British Cycling has this morning unveiled plans to get a further 1 million women cycling by 2020. The initiative has the backing of Sky as well as the Department for Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS), and looks to build on the success of British Cycling’s existing Breeze programme.
The governing body says that it will continue campaigning for safer roads, with perceived danger a major barrier to cycling for many women, and also aims to make it easier for women to take up cycling as a sport.
“At British Cycling, in partnership with Sky and Sport England, we have never been scared of a challenge, nor of setting ambitious targets,” said its president Brian Cookson.
“Whether it is winning eight gold medals at a home Olympics four years after the triumphs of Beijing, producing the first British winner of the Tour de France or getting a million people cycling, when we set ourselves goals, we set about them with seriousness and purpose.
“We are not saying we are going to be perfect, far less that we are perfect now. The direction of travel is important: our ultimate aim is to inspire 1 million more women to get on bikes and we are determined to make this happen.”
That goal of getting 1 million more women into the saddle will be measured using British Cycling and Sky’s Annual Cycling Survey, rather than Sport England’s Active People survey, which only measures recreational cycling in England.
As a result, the criteria of who actually is a cyclist are quite strictly defined – it certainly isn’t someone who has bought a bike, ridden it once or twice, then leftit unused in the garage or garden shed:
According to British Cycling, the ‘new’ cyclist will:
· 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.
British Cycling is implementing a number of measures to support the campaign, including:
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 strategy was unveiled this morning at the DCMS’s offices in London, with Culture Secretary Maria Miller commenting: “Cycling in Britain is in great shape after a fantastic London 2012, and it is fantastic that the sport wants to go further and get more women on their bikes.
“The likes of Becky James and Jess Varnish will inspire many other young women, and British Cycling’s plan shows that it is a sport that women can embrace at every level.”
Both James and Varnish were at the launch, with the former, winner of two gold medals at the UCI Track World Championships in Minsk last month, saying:
“Knowing that my success can inspire other young women to get into cycling makes me feel really good.
“The performances of our female riders at Beijing and in London have already made a difference, now we just need to see more women doing everyday cycling and enjoying our amazing sport for all that it has to offer.”
Varnish, a former team sprint world champion but who missed out on a medal at London 2012 after she and Victoria Pendleton were relegated following an illegal handover, added: “If we can realise this ambition it will go a long way to refreshing cycling’s image so it is not seen as a sport only for men in lycra.
“The best thing about cycling is that anyone can do it, and in whatever form they like. I’m looking forward to seeing more women riding bikes and, most importantly, enjoying every moment.”
British Cycling also gave a snapshot of how the numbers stack up at the moment according to its Annual Cycling Survey, conducted by research firm GfK NOP among a robust sample size of 10,000 people:
525,000 women in England currently cycle at least once a week and in the last 12 months alone there has been a 63,000 increase in the number of women cycling regularly
Just under 1.2 million women in England cycle at least once a month
Since 2009, Sky and British Cycling’s programmes have influenced 430,000 more women to cycle regularly. By 2020, we want this figure to be at least one million more
21,000 women have participated in Breeze – our initiative that offers female led rides for women - since it was set up in June 2011
160,000 young women have participated in grassroots cycling through our Go Ride – youth development – programme since 2009
13,900 women are currently members of cycling clubs across England, Scotland and Wales
Over 5,000 women are currently signed up to British Cycling’s Social Cycling Groups network and over 4,000 have organised rides
10,000 women are currently members of British Cycling. Our aim is to get this up to 26,000 by 2016.
Tricia Thompson, Director of Cycling at Sky, also at today’s launch, said: “Our Sky Ride programme and support of GB cyclists has already inspired many people back into the saddle and we will continue to support British Cycling in their work to get more females on bikes.
“We have a real opportunity to inspire more women about cycling and to get on their bikes in run up to the 2016 Olympics.“
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.