Beginner cyclists triumph for International Women’s Day

The group in Victoria Park, Portsmouth
The group in Victoria Park, Portsmouth
From wobbling around a car park on balance bikes to cycling confidently around a Portsmouth park, the ladies of the latest Women’s Learn to Ride sessions have all succeeded in just eight weeks!

International Women’s Day this year heralded the culmination of a personal journey for one group of women new to cycling. They all got on bikes for the first time at the start of January and persevered through winter in the face of icy winds and bruised shins to pedal alone. On 8 March they were put to the final test and hit the cycle paths of Portsmouth for Victoria Park.

Meeting outside All Saints Church

It was a beautiful sunny morning of celebration. After posing for photographs in front of the starting point, All Saints Church, the group got ready to ride and the borrowed bikes from the Red Cross were checked over by volunteers from around the area. Priscilla Bridges from Solent Mind, another Cycling UK Community Cycle Club, walked everyone through a final safety check.

Running through a safety check

The short road route at the start was nerve-wracking for the new cyclists, but everyone made it to the park unscathed. After loops of the green at different paces, the group then stopped for a hot drink at the park’s café and reflected on the whole experience.

Holy Tanzem was one of the most dedicated members of the group; growing up in Bangladesh, she’d never had a bike as a child. After settling in the UK and having a family, this lack of experience became clear: when her husband and three children they would cycle together on holiday, Holy was always sadly left out. But no longer!

“When I saw people on bikes I used to feel jealous, but I don’t anymore!” Holy said. “This summer I’m going to go out with my family; this was a good time to learn.”

Holy, second fron left, and some of the Women's Learn to Ride group

It takes a lot to commit to learning a new life skill as an adult, particularly one that so many take for granted, but it’s quite another to do it through the depths of winter.

Rowshonara Reza, a Community Development Officer for Portsmouth City Council said, “A couple of ladies who missed some sessions due to childcare or family commitments made these up by doing extra lessons with their own children and practising in the park. This ensured the women were spending quality time with their families too. For me it has been beautiful to witness their determination and courage to learn to ride.

“My job is to help and support those who are deprived, lonely or isolated, and this project met all targets and aims. I feel I achieved the goals with them!”

Victoria Park in the sunshine

Alex Cuppleditch, Cycling UK’s Cycling Development Officer for Portsmouth said, “I’m so proud of the group for the impressive commitment they’ve shown over the last few weeks, and it feels special to be able to have this final session on International Women’s Day.

“I know that they will all go on to new adventures, but it feels like the end of an era!”