Look anywhere in the media, at cycling events, on the roads, or at bike parks and races, and you’ll see the gender inequality still present in cycling. According to research from British Cycling, two-thirds of frequent cyclists in the UK are men. More than six in ten women (64%) cite lack of confidence riding on the roads, with a similar number claiming that infrastructure (63%) and driver behaviour (66%) doesn’t make them feel safe.
This makes me feel really lucky that I learnt to ride on the road at primary school, and that my Dad used to take me out on the roads as a kid. For me, cycling is transport first and foremost.
I ride my bike every day to get around, and then also for fun around that. Personally I can’t do much about poor cycling infrastructure, or dangerous driver behaviour, but I can ride the roads confidently which means I get to enjoy a whole side of life that those 64% of women don’t.
I get the cycle commute that gives me life daily, whether one mile or 20. It wakes me up, gets my heart pumping and gets me around Brighton and beyond way faster than the cars stuck at standstill ever will.
I get the weekend long rides, or the option to (and pleasure of) taking the scenic route instead of the train just because I can. That feeling of freedom when you’re on a bike – it’s magic, and more of us need to feel it!
British Cycling want to get one million more women cycling by 2020.
The women’s strategy was launched in 2013 when just 525,000 women were cycling regularly. One thing that’s made a huge impact is the organisation’s women-only rides, HSBC Breeze. More than 2,000 trained volunteer Breeze Champions lead women-only rides across the country.
In 2017-2018 over 51,000 places were filled on those rides – an increase of 8% on the previous year, making it one of the most successful years since the start of the programme. I’m excited to be doing my Breeze Champion training next month so I can help lead rides in my area. Which leads me to introduce you to a real-life #oneinamillion:
Introducing the biggest champion for women’s cycling I’ve ever met: Alison Lewis.
For those of you not in the know, this woman is an absolute powerhouse for breaking down barriers and getting more women on bikes. She never stops.
Her journey started much like mine, during childhood, and she rides to keep fit and healthy, get out in the countryside and experience new places, but she got into coaching after a friend had an accident:
Increasing female membership at Brighton Mitre from 6% to 23%
As well as being an inspiring, badass female cyclist not afraid to try her hand at anything new (current obsession: cyclocross, which she recently came 2nd overall in Vet 50), she leads rides, organises womens-specific coaching (I’ll blog the wicked women’s novice race we had last week soon), and heads up the BMCC Women’s Facebook group, always giving up her time whether online or in person.
“When I joined Brighton Mitre Cycle Club five years ago, there were just four women in the club, and I couldn’t join the weekly club rides because I wasn’t fast enough,” she said.
“I was determined that my local cycle club should be more inclusive of me, and other women (as well as men) like me. So, I went to the AGM and persuaded the club to have me on the Committee as the first ever Women’s Membership Development Officer.
There are now 73 female members of the club, which is 23% of the total club membership of 316, higher than the national cycle average female membership of 10%.
And now Brighton Mitre has been featured as a case study in British Cycling’s 2020 Women and Girls Toolkit.
Don’t you think that’s amazing? Changing the world one female cyclist at a time.
PS – if you’re a female cyclist in Brighton or surrounding, come and be part of our gang! New members get three months’ FREE and even then it’s only £20 a year to join…
When British Cycling launched its #OneInAMillion campaign last month the first person I knew I wanted to write about was Alison.
It’s women like her that inspire and enable more women to ride. She makes me want to ride my bike more, and try new types of cycling – I’m having a go at racing this year, did my first time trial last year, and will 100% be getting on the cyclo-cross train!
Not only that, she’s made me want to help others too, which is why I’ve finally trained to become a Breeze Champion, so I can help her lead rides in our wonderful city.
ICYMI, watch the video we made with Active Sussex and ThisGirlCan when I first met Alison on a Breeze ride in 2017:
So what can we do to get more women on bikes?
For tips and advice on how to get into cycling visit British Cycling’s Women’s Hub or ThisGirlCan’s Cycling page, and download British Cycling’s Women and Girls Toolkit to find out how to help bridge the gender gap in your cycling club.Oh, and if you’re in Brighton come and join BMCC and help us add to our female army 🙂