By Emily Cherry, CEO, The Bikeability Trust
This piece first appeared in the September edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here
With the Lionesses roaring to victory in the Women’s Euros, all eyes are on women’s sport. England’s triumph at a major tournament will inspire millions of girls to head to the park with two jumpers and a ball, so they can play just like their new heroes.
England’s win has caused an explosion of pride in women’s football that I hope will ripple into the cycling world. Now it is our duty to give girls everywhere the opportunities to take part in more sport – whether that’s on the field or on wheels.
This is not just about inspiring girls to become the next Dame Sarah Storey, Dame Laura Kenny or Charlotte Worthington. It’s about giving a mum the confidence to do the school run on a cargo bike, or a teenage girl the self-belief to don her helmet and cycle to college.
According to Women in Sport’s research, safety concerns and lack of confidence are two of the biggest challenges faced by women who want to cycle more. The right training could go a long way to help women begin cycling more often.
At Bikeability we know how important it is to feel comfortable and confident when cycling, especially on our modern roads. That’s why it’s so important that girls are taught to ride at a young age, so they grow up to be competent and confident cyclists. By teaching girls the essential life skill of cycling when they’re young, we’re raising a generation who will be empowered to live more active lives and make greener transport choices.
We know how important parents are in inspiring their children to cycle. Parents who do not cycle are less likely to be comfortable with their children doing so, even if they have completed Bikeability training. That’s why we’ve developed Bikeability Family, a bespoke training session with one of our expert instructors, which helps families start their cycling journey.
By teaching girls to cycle in school and giving parents the tools they need to support their children’s cycling journey, Bikeability is helping girls across England get cycling. But there is so much more to be done. By 2025 it is our aim to offer every child cycle training, to help meet the Government’s ambitions set out in Gear Change. To do that, we’re investing millions in removing the barriers to cycling.
Almost a third of our £1.6 million Widening Participation Fund is being invested in projects that empower women and girls to cycle more. In Gravesend, teenage girls will discover cycling through an 18-week programme which also tackles self-esteem, body image and negative attitudes to physical activity. In Birmingham, girls will become local cycling champions to inspire their peers and increase cycling in the local community.
We’re also funding support for the Bikeability industry, so our training providers can learn how to be even more inclusive for girls and women. Using money from our Widening Participation Fund, Access Sport is running workshops across the country that help our providers better understand the barriers to cycling women face, and how to remove them.