Having been born in the Netherlands and growing up in Germany, Mariam Draaijer always saw cycling mainly as a method of transport rather than leisure or sport. So when she moved to London at the age of 28, the cycling culture of Lycra and hi-viz came as something of a shock.
This became increasingly relevant once Mariam’s children started cycling to school. They grew fed up with cycling on the pavement whilst she walked. So she decided to get a bike and started cycling to school with them, even though her husband said she was crazy as there were very few visibly Muslim women cycling at that time.
Mariam heard about Cycle Sisters and the Hornbeam JoyRiders - both women’s cycling groups in Waltham Forest - and was excited to discover that there were other Muslim women cycling. She joined JoyRiders in Spring 2018 and immediately volunteered to train as a Ride Leader.
Since then she has been a fantastic role model and volunteered hundreds of hours as a Ride Leader, organising and leading rides especially designed for women new to cycling, with bikes provided for those who need them.
Mariam has since gone on to train as a National Standards Cycling Instructor and now works for Cycle Confident, teaching many other local mums and children to cycle. In addition to volunteering as a Ride Leader for the weekly women-only rides, Mariam has also established monthly Sunday family rides, where women can bring their husbands and children along.
Waltham Forest just seems like a transformed place with a lot of people cycling.
Mariam also now mentors new volunteer Ride Leaders to help build the capacity of JoyRiders to help more women to cycle. She has used her IT skills to support the development of JoyRiders’ administration and co-ordination of the led rides. Mariam is soon to be a trustee of JoyRiders London, which plans to establish itself as a charity in the near future, to enable more women to empower themselves through taking up cycling.
She was invited to speak about how JoyRiders builds bridges between women from different communities at the launch of Waltham Forest’s Connecting Communities Strategy. And Mariam’s tireless volunteering was a significant contribution to JoyRiders being named Club of the Year at the London Sports Awards 2019.
Mariam said: “I’m now working as a cycle instructor part time and still lead rides as a volunteer with JoyRiders. Both go hand in hand, as a lot of the people I train as instructor take part in JoyRiders rides once they are confident enough.
“Now 10 years after I first came here, Waltham Forest just seems like a transformed place with a lot of people cycling and using it as a way of transport. Seeing Muslim women cycling independently is now a common sight and the infrastructure to support this is in place.
“I count myself as very lucky to live in such an amazing borough and be part of a great movement empowering women not only to cycle, but to realise through cycling that they can actually try out new things and succeed.”
I count myself as very lucky to live in such an amazing borough.
Mariam was nominated for 100 Women in Cycling by a range of people she has helped.
One of these, Shabnam said: “Sometimes I lag behind on steep roads but Mariam is so supportive. I feel very comfortable and relaxed riding with the JoyRiders, which motivates me to want to improve my fitness and health so as not to miss a ride.”
Another, Uma said: “Mariam lit up my life. I was lacking confidence and suffering with depression. The way she teaches me with my cycle lessons built my confidence level. She found positive things in my cycle lessons and started to encourage me. Those encouragements boosted my confidence.
“I had fear of riding in traffic. She explained me all the traffic rules and that helped me to understand how to ride in traffic. Now I have trained even on the busiest of roads, and I’m full of confidence to ride. But she is still supporting and encouraging me to go further.”
What is 100 Women in Cycling?
Cycling UK’s 100 Women in Cycling is an annual list celebrating inspirational women who are encouraging others to cycle.