Ahead of today’s International Women’s Day, cyclists in Manchester donned period costume at the weekend for a Suffragette Ride and Tea Party to highlight the continuing gender imbalance in cycling.
Saturday’s ride, jointly organised by Sustrans North West and Manchester Bike Tours, visited the Pankhurst Centre at the former home of the movement’s founder, Emmeline Pankhurst.
The event, which formed part of the Transport Women On Wheels campaign from for Greater Manchester (TfGM) which runs throughout March, finished in Alexandra Park, scene of many rallies by the Suffragette Movement as they campaigned for women to be given the vote.
In terms of people who cycle, men outnumber women by a ratio of around three to one nationally, with the perception of danger and lack of safe infrastructure regularly cited as the biggest barrier to getting more females in the saddle.
Rosslyn Colderley, Sustrans North director, commented: “In the Bike Life survey many women told us that cycling is not a real choice for them at the moment as they say the roads don’t feel safe.
“The Suffragettes got on their bikes to fight for the right to vote. Today we ask for a long term commitment to investment in separate cycle lanes so we have the freedom to ride our bikes, get healthy and improve our environment.
“We’ve made a great start in investment for cycling in Greater Manchester but to really make the kind of conditions where people feel safe to choose cycling as their regular form of transport we need to commit to long term funding to build and maintain cycle routes, much as we do for roads.
“If you feel strongly about this, please write to your MP using the form on our website,” she added.
TfGM’s head of active travel and travel choices, Helen Ramsden, said: “Women on Wheels is all about inspiring more women to get out and enjoy all the benefits cycling has to offer, from keeping fit and making new friends to saving money on your daily commute.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or if you haven’t been on a bike since you were young – I’m sure there will be a fun activity that’s right for you.
“You don’t have to be competitive or spend a fortune to ride a bike – cycling is for everyone and I hope this month of activity will help give more women confidence to enjoy life on two wheels.”
She added: “All the events offer an easy way to get on your bike and have some fun!”
Ever since its invention, the bicycle was seen as a machine that could help give women freedom.
In 1896, American women’s rights campaigner Susan B Anthony wrote: "I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world.
“I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a bike. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammelled womanhood."
In the UK, women over the age of 30 who met criteria regarding property ownership were given the right to vote, although it would be another decade before universal suffrage gave all women aged 21 and over the vote to put them on an equal footing with men at the time.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.