Pen started regularly cycling in her 20s, commuting to a job with unsociable hours. She now works as a veterinary nurse and supports her partner running the Walsall Bike Project CIC by applying for funding, recruiting instructors and arranging recycled bicycles for those who can't afford their own. Pen has also helped a Muslim women’s group learn to cycle, many of whom were never allowed to learn to ride as children.
Pen Harris said…
"I learned to cycle when I was 10 but it was in my 20s, having a job with unsocial hours, that I got an old gents' three speed racer and used to cycle to work with my horse saddle on top of my bike saddle.
"30 years later with that long behind me, my new partner, a Malvern cyclist, couldn't believe how few people cycled in Walsall despite the many canals, parks and green spaces, so I supported him setting up Walsall Bike Project CIC to 'Get Walsall Cycling'. A chance mention and meeting with Cycling UK's Lesley Easter and the rest, as they say, is history.
"Steve is the qualified coach and mechanic, so I do the work behind the scenes, juggling running the project with my full time job as a veterinary nurse. We run six Community Cycle Clubs (and counting) for local groups, provide free or low cost bikes to refugees and people in need, and are passionate about recycling so maintenance sessions encourage people to re-use and repair bikes. Paperwork and data collection is a time consuming, but necessary job.
"My personal favourite is helping with the Muslim ladies group in a local park. They have had to overcome so many barriers just to get to cycle. As girls, many were never allowed to learn, though their brothers were. Veils are thrown back, burkhas tucked in, and they have fun.
The word they use for cycling is 'freedom'. They are a complete inspiration and it's been an absolute privilege to have the chance to support them
"The average age for Learn to Ride is over 50 and in 2019 we taught over 60 ladies to ride. The word they use for cycling is 'freedom'. They are a complete inspiration and it's been an absolute privilege to have the chance to support them."
Pen was nominated for the 100 Women in Cycling by Lesley Easter, who said:
"Penny works full time in a veterinary surgery and supports her partner Steve to run the Walsall Bike Project CIC in her spare time. This is not light touch support! She helps support the Community Cycle Clubs in Walsall by applying for funding to deliver cycle training to the public, recruiting instructors to deliver the training, organising timetables, data collection, offering recycled bicycles for those who can't afford their own. She is the unsung hero of the cycling in Walsall, the glue that holds it all together and she deserves the recognition and appreciation from Cycling UK who she supports unreservedly."
She is the unsung hero of the cycling in Walsall, the glue that holds it all together and she deserves the recognition and appreciation from Cycling UK who she supports unreservedly