An appeal for more women to support and promote cycling across the UK has gone out as part of National Volunteers Week (June 1 – 7)
Sustrans would like to redress the balance in terms of its male-to-female volunteers who donate more than 32,000 hours of their time every year supporting sustainable transport.
At present, 600 women volunteer for Sustrans but for every female there are three male volunteers. However, the organisation has a mix of volunteer roles to suit everyone, one of the most popular being that of ranger helping to maintain sections of the National Cycle Network.
Katie Aartse-Tuyn, Sustrans’ Volunteer Coordinator, said: ‘We are fortunate to have the help of a great team of volunteers, and are always ready to welcome new people to the team – men and women alike.
“But we’re particularly keen to encourage more involvement from women. They are vital role models to help us get the message out there that active, environmentally-friendly methods of travel are for everyone, and what better time to make a pledge to help than National Volunteers’ Week?”
Michele Taborn has been a Volunteer Ranger for Sustrans in north Devon for the last six years. She said: “I’m always surprised when I go to ranger meetings and there are far more men than women. Being a Volunteer Ranger is the ultimate in multi-tasking – it allows people to combine getting fit, socialising and making a real difference to the local environment.”
Lynne Clark, a Volunteer Ranger for Sustrans on Route 66 of the National Cycle Network in York agrees: ‘Being a Volunteer Ranger is a truly unique experience and really helps you appreciate the outdoor highlights of your local area.’
Other volunteer roles at Sustrans include fundraising - whether by holding a sponsored event, hosting coffee mornings or placing collection boxes in local shops and cafes – representing Sustrans at local events, helping out in one of the Sustrans offices or promoting cycling in schools.
Katie Aartse-Tuyn added: ‘There really is something to suit everyone, no matter how much or little time people can offer us. Our advice for women is to take the plunge and give it a go - you’ll have the chance to make new friends, get more active and know that you’re making a positive difference.’
Women are currently under-represented in cycling. A BMRB survey commissioned by Sustrans this spring revealed that 79 per cent of women in Britain never get on a bike despite 49 per cent having access to a bike. Sustrans is hoping to change that in 2009, with a year of activities to get more women cycling, including a brand new website www.bikebelles.org.uk
To find out more about the volunteer opportunities call 0117 9150110, email volunteers-uk [at] sustrans.org.uk or visit www.sustrans.org.uk and click on ‘Support Sustrans’.