Women’s Cycling in Calderdale

If you are considering getting into cycling or are a regular cyclist, you may have noticed something pretty common about cyclists on the roads – they are mostly men! There is even a term developed for the new breed of rider – “middle aged man in lycra” or MAMIL. Cycling statistics tell us that around six times as many men as women choosing to get on their bike. Perhaps it is no wonder that cycling clubs attract few female members?

You may have noticed something pretty common about cyclists on the roads – they are mostly men!

We know there are a lot of barriers out there that prevent women taking the first steps – there are surveys that point to a lack of confidence, fear of other road users, knowledge of clothing and bike maintenance. We want to do something about this locally. We have made a decision to apply for a grant to develop a women’s cycling social group that we are confident can help redress the balance. It will be like the Belles on Bikes models that CTC have developed elsewhere. There is no guarantee that we will get the funds (although we think it meets the criteria) but this post sets out some of our ideas and we hope it may interest you or friends.

Who are we trying to attract?

Anyone! Although we are clear that we want to attract two types of rider to training and development sessions. Firstly, from informal feedback we think there are confident female riders out there who would like this kind of group but are wary of the challenges of setting it up. These will be our ‘ambassadors’ – promoting the group, helping to lead rides and recruiting friends. Secondly, that there are potential riders out there who would benefit from skills development. It may be that they have thought about riding but that it has been a long time since riding a bike, and they don’t quite know where to start. We can also work with other adult cycle trainers if the times don’t quite work out and let people know about other adult sessions in Calderdale.

What is the plan?

We will produce publicity which we will aim to use in a variety of places – the NHS, Calderdale Council, major employers, schools as well as using our established relationships with cycle clubs, shops and a variety of other contacts. Social media is an excellent way of getting the message out there, and we will mobilise our members and persuade others to share, like and tweet links to the programme.

We will arrange around 4 monthly sessions at the track at Brooksbank School. These sessions will be led by a British Cycling coach and look at the kind of skills that are needed on the road and managing a group.This will allow us a safe off road space to look at skills, let people get to know each other in a safe environment and begin to think about the types of on road routes people might want to tackle. Away from the track we will offer training for ‘ambassadors’ that covers being a ride leader. We will arrange for bike maintenance training – focussing on fit; basic and roadside maintenance and safety checks. We have volunteers who will work with our ‘ambassadors’ to try out routes, and offer practical tips.

We want to use part of the grant to get three or four loan bikes, which would be available for up to one month at a time, to encourage new members and those on low incomes to try cycling if they don’t have access to a bike.

We have a lot of experienced riders in our club who can help. We can offer routes across Calderdale from easy to challenging, and of course we know all the best cafe stops! We have organised events for many years, run cycle leadership training for our ride leaders, and can contribute back office support in the shape of building a social media presence, developing web pages, building email lists and we have good relationships with a lot of cycle clubs and shops across Calderdale. We are sure this support will provide practical help to start up a group.

What about after the grant comes to an end?

Experiences from elsewhere suggests that groups like this have taken on a life of their own – the Glasgow Bike Belles was set up in 2012 using this approach and is still going strong today. Groups have sprung up elsewhere in Scotland, and closer to home in York. We hope that once the group is established, it will stay in the Calderdale CTC family, and that riders will participate in our other events – but that is up to the group to decide. If it is separate and successful we will be happy, as it means even more people enjoying cycling in Calderdale.

If you really want to dig into it, here is more information about Scotland Belles on Bikes Evaluation  (page 52). This is a work in progress for us – if you have better ideas, want to get involved or know people who you think would benefit then please get in touch, either by email or by commenting in our Facebook Group.