Cycling for Women was a year-long pilot project based in Camden and Lambeth seeking to understand and begin to address the reasons why comparatively few women compared with men cycle as a means of transport in London. This highly successful project ended in December 2004, but Women’s Design Service would be very interested in developing this approach with other local authorities who would like to encourage more women to cycle. Please contact us at [email protected]
The project used ‘action research’ methods as well as traditional research to understand gender issues relating to cycling and the urban environment. The project aimed to encourage and enable more women to cycle, and to disseminate good practice to policy-makers and practitioners in order to raise the status of cycling and encourage more cycling as a healthy means of transport. The project is funded by the New Opportunities Fund via the SEED programme, and supported by a range of project partners.
Two groups of women were kitted out with equipment and provided with training to enable them to cycle as a means of transport, and as a way of improving fitness and health. The women have reported back at regular intervals over several months to provide a detailed qualitative insight into the factors that affect the frequency and distance of journeys made by bike by new female cyclists in an urban environment.
At the end of the project the women were offered the equipment loaned to them by WDS at a discounted price in order that their cycling can be sustained.
Maintenance classes and on-road training for women who can ride a bike (but not confidently in traffic and therefore not as a means of transport) have complemented the action research groups in obtaining ‘before’ and ‘after’ results for attitudes towards cycling and the ability to cycle. WDS has held three cycle maintenance workshops in Camden and three in Lambeth, plus holding an additional six on-road group cycle training sessions in each borough for 60 women (groups consisted of between three and five women).
The participants of all these activities have been recruited from a range of sources, including clients and staff of local community groups, and contacts via cycling organisations such as the London Cycling Campaign, Sustrans and the CTC (Cyclists’ Touring Club - the UK’s national cyclists’ organisation). The project has achieved a great deal of coverage in local papers as well as specialist publications, resulting in a range of different women coming forward to be involved.
Over 100 women were surveyed on their opinions of cycling and focus groups were held to gain a deeper insight to attitudes towards and barriers against cycling for women. WDS will be investigating options that women come up with that would enable more women to cycle as a means of transport.
All expenses of participants were paid by WDS and women were able to meet other women and share experiences and perceptions of cycling and cyclists.
Cycling for Women has aimed to feed into policies on transport, health and gender in order to make cycling a more attractive option for women and indeed the population as a whole. WDS hopes to inform and influence the formulation and implementation of policy at the local, regional and national levels so that cycling gains status as a serious transport option. WDS hopes that we can contribute to achieving an increase in cycling as a means of transport where previously car journeys were made or women were forced to rely upon poor public transport.
Cycling is good for physical health and mental well-being and can form an easy and convenient part of a healthy lifestyle. We hope that health policies can take cycling more seriously and tie-in with transport policies to enable all people to feel safer and more confident about cycling as a means of transport.
In places such as the Netherlands, Germany, York and Cambridge where cycling enjoys a higher proportion of utility journeys than the UK average people who cycle more accurately reflect the population as a whole: more women and older people cycle.
One in ten children and one in five adults in Britain are obese, which makes the UK the fattest nation in the EU.
Research by the former Department of Environment, Transport and the regions (DETR) between 1986 and 1996 showed that cycling accounted for only 1% of passenger transport
DETR figures for 1995/97 show that on average, men make about two and a half times as many bicycle trips as women, and cycle about four times as far.