Winner: Exceptional Individual, Cycling Programme – Sarah Javaid

Sarah riding a cargo bike with child in the front
It’s best seats in the house for the youngest members of Cycle Sisters
Sarah Javaid is the winner of the Exceptional Individual – Cycling Programme category in the 2019 Cycling UK Volunteer Awards. She is founder of the hugely successful Cycle Sisters, a Walthamstow-based cycle group for Muslim women

In 2016, Sarah Javaid recognised that there was a need for a cycling group in her local area that catered specifically for the needs of Muslim women. From the humble beginnings of a handful of friends going out for a mid-week ride, Cycle Sisters is now a popular and well-known group with excellent ride attendance, a repertoire of well-thought-out routes and a fantastic, inclusive atmosphere.

Sarah receiving her award from Jenny Graham - Photo by Robyn Furtado

One of the biggest hurdles newcomers to cycling can face is accessing a suitable bicycle. Choosing the right bike and spending hard-earned cash on it can be a very daunting prospect for even experienced cyclists, let alone for those that are new to the world of cycling. To get around this, Sarah established a partnership with Waltham Forest Council to access a fleet of loan bikes. Many of the women taking part have gone on to purchase their own bikes after making use of the loan bikes, having been equipped with the knowledge to get the best bike for their needs.

Cycle Sisters in the snow

One of the most encouraging outcomes of Sarah’s efforts has been the knock-on effects for the women taking part in Cycle Sisters. Not only did almost all of the group’s participants report that they had improved their confidence on a bike as a result of taking part, but 77% of those who take part said that they now cycle independently more often after participating in Cycle Sisters’ rides. Due to their increased confidence and skills, almost all said that family and friends have been motivated to cycle or cycle more as a result.

To ensure the long-term sustainability of the group, Cycle Sisters actively encourages those taking part to become ride leaders and offers plenty of opportunities for training and support. By recruiting from within the group, ride leaders know how best to support newcomers, as they themselves have gone through a similar experience. This lends itself perfectly to fostering a sense of support and community within the club.