How more women can stand up for cycling

A large group of women sit at small tables in a busy cafe
Women should be part of the conversation
In the UK, men make nearly four times as many journeys by bike than women. In cycle campaigning, the disparity between the sexes is even greater

I've been a cycle campaigner for many years and too many times I've been the only woman in the room and this matters.  If we only hear the voices of a particular section of society we'll only get solutions to their problems. 

Women who join cycling groups can also find themselves in a minority which some find off-putting. Physical activity levels in young girls drops off as they enter teenage years and again this really matters because being able to ride a bike is an experience that I think everyone should be able to enjoy for a myriad of reasons.

You may think that riding a bike is just riding a bike and the barriers that we face are the same but I, and many of my fellow female cyclists, know that this is not always so. The types of journeys we make are often more complex, the disproportionate level of responsibility we have for others, the school run and the harassment women face on a regular basis are just some of the differences which inform how we navigate our way around our communities.

100 Women in Cycling

At Cycling UK, we've been working in a variety of ways to address these issues and an important way of doing so is to showcase those women who are, in a variety of ways, championing cycling. It was last year's 100 Women in Cycling list that prompted the discussion that led to Cycling UK Cymru, Plan UK and Ysgol Greigiau Caerdydd hosting what turned out to be a fantastically inspiring Women in Cycling event at the fabulous Bike Lock Cafe.   

There, I caught up with one of our nominees, Jess Notzing, and we quickly realised that we were well-placed to host an event to celebrate women in cycling and grow the women's cycling community. We wanted to include everyone, whether they are women who are leaders in cycle clubs or communities, women who campaign to get more people on bikes, or women who just love to ride bikes.

So we got on with it, planned and promoted it, and before we knew it, tickets were soon all gone and the evening arrived. 

The event

The Bike Lock was full of women who ride bikes, who want to ride more, who lead clubs and rides, who campaign, who lead on sustainability and who were all as excited as we were to be there!  

Following some introductions and icebreakers, including a tricky Highway Code quiz, we heard Jess's incredibly inspiring story about why she started off Ysgol Creigiau Caerdydd, having to overcome imposter syndrome to do so, and how she wants to enable many more women to ride in an environment that is welcoming and fun!   

It was then over to Anne-Marie who works for Plan UK. She highlighted the work she does around equality and told us a bit about what she does in her spare time with Whitchurch Cycling to encourage young girls to cycle. She's taken the scheme out of the relatively leafy area of Whitchurch to Grangetown in an attempt to widen access.

Then I talked a bit about campaigning, and how we're growing our Cycle Advocacy Network in Wales, and the importance of growing it in a way that ensures all voices are heard. It was great to be able to talk about the recent work I've been doing with Cycling UK member Hilary May, another of our 100 Women in Cycling, to establish our new campaign group Vale Velo Ways

Cycling UK materials in Bike Lock Cafe

What we learnt 

After a break for refuelling, we split up for some conversations around campaigning, group rides, and encouraging young girls to carry on cycling.

We discussed the barriers to cycling - poor infrastructure and driver behaviour came out top, but lack of cycle storage and harrassment were also cited as particulary off-putting. The women in the room were keen for their voices to be heard but said they weren't always sure how best to make this happen. 

What next?

I'm already planning our next event, so keep an eye out for things going on in Bike Week.

Lots of us are excited that it's the start of a new term for Jess, so if you want to try out gravel riding then get in touch with Ysgol Creigiau Caerdydd. If you want to get involved with a cycling club who do lots of great stuff with young people, then Whitchurch Cycling are always looking for volunteers as well as participants.

If you want to keep up-to-date with all the latest women's cycling news you can subscribe to Cycling UK.

Gwenda, Jess and Anne-Marie - the women who organised the event

Become a campaigner!

My main motivation was to get more women campaigning so I'm really pleased that has already happened, and in particular that Cardiff Cycle City have already got a very keen new member.

If you want to get more involved, you could look at joining our Cycle Advocacy Network, check out some of the great campaign resources we've got, or just get in touch with me to have a chat.

'Til the next time.