Hundreds Gather for Women and Women-Identified Ride Led by Ovarian Psycos

Women and women-identified folks gather under the shade as they wait for the Ovarian Psyco-cycles Clitoral Mass ride to begin. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Women and women-identified folks gather under the shade as they wait for the Ovarian Psyco-cycles Clitoral Mass ride to begin. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Looking out over the growing group of women and women-identified folks gathering on the grassy knoll behind Olvera St. for the Ovarian Pscyo-Cycles 4th Annual Clitoral Mass ride, I realized that, despite having attended the previous three events, I only recognized a handful of the riders.

Considering there were probably more than 200 cyclists on the green, and more were arriving all the time, that was saying something.

Participants continue to arrive. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Participants continue to arrive. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

I mentioned this to Maryann Aguirre, one of the women that had been instrumental in organizing the first Clitoral Mass in 2012.

Nodding, she took a minute to survey the crowd.

The event now seemed to have a momentum of its own, we agreed, attracting long-time cyclists, novices, and everyone of every age, race, make, and mold in between.

And it was clearly meeting a need, given all the new faces and excited exclamations of, “We need this!” and “I have been waiting all year for this!” I was hearing.

Riders gather in the shade just east of Olvera St. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Riders gather in the shade just east of Olvera St. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

When the Ovas first decided to launch the event four years ago, it was because they had felt there was a need to carve out space on the streets for those women and women-identified folks — particularly those of color — who didn’t feel their experiences were validated or welcome in other cycling spaces.

It is not a concept that is terribly controversial right now. But back then, conversations around equity, inclusion, and the mobility of those on the margins had yet to really take root in the livable streets and cycling communities. So, the idea of a female (identified)-centric ride caused a bit of a stir.

The Ovas were accused of exclusion by some and of misandry by a very small minority of disgruntled men. Some of the critics threatened to show up and crash the ride. A few even took it upon themselves to organize a counter-balancing ride for “Brovarian Psychos,” where those poor and oppressed (and grammatically-challenged) souls seeking to promote “man-ism, jism, mens’ rights, reform of family court, selective service, anti-male stereotypes, to counter-manginas and white knights, and restore balance to the force [sic]” could finally feel supported.

Despite all the nonsense, the Ovas’ first event went off peacefully. And instead of the world ending, the ride became something of an institution — a day of sisterhood and solidarity around which riders from around the Southland and beyond were willing to adjust their summer schedules so they could be sure to be in town. It even inspired a national movement and, in 2013, saw sister rides spring up in Oakland, Toronto, New York City, Atlanta, and Chicago.

Riders and bikes are blessed with prayers and song. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Riders and bikes are blessed with prayers and song. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

As the crowd grew for this past Saturday’s ride, I was struck by the extent to which the event served as a gateway ride for so many of the participants. Many were clearly very new to cycling and were on bikes that they were dusting off for the first time in years.

The novices were a contingency the Ovas had planned for. They and their support team, including a handful of male allies, purposely gave themselves a two-hour period before roll-out to check participants’ bikes and ensure they were in working condition. Pit stops along the way, featuring entertainment, food, and conversations around social justice, also served as opportunities to do minor wrenching and keep everybody rolling.

And for those things that could be not fixed by human hands, there was a blessing of the bicycles (and riders) and an honoring of the ancestors through sacred drum, prayer, and songs before the riders set out from Olvera Street (above).

I unfortunately was not able to go all 30 miles with the Ovas as they traveled to Rio de Los Angeles State Park, Oak Park in Northeast Los Angeles, Lincoln Park (off Valley Blvd.), Hollenbeck Park, Macarthur Park, and back to Placita Olvera. So, the pictures that follow below are just from the meet-up and first leg of the trek. For more about the Ovas or information about their monthly Luna rides, check out their Facebook page, here.

Road captains gather to discuss last-minute logistics. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Road captains gather to discuss last-minute logistics. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
The trademark hand sign of the Ovarian Pscyo-Cycles. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
The trademark hand sign of the Ovarian Pscyo-Cycles. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Spoke cards. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Spoke cards. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Blessings are underway. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Blessings are underway. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Riders circle up. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Riders circle up. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Blessings give way to safety tips. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Blessings give way to safety tips. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Preparing to roll out. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Preparing to roll out. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Rolling. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Rolling. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Rolling out past Union Station. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Rolling out past Union Station. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Taking over Chinatown. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Taking over Chinatown. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Rolling through Chinatown. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Rolling through Chinatown. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Heading for Rio de Los Angeles State Park. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Heading for Rio de Los Angeles State Park. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Leaders of the pack. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Pauletta Pierce and Norma Toledo lead the pack to Rio del Los Angeles. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

9 thoughts on Hundreds Gather for Women and Women-Identified Ride Led by Ovarian Psycos

  1. I was in Chinatown during this ride. The cyclists ignored traffic lights, blocked traffic, and were screaming “these are our streets”. Whoever was in charge of this and planned this type of behavior needs to be admonished. Any cycling activist would be embarrassed to see this type of behavior. Do they really think that taunting other drivers and blocking traffic is going to help their cause?

  2. Actually, most rides stick together to prevent cars from being able to squeeze in between riders and put everybody in danger. Can you imagine the mess if you had a handful of bikes ahead and behind cars? Nobody would be able to get anywhere and everyone would feel unsafe and frustrated. Police leaders that advocates have worked with in communities like South LA have agreed that it is far safer for everyone if the ride sticks together — particularly on rides where a lot of the cyclists are novices. Clearly you felt inconvenienced for the few minutes it took the riders to move through Chinatown (where most people waved and smiled and cheered them on) — so much so that you felt the need to like your own comment, apparently — but I trust that you were able to get about the rest of your day in peace and that you were not harmed in any lasting way for having lost those three minutes to the riders who waved happily at you.

  3. Sahra, this is not about me being slightly inconvenienced. This is about how cyclists are undermining themselves and their message. I’m afraid to say that you won’t be winning anyone over by obnoxiously screaming “these are our streets” while blocking traffic and ignoring signals. If you want to gain respect and have your voice heard you should be following the rules of the road like any other person using public resources.
    I’m going to call a big time bullshit on blocking traffic and ignoring signals being is recommended by authorities. What you describe would be done if you’ve gone through the trouble of requesting LAPD resources in support of the protest or whatever it is, but you clearly did not do that.
    Please tell us how blocking traffic, ignoring signals, and yelling antagonistic phrases at bystanders helps your cause?

  4. Think of this as a rolling parade, except they can’t really block traffic as they ARE traffic. That would be like saying all the drivers on the 405 freeway that aren’t inside your car are “blocking” you. Well, they are trying to go somewhere too…why is your movement to the movies, gym, or anywhere else more important than their movement? Are you of the impression that all car drivers must be going somewhere important and all bicycle riders must be doing something less important?

    Anyway, they could have done everything by the books and they still likely would have pissed you off just because they weren’t in cars. Just pretend it was a funeral procession, then they would be running red lights, going about the same speed, etc…

    Also, we haven’t touched on this but I suspect it may have been an issue for you: Riding single file is not mandatory, and it appears they left a lane open wherever possible so it is unlikely you would get stuck behind them as Broadway (for example) has 2 lanes in each direction.

    If your definition of “share the road” is “all bicyclists must move aside ASAP when I cross paths with them” then you’ve got it wrong.

    You kray-kray, krayyy.

  5. just an FYI, this message reads as a bad parody of reactive cyclist propaganda.

    If you read my initial comment, when I say the cyclists were blocking traffic, i’m referring to the cyclists NOT STOPPING for a redlight. Instead the group would position one or two riders in the middle of the intersection BLOCKING crosstraffic so the rest of the riders could ILLEGALLY ignore red lights.

    care to respond?

  6. I’d also love to see you share your thoughts on evil cars to those that have been dismembered, wheelchair bound, or having other handicaps that make it impossible to ride a bike or find a way to to get around other than a CAR. Some people do love their car because it allows them to live their life. dont be so idiotic and narrow sighted.

  7. Doing such is common practice with parades or funeral procession. What’s the matter? Your gripe is their expression wasn’t sanctioned and/or that you were a few minutes later to you uber important destination? Clearly you survived and went unharmed, time to get over this harmless bike ride which only takes place because conditions for everyday biking are unsafe and unpleasant.

  8. i fear for cyclist chances of any progress with this brainpower… Best chance cyclists have of making any progress is self driving cars.

  9. It is not “my cause,” I did no screaming, and I answered your question above. Namely, it is entirely unsafe to have drivers squeezed in between cyclists. Unsafe for everyone. And that is indeed something advocates on rides I have been on have heard from law enforcement in South LA, where a lot of the group bike riding involves families with children. I’m not sure what the source of all this angst is over a once-a-year event in which a positive group of female riders passed cheerfully through neighborhoods waving at folks, obeyed traffic rules (in the sense of having the front riders always stop at lights with the rest rolling through to keep the group together, parade-style), were peaceful and health-oriented (there was no drinking/smoking/etc), and stuck to one lane in order to not impede traffic on a weekend afternoon when traffic was already light. The streets of the city are indeed everyone’s streets, and the women wanted to celebrate that together in a healthy way, and one that they hoped would inspire others to join them. Clearly you are not among those inspired. Which is your right. But reiterating your disdain here isn’t all that productive. If you have such an issue with the women and their chanting, you’re welcome to contact the Ovarian Psycos and let them know.

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