Today marks the start of the 2020 Women’s Festival of Cycling. With Covid-19 measures, it is probabaly not going to be much like the organisers had originally intentions and a lot of events, which were of course group events, cannot be held for obvious reasons.
One of the highlights of the Festival is that each year, 100 women are celebrated for promoting and encouraging others to take part in cycling, and they will be revealed later today. As well as the professional cyclists, and competitive amateurs, it is always a delight to see the school-run mums and cycle group leaders, including those from minority groups which are currently not adequately represented in cycling.
This year the Events are all Virtual and happening either on the Cycling UK Facebook page or via a webinar. I won’t bore you by repeating the list when I can simply give you the link here.
Cycling is one of the best ways to beat the traffic and beat stress, and I personally can testify to this, especially in cities. My average car speed in the rush hour (pre-Covid) was just 7mph – my average speed on a Brompton was 9.5mph and I easily top this on my road bike. Being able to get through the city faster than a car is one of the things that makes cycling attractive to commuters, but the added benefits of increased fitness and improved mental health shouldn’t be overlooked either. It is lovely to arrive feeling alive and refreshed, ready for the day. It is also a lovely way to destress from the day and find a calmer relaxation when you get home in the evening.
This website is devoted to women’s cycling because there is so little coverage in the media, especially the cycling media, but also in the cycling industry.
It is a sad statistic that men are still almost twice as likely to cycle as women, but it used to be a lot worse than that! So the fact the ratio is evening out at all is an encouraging sign of the changes underway. This could be because women are more risk adverse, and so therefore would see cycling as inherently risky (until Covid-19 made public transport perceived as an even riskier option) or it could be because it just wasn’t seen as an option. Faced with a choice of less risk, women are more likely to take the option than men are. But sometimes cyclists do themselves no favours either – those lycra clad road jockeys (myself included) do not represent the everyday woman in the street, not immediately anyway. Not visibly. This is why it’s important for the media to show women cycling in many different contexts, and on different types of bike.
I ride a Brompton, as well as my carbon road bike. I will ride it to work, in a dress, with normal (albeit flat) shoes on. I don’t always wear a helmet, depending on the route and my level of risk aversion at the time. Cycling in many European countries is a natural as walking, and it’s not seen as a special activity. The Festival tries to show that – that women from all walks of life can get on a bike, and just get on with their lives.
The introduction of more infrastructure to make cycling safer, will lead to an increase in women cycling, as well as the overall increase in active travel of all types by all parties. It will do so because it doesn’t demand anything special from us, we can just hop on any type of bike and do about our lives in safety. Making cycling accessible to all is one of the main goals any campaigner should have.
Cycling UK, formerly the CTC (Cyclists Touring Club), are also doing a six month support package for new and returning cyclists, which is definitely worth getting. For just £15 you get liability insurance and legal assistance, one month of free bike insurance and personal accident insurance, discounts from a number of cycling retailers (this alone can pay your membership fees in a single purchase), online access to their bi-monthly magazine Cyclist, and their newsletter style emails.
Full membership is only £4 a month by Direct Debit, and gets you all of the above plus a printed version of the magazine and voting rights. The liability insurance is worth the subs if nothing else!
The CTC has been going now for over 140 years, so they know what they’re talking about and they are actively campaigning for cyclists at all levels. At the moment their campaigns are concentrating on social distancing space and transforming our streets with additional cycling infrastructure to keep us all safe (or at least safer).
In addition to the festival of cycling, Breeze ride will be starting again very soon. These are women only group rides of various difficulties from a very easy and straight forward introduction to their local cycle path network up to longer distance rides for the more experienced. Groups in England are starting back tomorrow, in line with the Festival, and hopefully groups across the UK will follow on as their countries Covid-19 restrictions permit. You can find out about your local Breeze rides here.
Cycling is definitely something for everyone, e-bikes and adapted bikes make it possible for even more people to get into active travel. Wether you want to save time and money getting to work, meet new friends and take it up a hobby, use it to get fit without going to the gym, or even get to the point where you test yourself against others in races and formal events, there is something for everyone in the cycling community.
As for women’s cycling? Well, we are just a continuation of that, with added cake.