Putting women and cycling under the spotlight on International Women's Day

Today is International Women’s Day – a day to celebrate the achievements of women around the world and to reflect on the progress being made, as well as the work still to do in order to achieve gender equality.

Ahead of the big day, UK walking and cycling charity Sustrans published new research highlighting the need for equal gender representation in transport professions to help address the low numbers of women travelling actively in the UK.

According to the ‘Are we Nearly there yet?’ report, women tend to take shorter journeys around cities, using different modes of transport to men and are more likely to stop multiple times to balance child care, work and household responsibilities.

It also found that women are motivated by the physical and mental health benefits of travelling by bike or on foot but worries about personal safety, convenience and appearance can prevent them from cycling and walking.

We caught up with Kersten England, Chief Executive of Bradford Council, to talk about cycling and how the picture is starting to change in our region.

“I led the work to produce Yorkshire’s 10-year cycling strategy to get more people cycling more often. I want to see as many women as there are men on bikes, a 50/50 split. As former chief executive at City of York Council I worked in a city where that was the case but clearly it’s not the case everywhere, including in Bradford.

“There is more work to be done but we’re now seeing more and more women cycling here. That’s down to the work of many fantastic community groups and cycling clubs, as well as our status as a capital of cycling.

“Thanks to CityConnect, Bradford is home to the UK’s longest continuous segregated cycle route in the UK with the Cycle Superhighway linking two of Yorkshire’s major cities.”

“I have been an enthusiastic cyclist all my life. At the age of three I cycled down our village street on my tricycle and I was brought home by a concerned neighbour – it was my first taste of freedom.

“I had not read the American civil rights leader and feminist Susan B Anthony’s quote then but she captures my belief about the significance of women cycling perfectly:

'I think the bicycle has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world. I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a bike. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammelled womanhood.'

“I want to see more women cycling more often. Whether to work, for fun or leisure, with children, or competing at elite levels – cycling builds self-esteem, independence, confidence and it has real benefits.”

CityConnect is aimed at encouraging more people to travel more often by bike. It’s one of the many projects supporting improvements to sustainable and active travel delivered by West Yorkshire Combined Authority and funded by the Department for Transport’s Cycle City Ambition Grant.

As well as infrastructure improvements CityConnect provides free cycle training and maintenance courses, grants of up to £5,000 for Bike Friendly Businesses and the Bike Friendly Schools initiative.

[caption id="attachment_3190" align="alignleft" width="199"] Kersten England, Chief Executive of Bradford Council.[/caption]