Throughout this week, we’ve been celebrating International Women’s Day by raising awareness of the issues faced by female cyclists in the UK on our instagram channel. If you haven’t already, check it out for a better understanding of women’s cycling in 2021.
The pandemic has encouraged many people to try new forms of exercise with Strava reporting a huge boost in cycling fuelled by women, but how do we secure the growth long-term? Well, first we need to address some of the biggest inequalities.
Our own small survey revealed many women shared the same concerns, from intimidation by other cyclists, feeling out-of-place or not fitting the mould of a cyclist, lack of confidence, knowledge of maintenance, the practicalities of cycling to work (arriving sweaty or having to choose between looking presentable or staying safe with a helmet) and, sadly, catcalling and harassment while riding.
In addition to practical and societal obstacles, 2019 figures from the Department for Transport showed 71% of women feel ‘it is too dangerous to cycle on the road’, with safety concerns remaining one of the most prominent barriers. All of the above combines to create an exclusionary culture where men make an average of 3 times more trips than women and cycle 4 times further in a year. In Scotland, only 3% of women cycled once a week or more. This needs to change.
But how? Supporting each other as individuals can go a long way, but the bigger problems need bigger answers. Ever written to your MP before? Well, now’s a good time to start. The government website suggests contacting your MP ‘to support a cause you feel strongly about’, so don’t feel like you can’t reach out to them. You can find your local MP’s contact details here: https://members.parliament.uk/members/Commons
We’ve written a short draft which you can copy, or inspire your own personal approach. We need to show the decision-makers that there’s a real public desire for better infrastructure, and that we’ve grown tired of our needs not being met. Your opinion matters, your needs deserve to be met, and your voice has huge power. Whether you get a good response or not, every letter and email fuels the conversation and proves that public appetite for fairer cycling is growing.
I am writing to you about the future of cycling in [write your town or constituency here]. Throughout the past year, the reduction in traffic has allowed myself and many others to enjoy the freedom of cycling without the usual safety concerns. Bicycle sales have been at an all-time high and the government Fix Your Bike scheme has also proved massively successful. But once the pandemic is over, I fear this increased interest will not be adequately supported.
Did you know that a 2019 Department for Transport survey reported that 66% of the UK population felt the roads weren’t safe enough to cycle on? I didn’t, and I was even more shocked to discover that 71% of women felt that way. It’s no wonder that the same report shows men made 3 times more trips by bike in a year and cycled 4 times further. While countless gendered issues play into this disparity, improvements in safety can make a huge difference for rider confidence and the uptake of cycling as a viable transport solution.
With cycling presenting such an opportunity for affordable, low-impact, zero-carbon transport, I strongly believe these barriers need to be addressed – especially those that disproportionately affect women, adding to the gender imbalance that sees female cyclists outnumbered 3:1 by men.
I would like to know what your plans are to improve the cycling infrastructure of [write your town or constituency here], and when we can look forward to more accessible cycling for all.
In 2020, the European Cyclists’ Federation reported European cities invested €1bn to create a further 1000km of cycling infrastructure. The demand is clearly there from a human perspective, so why can’t we follow in their tyre tracks? Even the quickest look over at Denmark or Holland shows how incredibly popular cycling can be when it is taken seriously.
The pandemic has shown many of us a better alternative to travel, saved miles by car and encouraged better relationships with our outdoor spaces, personal fitness and mental wellbeing, all things i’m sure you would agree we should protect and promote for many reasons. It would be fantastic if you could be one of the heroes creating a ‘new normal’ your constituents would enjoy and benefit from. I feel that proper support of more accessible, safer cycling would receive great support and be an excellent future-proofing measure.
Personally, environmentally, socially and economically, the promotion of cycling makes a lot of sense and holds a lot of opportunity. I would sincerely like to hear your position on the matter, and understand what plans are being implemented to create a better future for your constituents.
Thank you for your time, I look forward to hearing from you.
[Insert name here]