In March 2013, British Cycling launched an ambitious project – to encourage one million more women to get cycling by 2020. They recognised that this wouldn’t just mean putting on more events, but looking in greater depth at and addressing the opportunities and barriers women face.
British Cycling launched a series of programs, and now – 7 months in – the results are so far looking good. Over 100,000 women have taken part in one of their events, rides or initiatives, whether that’s social rides or sportives.
The Breeze initiative has been one of the biggest success stories. Breeze is a network of trained cycling Champions who run organised social rides for women who want to start or get back into cycling. With rides pitched at various levels, the friendly, personable and passionate Champions have welcomed over 23,000 women to the world of cycling. This is great work that needs shouting about.
If you’ve been out and about you may have taken part in or stumbled across one of the many SkyRide events that British Cycling have run in conjunction with their partners Sky. Giving everyone the chance to enjoy closed roads in city centres across the UK, these have proved exceedingly popular and over 1/3 of participants have been female – so that’s another 37,000 women.
Women and sportives
It’s not just beginners who are feeling the benefit of the work British Cycling are putting into this. There’s been a 7% increase in the number of women taking part in sportive events, and 2,000 more women have become members of British Cycling since March.
Professional riders have seen more opportunities to race too – 5 more events were added this year brings the total number of races in the National Series up to 10. Half of these were run in conjunction with events in the Men’s National Series and took place on the same day.
It’s all encapsulated in this eye-catching infographic, and the numbers speak for themselves.
It’s a great start, but there is still a long way to go. Happily, not only are British Cycling not resting on their laurels, they’re reviewing their progress, what’s working, what’s not and what still needs to be done while they go.
Their plans for the future are many. They include encouraging race organisers to put on more women’s races at all levels, to make racing more accessible, enjoyable and inclusive. British Cycling’s Cycle Sport team is also developing an information pack based on research and feedback which race organisers can use ensure their races are female-friendly.
There’s also the exciting news that next years Women’s Tour event, generally viewed as the women’s equivalent to the men’s Tour of Britain, has been awarded 2.1 status from the UCI. This puts in on equal footing with the men’s race, and only one step down from a World Cup event. It’s going to be an exciting event, and we plan to be there and give the women our full support!
The issue of safety on the road is a big one for everyone, and one that women in particular identify as a barrier to getting on their bike. British Cycling have committed to working with the UK government to ensure more work is done on this. We’ll be watching progress here with interest.
Coaching is another area up for development and a new women’s-only coaching project will see Go-Ride providing female-only coaching sessions for women and girls in the South East of the UK.
And finally Breeze, one of our favourite initiatives ever, will be more than doubling the number of rides they organise and run, so even more women have the chance to discover the benefits of cycling.
For too long women’s cycling has been a second-class-citizen to men’s cycling.
It’s great to see so much work being done to change this, and we want to make sure the momentum is kept up. Lets get more women cycling, more coverage for women’s racing, more support for professional teams, and more opportunities for women to ride.