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British Cycling unveils plans to get 1 million more women riding bikes by 2020

Governing body launches campaign this morning, backed by Sky and DCMS

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.“

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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iDavid | 11 years ago

If 30% of female non-cyclists cite fear of traffic as their #1 reason for not saddling up (TfL's survey shows 42% across both genders, so something amiss here), govt should focus on cyclist safety before dreaming of ladies in lycra.

How? Merge cyclist and young driver training into single road safety course, make Bikeability part of prep for driving test and embed bike awareness module into the test itself.

Not as sexy as Olympic gold, but new generation of bike aware drivers would reduce accidents esp amongst the young, reduce tribalism and create many more new cyclists, esp those women.

phax71 | 11 years ago

Where will they all park?  1

bobdelamare replied to phax71 | 11 years ago

Just as they park, or rather abandon, their cars: all over the place, one wheel in one bay, the other next door.

Seriously though, good point. We don't have enough bays on our High Street now.

AndrewRH | 11 years ago

I applaud British Cycling for setting an achievable target, knowing that it will drive (pun unintended) the associated infrastructure to bring it about.

As for the government, it's good to have top politicians promoting and supporting this.

I trust that Culture Secretary Maria Miller knows that a bicycle is used a lot for utilitarian purposes? Getting to work, going to the shops, heading over to a friend's.

Some people hearing only her statement, above, about Olympics and sport 'cycling' may perhaps be put off because they aren't sporty types.

I hope I will see Maria cycling around Basingstoke!

Was the Roads minister present or supporting this fabulous initiative, too?


dafyddp | 11 years ago

As a measure, I think that x number a month is a bit simplistic. Many women I know (my wife included), are fair weather riders that wouldn't choose to cycle if it's cold or wet. This means a cycling window of maybe six months a year at best. If this is factored-in, then rather than once a month, the measure should perhaps be as low as once every two months?

bambergbike replied to dafyddp | 11 years ago

I'm not sure that women are that much more likely to be fair-weather only cyclists. I know a lot of people - women and men alike - who don't cycle year round because they haven't discovered how easy it becomes once you have the right gear. And because they don't realize how wasteful it is to use large, heavy motor vehicles as glorified umbrellas when all they need is a few more grammes of weather protection than in the summer - trivial stuff like overshoes and/or thermal socks, a windproof softshell jacket, a cap to keep their ears warm, gloves and undergloves, maybe a neoprene face mask...I think of most of this stuff as being simple, cheap, lo-tec and essential, but a lot of people who spend a fortune keeping cars on the road would probably dismiss winter cycling gear as a load of unnecessary clobber.

I went go for a cycle with a female friend on Sunday who is a fair-weather cyclist of sorts (Sunday was dry but fairly cold). It as her first cycle of the year and she was a bit rusty. She reported that she had stayed cycling into the autum, but had then got bored with cycling because there was nothing to eat - no more grapes on the vines, no more cooking apples and walnuts dropping from the trees. So she stopped.

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