Name of Innovative Program:
Gearing Up, Community-Based Bicycling Programs to Promote Physical, Emotional, and Social Health Among Women in Transition
Name of Innovative Program Lead:
E-mail Address of Innovative Program Lead:
Gearing Up has been providing women in transition from abuse, addiction, and incarceration with the skills, equipment, and guidance to ride a bicycle for exercise, transportation, and personal growth. Women in Gearing Up are overcoming histories of incarceration, violence, poverty, traumatic experiences, and limited health care. While involved with Gearing Up, women learn a new and sustainable activity to manage physical, emotional, and social health. Gearing Up currently serves women in partnership with:· Interim House, residential recovery home· CHANCES, outpatient recovery center· Washington House, women’s halfway home· The Joseph J. Peters Institute/Project Dawn Court· Riverside Correctional Facility, Philadelphia Women’s PrisonThe average woman enrolling in Gearing Up is currently overweight and has a history of incarceration and nicotine and substance dependence. Bicycling is an effective means of low-impact physical activity, providing nearly all women with the opportunity to be physically activity. In addition to physical health disparities, Gearing Up provides services to a population of women with especially high levels of stress, anxiety, depression,- and anger. Research supports physical activity as a highly effective management tool for these emotional health risks. Social isolation is commonly experienced by women with histories of incarceration, addiction, and abuse.
Creativity and Innovation:
Gearing Up operates unique programming in the fields of social service and criminal justice. Intentionally, the focus of our mission is NOT to work with women to face their traumatic histories and do the "hard" work of recovery and re-entry. Rather, Gearing Up identifies bicycle rides as a healthy way for women to "take a break" and experience joy and connect to the world around them, sober, and as productive members of society. Gearing Up works with women in recovery and who are re-entering society, providing a platform for women to experience being "normal" and not experience marginalization or criminalization. At the foundation of our success is the value that we place on our partnerships. Gearing Up could not deliver this service in isolation. Instead, we are actively engaged with our partners who are doing very hard and important work.
Gearing Up has four cour leadership priciples:1. Meet Women Where They Are: By not creating policies, regulations, or expectations that will discourage or prevent any one woman who can safely ride a bicycle from participating and succeeding. 2. Physical and Emotional Safety: Because we are working with a high risk population of women with often compromised coordination, balance, emotion management, and cognitive ability, it is necessary that we demonstrate diligence around maintaining both physical and emotional safety. 3. Mobilize Community: The small, but mighty workforce of Gearing Up actively engages volunteers and mobilizes a community to support our mission through on-bike support, community partnerships, and individual financial contributions. 4. Focus On OUR Mission: Gearing Up staff remains steadfast in our mission to provide women with the opportunity to ride a bicycle for exercise, transportation, and personal growth, not attempts at other social services.
Gearing Up has developed a more robust income stream that supports our growing programs throughout Philadelphia. We have concentrated on capacity building, adding new internal systems and hiring additional staff. Our team has focused on the diversification of funding, which has made our funding portfolio more stable and allowed us to continue providing long-term programmatic support. Gearing Up’s sustainability relies on meaningful, productive, and mutually beneficial partnerships with entities that have a vested interest in our programs continuing to succeed. Gearing Up creates sustainability by actively engaging within communities throughout the city to build relationships with the correct partners. They not only share a passion for our mission but collaborate with us to support their own work with women in transition. Through trial and error we have found that maintaining these partnerships over the long-term is the key to building sustainability as we grow deeper roots in Philadelphia.
Gearing Up's model successfully works in the context of the Philadelphia criminal justice and social service systems, operating in partnership with women’s recovery and transitional facilities, as well as with the Philadelphia County Women’s Prison. Gearing Up’s core competencies allow for important interactions between staff, volunteers, community partners, criminal justice partners, and most importantly, women enrolled in the program. By engaging all of these individuals and groups, Gearing Up can create a program that works and can be expanded to increasing the number of facilities within Philadelphia. Gearing Up has also identified a way to include physical activity in the lives of women in transition. By demonstrating the social, emotional, and physical benefits of exercise, Gearing Up has made a place for exercise in prison and social services system that could be replicated in other facilities and cities.
Gearing Up has served 361 women who have pedaled a combined 22,612 miles. 84 women earned their own bicycles, 39 graduated from the indoor cycling program at the women’s prison, and countless found greater health through riding. Gearing Up has measured success through alumni interviews. This year, Gearing Up contacted 18 of the 35 women who graduated. Of those contacted, 15 reported still using their bikes- a high rate of adherence to a new exercise program. Of the 18 who were interviewed, all reported a history of addiction and only 1 reported experiencing a relapse. The rate of relapse nationwide is between 50% and 80%. These measures of adherence, stress coping, successful reintegration, and weight loss align with Gearing Up’s goals to increase physical, emotional, and social health. We expanded our programs to four locations in 2013 and are increasing the amount of time spent programming at the women’s prison.