities each month where we encourage more women to come out and participate. Our events often see 20-35 riders, with many repeat customers. On top of all that, we have a great time.”


Accomplishing the mission without designated women-only rides. Here are just a few suggestions for how to meet the goals of the women’s program without undermining long-standing values and customs of the club, in addition to basic principles of non-discrimination:


1. A monthly (or more often) new members' ride could include leaders of the women's program to reach out to other women and follow up with them about what rides are most appealing/accessible to them. Alerting other ride leaders to look for new women riders on their rides.

2. CRW should run workshops to meet its charitable purpose, but for the entire club membership, not just for women. It is sexist to think that men know how to do basic repairs but women do not. And everyone can benefit from a riding skills workshop.These workshops can be organized by ride leaders of the Women’s Program as well as other ride leaders, but not exclude anyone.
3. Collaboration with other ride leaders: Ed leads a social group ride on Saturdays where the women’s program leaders could reach out to other women and ride together. I always do a
no-drop ride on my Thursday fitness ride. Depending on who shows up, I will do just a social ride. Rudge McKenney and Roger Bonomi have designed the ice cream ride on Wednesday evening to be social and have expressed an interest in collaborating with the Women’s Program.
4. As ride leaders, Women’s Program leaders of course can post new recurring rides on a day or time that they think is best for a segment of the riding membership, but again, would not discriminate by excluding any riders.
5. On a Sunday ride that includes several distances on pavement, a no-drop group led by leaders of the Women’s Program can be offered to gather at the start and ride together. It often doesn’t take long for a ride to break up into groups with similar pace and riding style. 
6. Occasional special rides to celebrate women leaders and/or women pioneers in cycling or other endeavors such as Kitty Knox and Christa McAuliffe. These rides would be open to everyone but a no-drop ride led by the leaders of the Women’s Program could be offered. An actual example of this approach is copied below. This would be a great way to start the 2023 calendar and salute women. The ride description would appeal to woman cyclists, especially new riders, without offending or excluding others:


"International Women's Day Ride"

International Women’s Day (March 8th) is a worldwide celebration of women's achievements and a day of education, empowerment, and action. Its purpose is to promote gender equality across the globe since 1911. The theme for IWD 2022 is #BreakTheBias: " Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women's equality. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias. Let's pedal together to honor the achievements, persistence and future of women around the world. (This ride is sponsored by the women's program committee and is open to all). Icy roads and or bad weather will cancel the ride. Will post here by noon on Saturday 3/12” 
7. If some women want to ride more with just women, they can exchange contact information and privately organize a ride outside of the CRW calendar. While I wouldn't encourage this option, other private mail groups that do this do not post on the calendar. Despite efforts to have posted rides that meet many needs, occasionally there will be a week-end when the posted ride cannot accommodate personal preferences, for example, if the location of the route requires driving a significant distance to the start. 


Erosion of core principles of the CRW ride calendar. Before the pandemic and other changes, there was an unspoken rule that private groups did not organize competing rides with CRW rides. Sadly, this custom is eroding due to anger and/or apathy. And while my initial concern was prompted by the posting of women-only rides on the calendar, I think this reflects general principles and values that no longer seem operative when leaders post rides.

For example:

  • 5 rides were posted on Sunday, October 16, 2022;
  • In contrast there was only one recurring ride in Hanson on October 23.
  • On Sunday, October 30, there was the Hanson ride, an 85-mile ride starting at 8 AM, and a Women’s Only ride, leaving the largest group of members without a suitable ride.
In general, I would like to see more balance in the scheduling of rides, and possibly a return to the sanctity of at least the Sunday ride - where several routes/distances were offered and no other rides posted except the standard weekly recurring rides. Including one or more no drop rides on the Sunday ride would go a long way to increasing the comfort of all new riders in the club. The Women’s Program could set an example for other rides to be more inclusive.

Respectfully Submitted,

Kathy J Horvath
CRW Ride Leader
Following are three letters by CRW members in support of the opinions expressed in this article:

Dear Kathy,

I know you are working hard to resolve issues centered on CRW’s Women-Only Rides. As you know, because you have been an outstanding supporter of the Wednesday Ice
Cream Ride, how much work was put into re-establishing this ride to a new location with significant changes in the route. A route was first scouted by automobile, and then initial routes
planned using RwGPS. These routes were vetted. Then several trial group rides were conducted with experienced Ride Leaders to critique the courses which always resulted in an improvement. Then there is finding a starting location; getting permission from property owners; presenting CRW’s credentials, insurance forms, schedules, promises to keep the property well mannered. And, the list goes on. When all is ready, the ride leader needs to be at the ride site early; prepare the “ride talk” and the “safety talk”; make sure all new riders are welcomed and have a partner or group with which to ride. Nobody on the Wednesday Ice Cream ride is left alone unless by choice. Nobody is dropped or abandoned. It’s a lot of work to assure all attendees have a good time.
I list what you already know about being a ride leader, as a dedicated CRW Ride Leader
yourself, to share with you my hurt and confusion I experienced after a particular Wednesday Ice
Cream Ride. I was looking forward to relaxing and enjoying a CRW ride the next weekend. A
time when I didn’t have to give a speech, worry about riders being paired up, the condition of the
route or printing cue sheets for those without GPS units. 
I go to the CRW Ride Calendar and the only ride that Saturday was a Women-Only Ride. I thought about the work that CRW Ride Leader put into creating and setting up that ride and the enjoyment it would bring to some members of my club, but not me. Why couldn’t I start the ride before or after the women riders and enjoy the ride as many have enjoyed the rides I put together. I was angry and still am angry. And the more I think about it the Women-Only designation may as well have been a White-People-Only or No-Jews-Allowed nomenclature. And don’t dare attempt to argue with me my feelings of discrimination unless you know the humiliation of being refused public accommodations because of your race. 
At this time I have serious doubts as to what I can contribute to an organization that isn’t open to all; regardless of gender, race, religion, or country of origin.

Sincerely yours,

Rudge S. McKenney


I write this note in response to the Board’s written reaction to Kathy’s well-reasoned letter regarding the Board’s “inappropriate” support of single gender rides; specifically, women only rides and activities. I was offended and disgusted by their blatant sexism and discrimination, which they try to justify by illogic. While I originally was going to go point-by-point to show how their “reasoning” was flawed, I decided to only highlight the most egregious statements. So here they are:
  • The Board argues that female only rides are “popular” and so should be continued. Beyond the folly of how they constitute “popularity”, they fail to consider that because something is “popular” doesn’t make it right. Slavery was popular, as was racial discrimination, as was housing discrimination (redlining), as was paying men more for the same work done by women in the same workplace. All these had purported good reasoning. Some of these things continue today under a different name with the same outcome; and they are all equally ethically, morally, legally wrong, and repugnant. Pursuing this policy only gives support and justification to those that want to perpetuate these wrongdoings, whether it is here or elsewhere.
  • The Board seems to make no mention of the fact that CRW, after lengthy dialogue and a vote of its membership, changed its name of many decades to Charles River “WHEELERS” because of the strong sentiments of members that “WheelMEN” was sexist and inferred the same to potential members. Women only rides are in direct conflict to this and dishonour. the reason for the change and the will of the membership. It further makes a mockery of any “diversity” initiatives the Board claims to have done or will do.
  • The Board’s letter also cites the “advantages” of supporting single gender rides and related activities. However, it fails to note that the reasoning actually applies to ANYONE in the club regardless of gender.
In consideration of the above it is clear this policy is sexist, discriminatory, exclusionary, and
irresponsible. As a Jew who has been on the sharp end of these types of activities, who has
witnessed “justification” in the USA and abroad, and as a 38-year member of CRW, I can no longer
support its so-called mission, or advocate others to join while this policy is in place.
Kathy’s letter was NOT a lone voice. She spoke for me and MANY others; the silent majority. Those
that advocate the single gender rides are the vocal MINORITY! And to those that remain silent,
understand that others will interpret your silence as support. To be silent is to be complicit.
The Board can rectify this if they choose to do so. Will they make a decision based on the VALUES of
the club, or the vocal minority?


Harry Manasewich



According to the “An Open Letter About Women-Only Rides”, the basis for needing a women’s only ride program is that women are underrepresented on CRW rides. To prove this thesis an analysis was done of the CRW rides for April – July 2022. Based on that analysis, CRW rides are dominated by male riders. Unfortunately, that analysis didn’t break out the male/female split by ride type. I’m guessing the reason the rides were so male dominated was because most of them were probably Devo or early morning rides that attracted mostly male riders. Since the women only ride program rides are recreational, not Devo or fitness rides, then the CRW recreational (or classic CRW rides, along with the Wednesday and Friday night) rides should have been the only rides analyzed, basically an apples to apples approach. If the Devo and fitness rides were removed from the April – July 2022 ride analysis, I’m sure there would have been a much more balanced break down of male/female riders’ ratio.

What the analysis of the April – July 2022 rides showed is that most of the CRW membership, both female and male, are underrepresented. Most of the rides could only be done by a minority of CRW members, but of course that fact was ignored to justify the women’s only program. Also, what’s important to remember is that CRW is an IRS section 501(c)(3) charity. Below is a statement from CRW’s application to be a tax-exempt charity under section 501(c)(3). This statement makes it clear that CRW’s services “are not limited to any particular individuals”. Since the Women’s Only program is limited to particular individuals (women), the Women’s Only program violates CRW’s charitable purpose for services (the rides program) it provides to individuals.

Form 1023, Part VI, Recipients of Benefits from CRW

Line 1a, Goods, Services, or Funds Provided to Individuals

The CRW program services activities that benefit individuals are described in Statement 3. These services are available to members and the public and are not limited to any particular individuals. (emphasis added)


Richard A. Levine, CPA



Mike Togo's picture

I think another questionaire about gender equility in CRW cycling is well overdue. Early Spring would be a perfect time to do it befor the regular cycling season starts. We must change with the times! I also think the club should create a bike maintence workshop for it's members on a regular basis. Many CRW member do not know how to fix a flat tire which is very important.