Cycling UK asks women to show their ‘bicycle face’

Cycling UK's cycling development officer in Moray, Louise Haggarty shows off her muddy bicycle face

Cycling UK asks women to show their ‘bicycle face’

Cycling UK turns a Victorian health scare on its head by calling on female cyclists to post pictures of their ‘bicycle face’ to encourage more women to take up cycling

During the Victorian era, ‘bicycle face’ and other scare tactics were deployed to prevent women from cycling.

At the time, women were viewed as weak and fragile, but the bicycle craze sweeping the nation was challenging this notion. Women were suddenly able to travel independently, more practical fashions were evolving, and women were campaigning for the right to vote.

In response, 19th century doctors warned women that cycling was dangerous for women’s health. Cycling, they said, would give women a hunched back, wearied face and masculine features, ruining their chances of finding a husband.

Luckily, the benefits of fresh air and exercise that the bicycle brought were soon recognised, and the myth of bicycle face and other health scares were exposed.

The struggle for equality has continued into the 21st century, with men still accounting for the majority of miles cycled in the UK.

We want to celebrate the diversity of women who cycle and the broad range of cycling they do

Sarah Mitchell, Cycling UK chief executive

Cycling UK’s annual Women’s Festival of Cycling is taking place between 17 July and 1 August and is sponsored by British cycle manufacturer Raleigh. During the festival, the charity is asking women to share photographs of their ‘real’ bicycle face on social media, and tag their friends, to demonstrate the fun and freedom cycling really brings.

Sarah Mitchell, Cycling UK chief executive, said: “We want to celebrate the diversity of women who cycle and the broad range of cycling they do. Whether you’re a commuter, mountain biker, leisure cyclist or road cyclist, share a picture of yourself. If we’re ever to see gender parity in cycling, women need to see more women like them cycling.”

So, share your bicycle face photos and videos by using the hashtags #BeYouByBike and #WFOC2021 to celebrate the Women’s Festival of Cycling. 

Contact information 

For more information, please contact the national Cycling UK press office. Due to the restrictions caused by the coronavirus outbreak, currently the main press office number (01483 238 315) is not being monitored. If you would like to speak to a member of the press office during working hours (0900 - 1700) please call Christina Bengston on 07789 874 832 or email publicity@cyclinguk.org. Out of hours, call 07786 320 713.

Notes to editors 
  1. Cycling UK, the UK’s cycling charity, imagines a world where the streets are free of congestion and the air is clean to breathe, where parents encourage their children to cycle to school and everyone shares the exhilaration of being in the saddle. For more than 140 years, we’ve been making our streets safer, opening up new traffic free routes and inspiring more people to cycle more often. www.cyclinguk.org
  2. For information on the Women’s Festival of Cycling see cyclinguk.org/womensfestival
  3. Publications on ‘bicycle face’ 
    – ​Shadwell, A. (1 February 1897). "The hidden dangers of cycling". National Review (London)
    – Marland H. ‘Bicycle-Face’ and ‘Lawn Tennis’ Girls: Debating girls’ health in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British periodicals. Media Hist. 2017;25(1):70 - 84
    – "The 'Bicycle Face'". The Literary Digest Volume 11 (548). 7 September 1895
  4. Proportion of men and women cycling: see: cyclinguk.org/statistics.
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