Women and Cycling Conference

Some of the participants and speakers at the Women and Cycling Conference
The second Women and Cycling Conference brought together over a hundred women in the cycling sector to meet, share experiences and develop new project ideas.

The lovely city of Hereford was host to the Women and Cycling Conference on Thursday (4 May 2016). Over a hundred women, including many Cycling UK members, from across the UK pedalled to the Courtyard theatre to share inspiration, ideas and projects to engage more women in cycling.

The conference was supported by Hereford Council and co-organised with WE Cycle, a group of women working in the cycling sector that would like to see more women riding bikes. Linking closely with the developing Women’s Cycle Forum Scotland, WE Cycle would like to see riding a bike as a normal and accessible transport choice for women across the UK.

The packed schedule had 15 speakers presenting on practical projects, information and evidence plus some creative campaigning. The choice of 16 participatory ‘open space’ workshops enabled participants to move between topics as they wished, although from what I could see most people got so absorbed in conversations that they didn’t move!

Sally Hinchliffe and I had our work cut out squeezing our combined work in Scotland into our 'PechaKucha' style 6 minute presentation, but we managed to cover eleven projects that we are working on, plus a few slides on the strategic changes we’re seeing across Scotland! We also got to share some of our learning from the recent #walkcyclevote collaborative campaign in our 'effective campaigning' roundtable session.

Some of the highlights of the day included:

Dr Sheila Hanlon taking us through the history of women cycling, highlighting the role cycling played in the emancipation of women. You won't be surprised to hear that cycling was considered transgressive, rebellious and positively dangerous for women in Western Europe until relatively recently. The struggle to enable all women to experience the joy and freedom of cycling goes on in some countries and cultures across the world. 

Katja Leyendecker, campaigner and academic, talking about inclusive urban design. Katja highlighted that we get the cyclist we design for.  To make cycling comfortable for all, we need good quality protected cycleways, inclusive of all ages and abilities.

I particularly enjoyed hearing about the work of Bicycle Ballet from creative producer Karen Poley. This unique ballet company fuses dance and physical theatre to explore aspects of cycling in a magical and inventive way, encouraging people to re-examine their relationship with cycling. 

Towards the end of the day the young women from the Healthy Life Cycles project in Bradford inspired everyone with their upbeat personal cycling stories and this fantastic film, reminding us all to be inclusive when we choose where to meet and eat. 

Alongside the fantastic line-up of women was the excellent Phil Jones, who provided a useful run through of the current design guidance available as well as some helpful points in our roundtable about the need for campaigners to understand the dynamics between the public, professionals and politicians. 

Thanks to Paula McGivern and her volunteer team for a fantastic couple of days, and for making us all so welcome in Hereford!

You can catch up some of the action from the day on Twitter, using the hashtag #wacc2016