Let the cities smell of perfume instead of the smell of exhaust

Last Sunday in an early celebration of car free day (coming up this Friday 22 September), the Auckland Fancy Women Bike Ride took to the city streets of Tāmaki Makaurau in a flourish of colour.

Auckland was the first in over 200 cities to kick off this global event. Local organisers Jessica Rose and Ayla Yenidogan share the highlights and suggest you put the date in your bike calendar for next year!

The Fancy Women’s Bike Ride (FWBR) started in 2013 in Turkey as a way of celebrating car free day.  At that first event, 300 women toured the centre of the city dressed in elegant and fancy clothes and adorning their bicycles with flowers. At the end of the tour, they announced the press release,

“Let the cities smell of perfume instead of the smell of exhaust.”

The kaupapa of FWBR is that cities create a welcoming space for women to cycle and interact with the city in a whole new way.  To show that everyone can ride a bike and it is quite possible to cycle with a fancy dress.  We all deserve safe ways to walk and ride bikes.  Today it is celebrated globally and Sunday’s ride builds on the first event held in Aotearoa, just last year.  A huge turn out of supporters dominated cycle paths on Karangahape Road, creating a tail that spread from Grafton Bridge to East Street.  Much to the delight of onlookers.

The next stop was a celebration on the jewel of the bike network’s crown, Te Ara I Whiti, affectionately known as the Pink Path, where event photographer Matt Crawford taking photos from the over bridge above and riders waited for the tail charlies to catch up.  No one is left behind on this ride, which is suitable for people who are just getting back into biking or who have been trying it out as a newer convert.  

Photo by Matt Crawford Photography

Beam bikes were there to help those who wanted to try but hadn’t got a bike of their own yet.  It was also a great time to see the different machines on two wheels on display.

Photo by Matt Crawford Photography

Then the cohort was off down Nelson Street taking up the bike path from tip to toe.  This was followed by a promenade via the bike friendly Wynyard Quarter before ending up at Good George brewing for a well-deserved post ride snack.  The ride was supported by Crank who care about sustainability, climate and amplifying inclusive events.  And FWBR23 was thrilled to have Big Street Bikers sharing the message on their high vis full screens at Locky Docks city wide. Auckland Transport provided us with bells and safety gear which were handed out to the participants on the day. They also organised a beginners bike skills course. 

Photo by Matt Crawford Photography

Here at FWBR Tāmaki Makaurau, we are committed to climate action.  We know that when people feel safe riding they will use a bike more, and this is even more prevalent for women.  Investments in bike and pedestrian pathways in urban areas can encourage more people, especially women, to choose a bike as a lower emissions option for transport for themselves and for tamariki.  Moreover:  among the 60 actions that could change individual consumption patterns, individual mobility choices have the largest potential to reduce carbon footprints.  When women see other women riding bikes, they are encouraged to do the same, this is why we aim to be seen on the Fancy Women Bike Ride each year.  Every trip on two wheels, not behind the wheel, benefits the environment.

One of the participants, Sevgi Taylor, had some initial reservations about joining us, but Ayla persuaded her to attend. Here’s what she had to say after the event:

“It felt so liberating and empowering to cycle in the city surrounded by beautiful women pedalling down the hills and across traffic lights. I felt confident on the bike again after a little fall last year and now considering cycling to work woohoo!”

Photo by Matt Crawford Photography.

Photo by Matt Crawford Photography. 


  • Using a bike instead of a car for short trips reduces travel emissions by around 75%: Our World In Data
  • Swapping the car in cities for cycling just one day a week can reduce someone’s carbon footprint by about half a tonne of CO2 over a year: Imperial College London
  • Each 7 kilometres travelled by bicycle will avoid 1 kilogram of CO2 emissions compared to the same distance covered by car: UNEP
  • A bicycle is cheaper to buy and maintain than a car, which also makes it more equitable: UNEP
  • Not only is riding a bike the greener alternative — it’s better for your health and more affordable.

Photo by Matt Crawford Photography. 

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