British Cycling says its drive to get more women riding is overturning cycling's gender imbalance

Governing body updates on its strategy announced 12 months ago to get 1 million more women in saddle by 2020

by Simon_MacMichael   April 9, 2014  

Breeze pic 4.jpg

British Cycling has said that its aim, announced a year ago, of getting 1 million more women cycling by 2020 is overturning the gender imbalance in cycling and bringing about a change in its culture.

In an update on that strategy issued today, the national governing body says that over the past 12 months it has seen an increase in the number of women riding both recreational and sporting events.

It also welcomed new events on the elite side of the sport such as next month’s inaugural Women’s Tour, which will attract the world’s top female riders to the UK, and La Course, the one-day race that will take part in Paris on the same day as the finale of the 101st edition of the Tour de France in July.

Bob Howden, British Cycling’s president, said: “2014 is a really exciting year for women’s cycling with the Women’s Tour, Britain’s first ever UCI level stage-race for women, and the huge increase we’re seeing in racing opportunities for women.

“It truly feels like momentum is now building and we’re starting to successfully tackle the historical gender imbalance. This work is transforming the culture and driving structural change across the sport.

"We currently have world’s most successful women’s track team and a world champion in downhill mountain biking, a European champion in cyclo-cross and leading contenders in road and BMX so the sport an elite level has never been in better health.

“We are working hard to ensure that the avenues to participation are as clear and open as possible for all women looking to get into cycling, whether as a recreational cyclist, a competitor or a commuter,” he added.

British Cycling also said that it welcomed moves to provide equal prize money for men’s and women’s races, as the global governing body has done in the events its stages such as this month’s UCI BMX Supercross event in Manchester.

The organisation has recently appointed two women to senior posts, Marian Lauder and Alex Russell, and Howden said: “I’m thrilled that we have appointed two female directors to our Board as part of a selection process entirely driven by merit.

“The need to have more women at all levels of our sport is a key part of the ambition we outlined in our strategy last year. This marks the start of a hugely exciting chapter for British Cycling and Marian and Alex’s key specific expertise will be invaluable as we move forward.

“Our recreational programmes – such as Breeze – are continuing to define success at the grassroots level of the sport,” he went on.

“British Cycling’s recent success has been established on the principle of inspiration to participation and nowhere is this now more evident that with women’s cycling,” he concluded.

The governing body cited some figures in support of the success of its strategy, including that more than one in three participants on a Sky Ride event are women, that four in ten people taking part in its recreational events are female, and that it has seen 17 per cent growth in the number of women holding racing licences over the past 12 months.

Its Breeze women-only events have attracted 18,000 participants, with 800 people now leading them throughout the UK, and four in ten participants in its youth-focused Go Ride programme are female.

This year has also seen British Cycling’s first National Youth Forum, which had 12 representatives – seven of them female.

When it outlined its strategy in March 2013, British Cycling made it clear that the million additional women it wanted to get onto bike would not just be people who bought a bike, rode it once or twice, then left it in the garden shed.

It defined a “new” cyclist as someone who would:

be a regular (once a month) or frequent (once a week) cyclist

be cycling more now than last year and have been influenced by British Cycling programmes to cycle more.

It said it would achieve that by:

Building on the success of traffic free, mass participation events, Sky Ride, and British Cycling’s female led rides, Breeze, to encourage more women to take up recreation cycling with other women, their partners, families and friends

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

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 Form 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

Embedding our strategy in all of British Cycling’s work and outputs including ensuring that our website, membership offer and branding is appealing to women

Looking at how we can better promote our free expert advice, cycling routes and Social Cycling Groups network to demonstrate how easy it is to get involved.

The overarching aim of encourage more women to get riding also means overcoming some of the barriers that prevent them to do so – for example, the launch of Breeze rides in 2011 came after British Cycling commissioned research which found that many women wanted to cycle, but were worried about safety, lack of route knowledge, or having no-one to ride with.

Some can also be deterred by the perception that cycling isn’t for them – as we reported last week, Stockton Council withdrew a flyer for the Stockton Sportive after being accused of pitching the event at an exclusively male audience.

Recently, British Cycling announced a Kick Start Your Ride partnership with the Football Association that will see Breeze rides coincide with major women’s football matches, including England internationals, with free admission to the game for participants.

It’s not just the at governing body level that initiatives are taking place to get more women riding. As previously reported on road.cc, the coming weeks will see Trek hold Ladies’ evenings in Glasgow (29 April), Coventry (30 April), Milton Keynes (1 May), and Chester (7 May).

10 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Good. I'm sick of staring as chiselled man jaws everywhere. Male cyclists all seem to have the same jaw-line. Enough man jaws.

More seriously, it's nice seeing the sport/activity opening up to represent humanity a better, rather than just a small marginalised following. The Olympics was glorious because there were so many different people from so many different places with so many different stories behind them, but they were all focused on the same, simple goal. Sport has a wonderful way of bringing people together, and it's nice to see a greater variety of people sharing in that.

A sport should be defined by its nature and design; not just by whatever clique builds up around it. Especially one which is so practical, universal and accessible when the sporting element is removed.

Yay people! Yay bikes!

posted by Quince [164 posts]
9th April 2014 - 19:05

27 Likes

look at all the lovely helmets and jeans waiting to get oily or caught.

I weep for sensible imagery in UK cycling promotion. No wonder 98% of people don't even want to start to ride.

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

KiwiMike's picture

posted by KiwiMike [544 posts]
9th April 2014 - 19:26

11 Likes

While cycling is perceived to be risky and competitive rather than a normal thing that everyone does it'll be male dominated simply because women are more risk averse than men because they carry the young of our species.

posted by Initialised [150 posts]
9th April 2014 - 23:08

6 Likes

I think they need to really define the difference between 'cycling' as an alternative to a stroll ( like the picture) and cycling as some sort of athletic activity, whether competitive or not.

I do see a lot of real plodders on paths and pavements who don't/ won't progress and aren't getting any more excercise than an amble, but if that's what they want to do, fair enough.

All Campag

posted by Flying Scot [618 posts]
10th April 2014 - 6:49

10 Likes

Initialised wrote:
While cycling is perceived to be risky and competitive rather than a normal thing that everyone does it'll be male dominated simply because women are more risk averse than men because they carry the young of our species.

While the environment remains the same, the rider type and attitude will. I'm as guilty as the next person for making things 'look' dangerous to outsiders - a lycra-clad, helmet-wearing vehicular cyclist when commuting. I'm genuinely starting to hate it as a way of riding because it isn't as relaxing as it could and should be.

Change the environment and you change how cycling feels. Change how it feels and you change how people ride, what they ride and what they wear to do it.

posted by teaboy [183 posts]
10th April 2014 - 6:51

7 Likes

teaboy wrote:

While the environment remains the same, the rider type and attitude will.

THIS.

The 2% of UK residents cycling on a regular basis are self-selected - they are either:

Willing to play in traffic
Unable to afford a car or public transport
Sportspeople

The other 98% will never, ever start cycling regularly for transport/utility until:

Separate infrastructure of a high standard is pervasive
Fuel costs ten times what it does now.

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

KiwiMike's picture

posted by KiwiMike [544 posts]
10th April 2014 - 7:01

11 Likes

I've certainly noticed a shift in the last few years. I live down in SW London, and I'm often out and about during the daytime as I either work locally or from home.

What I've been surprised by, in particular in the last year is how many women are cycling during the day once you get away from the commuter traffic. Mostly wearing everyday clothes on very practical and sturdy bikes with a basket, pannier rack or child seat.

And that's probably a trend we'll see continue. Commuter cycling will always be a little different, as we simply travel further. When I have done that, I always used to change and shower at the office as I'm not going to ride 15->20km every morning in my work clothes.

posted by bikebot [649 posts]
10th April 2014 - 9:07

9 Likes

KiwiMike wrote:
teaboy wrote:

While the environment remains the same, the rider type and attitude will.

THIS.

The 2% of UK residents cycling on a regular basis are self-selected - they are either:

Willing to play in traffic
Unable to afford a car or public transport
Sportspeople
.


This is just too cynical an analysis, we started cycling (in thee free thinking 70's) because it's ecologically sound..we still cycle because as well as giving you a better experience when travelling (we're rural cyclists) in that you see more, there are significant health benefits, and it's still ecologically the best travel option.

posted by Sadoldsamurai [13 posts]
10th April 2014 - 9:07

5 Likes

from the Road CC article
"Some can also be deterred by the perception that cycling isn’t for them"

so I'm reading the 10 £1000-£1500 road bike article as mrs antigee is looking for a new road bike, now I know there are some people who believe that women's specific frames and components are just marketing BS but mrs antigee hated cycling until she tried a WSD and found she no longer got backache - some women are built similar to men some have short reach and WSD suits them. Might be a bit harsh but would have been useful to know in each review if a women's specific option available a quick read through and the article didn't seem to cover this at all. Clicking the links was only slightly more useful for the Boardman have to read the Q+A to find may be available soon. For the Trek no comment though Trek pioneered WSD frames. Genesis has pic's of a woman riding the bike so that's ok. Giant link includes reference to a higher price/higher spec WSD so would have been nice to have seen that in the review.

Had a couple of interesting experiences shopping for bikes -
with mrs antigee in a shop that markets heavily to women, mrs antigee explained that she wanted a road bike to ride some classic alpine climbs with a friend who was a regular road rider and that she only had a commuter bike and asked to see a model listed on web site or something similar and gave a budget range. The sales guy wandered off and came back with a cheap women's shopper/hybrid.
With my daughter another shop - wanting a BMX specifically for pump track - asked sales guy to go look for a... can't remember model as I'd called in earlier in week and so and so had promised to get one from another branch to try - went off said couldn't find it but was a dragging along a mash up of pink painted steel with some bent iron bits that may have been a suspension system design based on the forth rail bridge - he said "we sell a lot of these" - I guess we could have saved a few hundred pounds and bought it. Sad

So Road CC how's about including some info on women's options (for those that want them) in reviews please
and (some) shops how about moving on from "life on mars" attitudes
[/end_of_rant]

antigee's picture

posted by antigee [166 posts]
10th April 2014 - 10:01

5 Likes

Sadoldsamurai wrote:

This is just too cynical an analysis, we started cycling (in thee free thinking 70's) because it's ecologically sound..we still cycle because as well as giving you a better experience when travelling (we're rural cyclists) in that you see more, there are significant health benefits, and it's still ecologically the best travel option.

I'm not arguing *why* you cycle (I agree with your stated benefits etc), just that you are one of the 2% and therefore fit into one of the three self-selecting categories - I'm guessing 'willing to play in traffic', which you clearly are. Most people aren't, no matter how hard you sell them on health/eco benefits.

And regarding other comments above citing a perceived increase in women cycling etc, the plural of anecdote is not data. Regular cycling participation in the UK remains at or below 2%, heavily skewed to males. The Olympics, the TdF, Borisbikes, TfL Die-ins - nothing has changed that.

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

KiwiMike's picture

posted by KiwiMike [544 posts]
10th April 2014 - 10:05

7 Likes