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Manchester Suffragette Ride aims to close cycling gender gap

More women would ride bikes if they felt the roads were safer, says Sustrans

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.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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