Inclusive initiative seeks to help participants overcome gender and cultural barriers

Muslim women in Gloucester are getting on their bikes thanks to training provided by Gloucestershire County Council's Road Safety Partnership and the Friendship Cafe in Barton Street.

The initiative recognises the fact that the women targeted face two big obstacles in taking up cycling, as the council’s cycling co-ordinator Don Muir told the Gloucestershire Echo: "Women generally feel more intimidated by today's traffic conditions while minority groups can have more cultural barriers to taking up this type of training.

"That makes it a double challenge for these ladies and we are doing all we can to help them get the training they need to develop the skills to overcome those barriers".

One woman taking part in the project, which targets those living in the Barton and Tredworth area, is Hasina Musaji-Miah, who said to the newspaper: "I have children, and road safety is such an important issue. These lessons are really good to bring us up to scratch. I drive, but I cycle a lot as well.”

She added: "They can also enable us to pass on what we learn to other people by becoming instructors. I think it's a very important service for us."

The scheme has been welcomed by county councilors. Sonia Friend, who represents Barton and Tredworth on the council, said: “I'm pleased that this initiative is happening in our community as it enables local women to participate in an activity which could help their wellbeing and our surroundings".

Meanwhile, county council cabinet member for environment, Stan Waddington, explained to the paper: "Barton and Tredworth was identified to us as an area where the benefits of cycling should be promoted.”

Councillor Waddington added: "As well as the health and social benefits, we're also trying to improve the air quality in the area and this will have the twin benefit of reducing congestion and improve the local environment."

A similar initiative in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Jagonari Cycles, was launched in 2005 by the Jagonari Women’s Resource Centre and London Cycling Campaign’s Community Project. Aimed at teaching Bengali women in the East End how to ride bikes, the project has won a Transport for London Sustainable Transport Award.

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 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.