Today British Cycling launches its Breeze programme. Funded by the National Lottery Breeze is the biggest programme the country has seen to encourage more women to get out riding bikes with the aim of closing the gender gap that exists between men and women that cycling regularly in Britain.
Focussed primarily on getting more women out cycling, Breeze aims to get over 80,000 women back on a bike or riding for the first time. The long-term aim is to convert 20,000 of these into regular cyclists over the next three years. The programme is based on a network of local rides, designed to start redressing the discrepancy between the number of men and women who ride.
At present three times more men ride bikes in the UK than women, and that gap is increasing. Breeze rides will be led by women, and will be short traffic-free routes aimed at any woman who has fancied riding a bike but hasn’t really given it a proper go, irrespective of age or ability. As part of the initiative, British Cycling will train and support 1,000 local Breeze champions, female volunteers who will add their riders to the network at times to suit them and their groups.
In a recent survey conducted by British Cycling, many women expressed an interest in starting to cycle, but had concerns about safety, lack of route knowledge and having no-one to cycle with, factors effectively preventing them from taking the plunge.
Natalie Justice, Network Manager at British Cycling, said: “Currently only two per cent of women cycle regularly compared to six per cent of men yet we know that nearly one million women would like the opportunity to get out on their bikes and socialise with other women (Sport England Survey)
“Breeze gives them the chance to do just that on their doorstep and change cycling for women forever. If you’d like to get out on your bike, whether it’s for the first time or after a long break, Breeze is for you.”
For a country with a mounting obesity problem and a generation of young women growing up with unhealthy and unrealistic body images, this kind of programme is a vital step towards making cycling both more accessible and more mainstream for women. The path has been laid by female cycling ambassadors such as Victoria Pendleton, Wendy Houvenaghel and Emma Pooley, the next important step is to actually get women pedaling down it.
The first Breeze rides will start in June, and are intended to spread through towns and cities in England over the coming months. Disappointingly rides currently seem to be limited to cities and larger towns. Hopefully as the scheme develops this will change.
To find a Breeze bike ride in your local area or to find out how to become a Local Breeze Champion, go to www.goskyride.com/breeze.
Lara has been riding bikes for longer than she'd care to admit, and writing about them nearly as long. Since 2009 she has been working as part of the road.cc review team whilst championing women's cycling on the side, most notably via two years as editor of the, sadly now defunct, UK's first and only women's cycling mag, erm, Women's Cycling.
Believing fervently that cycling will save the world, she wishes that more people would just ride a bike and be pleasant to each other.
She will ride anything with two wheels, occasionally likes to go fast, definitely likes to go far and is always up for a bit of exploring somewhere new and exciting.