The success of our elite level women cyclists at world and Olympic level is well known but attempts to get more women to cycle either on a leisure or commuting basis is still proving to be a difficult aim.
In an attempt to provide more forward momentum to get women cycling, British Cycling has set out ambitious plans to get one million more women riding bikes by 2020.
Ambitious as that target is, the governing body of cycling, believes it is achievable. A British Cycling target to get a million more people cycling by 2013 was achieved a year early.
As British Cycling’s President, Brian Cookson OBE, says that when British Cycling set goals they they set about them with seriousness and purpose.
How are British Cycling aiming to get to this one million more women cycling?
There are a number of proposals that sit alongside the success of mass participation events such as Sky Ride and the Breeze female-led rides that are already encouraging more to take up recreation cycling with other women, their partners, families and friends. British Cycling will be:
-Setting up entry-level racing opportunities for women to compete at key facilities across the country, including establishing ‘get into cycle sport’ coaching sessions;
-Working to influence more event organisers to put on women’s events to run alongside men’s races;
-Establishing a National Youth Forum with equal male and female representation to feed into British Cycling’s work to inspire young people to take up the sport;
-Recruiting more female coaches, volunteers and officials into the sport to ensure more women are influencing and running the sport at the grassroots;
-Working to ensure that British Cycling’s board is more representative with plans to recruit three Board members as soon as possible;
- Ensuring that British Cycling’s website, membership offer and branding is appealing to women;
-Looking at how it can better promote the organisation’s free expert advice, cycling routes and Social Cycling Groups network to demonstrate how easy it is for women to get involved;
-Continuing to campaign for safer roads for all cyclists to help overcome the safety concerns that 30% of women identify as the main barrier to taking up cycling.
The new one million target will be measured using British Cycling and Sky’s Annual Cycling Survey. Sport England’s Active People survey will be taken into account but, as that survey only measures recreational cycling in England, it won’t provide the full picture.
The current situation
At the moment, according to British Cycling figures, 525,000 women in England currently cycle at least once a week. In the last 12 months alone there has been a 63,000 increase in the number of women cycling regularly, which is good news. One of British Cycling’s aims will be to convert the circa 1.2 million women in England that cycle at least once a month to cycling at least once a week.
British Cycling’s Breeze programme has been seen as a relative success given it was set up with little fanfare in June 2011. 21,000 women have participated in Breeze since then. Also encouraging is the fact that over 5,000 women are currently signed up to British Cycling’s Social Cycling Groups network and over 4,000 have organised rides.
Of course these numbers must grow and it would be good to see more women being encouraged to join cycling clubs across England, Scotland and Wales if new sporting talent is to be spotted.
Why women don’t cycle
While road safety is probably one of the main reasons why women won’t cycle, British Cycling will have to understand the other reasons that is stopping women picking up bikes if their campaign is to be successful. At the moment, Sky Ride and Breeze concentrate on getting women to cycle as a leisure pursuit or to get some confidence out on a bike but that won’t significantly push numbers up. Where numbers will grow is on the commuter side of bike use.
Here, British Cycling and other authorities have to convince women that cycling can be part of their every day lives and it often comes down to the practicalities of cycling. That can mean anything from providing facilities at workplaces for showering and changing to the cycling industry making sure there is women’s cycling apparel that is fit for purpose.
British Cycling has started the ball running with this policy aim of 1m more women cycling but other parts of the cycling industry will have to come on board to encourage more women to cycle.