I love getting around by bike, it’s such a feeling of freedom and it’s great fun. It’s a healthy way to travel, for both me and the planet. It’s a cheap form of transport and I can carry all the things I need with ease in my basket, pannier bags and child-seat. I’m very aware that I am not a typical woman in this respect in our country. I am privileged to own a good quality bicycle and have had the opportunity to learn to ride from a young age, something which is not the case for many women and girls in this country.
Regular cyclists are more likely to be men, white, working and non-disabled, with roughly 20% of men report being ‘regular’ cyclists compared with 8% of women. There are various barriers to women and girls cycling but some of the key ones are fear of traffic, a lack of safe spaces to travel by bike, confidence in their abilities and judgment from others.
It doesn’t have to be this way. And in more cycle-friendly countries such as Holland, Denmark or Germany, women cycle as much as men or even more.
Whilst we can’t build a cycle culture which is friendly to women and girls overnight, there are some passionate people in Swindon who are helping to break down some of the barriers.
Whether you want to learn to ride a bike, gain some confidence away from the road, or ask an instructor a question, pop down to the County Ground Athletics track on a Friday morning between 10am and 12pm. Bikes and equipment are there for you to borrow for free and if a two-wheel bicycle isn’t for you there’s everything from tricycles to handcycles to try out. The first session is free, it’s then £3 after that. For more information get in touch with Sam James from the Live Well Hub (SJames3@swindon.gov.uk) or give her a call on: 01793 465513.
Fancy building up your confidence in a supportive and friendly environment then why not join a FREE Breeze guided ride? Over the summer holiday, newly trained ride leader Lesley and I will be putting on a programme of confidence building rides for women. The programme of traffic-free bike rides will be mostly between 3 – 6 miles organised on weekends, evenings and weekday daytimes, starting in locations across Swindon so you should be able to find one local to you. People identifying as women are also very welcome to join. We provide a safe and welcoming environment. Children are welcome too – I mostly ride with my 2 year old co-pilot in his rear child-seat. All rides are social and no special equipment or bikes are required, but we do recommend that you get your bike checked out by a mechanic first if it hasn’t been used for a while.
Lesley who has just joined the Breeze team only started cycling again a few years ago, after a 30 year break. With her trusty e-bike she plucked up the courage to join a local free guided ride and absolutely loved it:
“I didn’t realise how many cycle paths there were in the Swindon area that literally circumvented the whole breadth of the town. I started off on the easy 5-10 mile jaunts, I was unsure of my confidence on the bike and also my fitness. An added bonus was meeting new people, making special friends and getting out in the fresh air, with the confidence that someone will lead you safely from start to finish of the Guided “Tour”. What wasn’t there to like!” Lesley is now a British Cycling trained ride leader keen to help other women like her discover the joys of cycling. Why not join Lesley and I on one of our upcoming ‘Summer of Cycling’ Breeze rides? We promise you won’t look back 🙂 Check out: Let’s Ride – Breeze (letsride.co.uk)