Jan 062011

A new initiative has been announced by Sport England that aims to boost participation rates of women in recreational and competitive cycling.

Sport England in conjunction with British Cycling is creating a National Women’s Cycling Network with the aim of getting 80,000 women out on their bikes over the next three years.

Sport England is putting aside £992,159 to fund the Network that will see British Cycling overseeing initiatives to recruit more women cycling instructors to teach basic skills and help women gain confidence on the roads.

British Cycling will also use some of the funds to organise nine women-only mass cycling events as well as recruit over 1,000 women to organise local recreational group rides and inspire others to take part.

The programme will draw inspiration from the success of Britain’s top women elite cyclists and will aim to reach women in every local authority in England. Its long-term aim will be to encourage 20,000 women to cycle at least once a week.

The Women’s Cycling Network is part of a wider investment in women’s sport that aims encourage Active Women and tackle the gender gap in sport. National Lottery funding of £10m will support 20 projects in total.

Figures published by Sport England in December revealed the size of the gender gap in sport. At present, one in eight (2.761m) women regularly play sport in England. Whilst this has increased significantly in the past five years, it still trails behind men’s participation, with one in five (4.176m) taking part. Women from disadvantaged communities play even less sport, with less than one in 10 women taking part.

The same Active People Survey from Sport England showed female participation rates in recreational and competitive cycling was down, if only by 7,700, as numbers reached 498,700.

Jennie Price, Sport England’s Chief Executive, said: “For many women with children or those managing a tight budget, sport – and time to themselves – can slip down the list of priorities. The projects we’re funding have asked local women what is stopping them from getting involved and what sports interest them, before coming up with an offer that is appealing and accessible.”

Ian Drake, British Cycling’s Chief Executive, said: “We have had significant success in increasing participation in cycling through Sky Ride and we will take our experience in this area to launch a bespoke programme for women that will be delivered by women. Our female athletes are the best in the world and we want to use that as an inspiration to attract thousands more women to our sport.”

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