Answers sought as to why cycling boom is leaving women behind

An online survey to identify the key barriers preventing women from cycling is being hosted by British Cycling.

The survey, which can be found here, is aimed at helping to create an exciting programme of activities designed to get more women on their bikes by 2013.

While Britain is enjoying something of a cycling boom and participation in the sport is dramatically increasing, the gap between male and female participation is widening.

Currently only 2.3 per cent of British women cycle each week, compared to 6.8 per cent of men. British Cycling believes more can be done to reverse this trend and is encouraged by the fact that women quote cycling as the second most popular activity they would like to take up after swimming.

British Cycling’s Chief Executive, Ian Drake, said: “Cycling is growing at a staggering rate and we want to make sure women are part of this trend by creating cycling opportunities that fit around their lifestyles and needs. But first we need to understand what is preventing them from taking up our sport, so we would like to encourage women to share their views and experiences with us via our website.”

British Cycling aren't the only organisation to tackle cycling's gender gap. Last year Sustrans launched its Bike Belles website with the tag line "What every woman needs to know to get out and about by bike", and with the specific aim of encouraging more women to take up cycling by presenting by riding in a much more female-friendly way.

Together with its partners Sport England and Sky, British Cycling wants to get 125,000 more people cycling once per week and one million more people cycling once per month by 2013. British Cycling is currently working with the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation to develop initiatives that appeal to women.



Simon E [3154 posts] 7 years ago


Why don't they just talk to the CTC or Sustrans? Both organisations have been looking at this topic. Oh no, a survey keeps for some lame jobsworths employed.

BC could start by pushing for better coverage of women's cycle sport in the media. Getting Vicky Pendleton on a Hovis bike won't do much for cycling, perhaps they should start with something more like Duffy's Diet Coke ad (shame about the squeaky vocals).

ravenbait [20 posts] 7 years ago

*Bangs head on desk*.

Why is it that they always ask the people who don't cycle why they don't cycle instead of asking those who do why they do?

At least this isn't, on first glance, another one of those "WOMEN! Why not tie your hair in a ponytail so you can tuck it up under your helmet? You could also try waterproof mascara!" type deals.

Gah. Gah! GAH!


Simon E [3154 posts] 7 years ago

No, this problem is certainly not going to be solved with a ponytail and waterproof mascara.



Safety is the biggest concern, understandably so IMHO.

Also, a lot of women are concerned that cycling to work will spoil their hair, make them sweaty and smelly (that last one might be partly the fault of sweaty male cyclists!). Women are bombarded day and night by images telling them they should work on their appearance, so anything that might undo the effort they put in isn't going to be popular.

PieG59 [8 posts] 7 years ago

Firstly, Sustrans already conducted a survey (Autumn 2009) which revealed that 79% of women in the UK never cycle. The reason they gave? They don't feel safe cycling in traffic. 67% of that number said that they would cycle if safer, separate cycling routes were created. 9000 (NINE THOUSAND) women subsequently signed a petition calling for safer and separate cycling routes which was presented to Sadiq Khan, Minister for Transport, in January 2010. The petition was also presented to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly.

Secondly, the film 'Beauty and the Bike - Why British Girls Don't Cycle' illustrates the hostile infrastructures of most British towns and cities which is deterring many women and girls from cycling. The film has been criticized for bringing girls into cycling via the fashion route but in my opinion (an independent 50 year old woman with a 13 year old daughter)if fashion gets the girls cycling - mission accomplished so bring it on! Furthermore, cycling gives girls independence, self-reliance and self-confidence. No-one objects to vegetable dishes (good for you) being made more appealing by making them delicious, so why object to cycling (good for the participant - and everyone else) being made more attractive.

Given the role that the bike played in the emancipation of women, it is ironic that such surveys are even necessary in the 21st century but anyone who says appearances don't matter has their head firmly in the sand - Fashion is one of the most lucrative and far-reaching industries there is.

If Fashion can be used to get more women and girls cycling, if it can be used to help British females reclaim cycling as a normal method of transport without feeling they need to dress in hideous, dehumanizing clothes or that they must put themselves in danger, then let's use fashion to accomplish exactly that. In doing so, many females will find themselves liberated physically and mentally, instead of being incarcerated inside environmentally-damaging machines which are largely designed by males to be used on road systems which are also largely male-designed.

We have a lot to learn from the Danes and the Dutch. See www.copenhagencyclechic.com and www.copenhagenise.com
and be inspired as to how British towns and cities could be radically improved in the most economical form possible.

Simon E [3154 posts] 7 years ago

PieG59, I agree with everything you have written. However you misspelt the URL of a fine website. It's http://www.copenhagenize.com/

Until bicycles are taken seriously as transport by councils and planners, particularly in urban areas, there is no hope of persuading significant numbers of women to use them for anything but leisure rides in traffic-free areas.