Dame Sarah Storey has called on national and local leaders to “build bike lanes fit for everyone, not just the brave” in order to fully unleash the enormous potential for growth in women’s cycling.
Storey was speaking during British Cycling’s ‘One in a Million’ campaign, which is backed by a host of celebrities as well as current and former riders, and aims to narrow the gender gap in cycling and propel the organisation towards its target to get one million more women on bikes by 2020.
Research from British Cycling has shown that if the barriers which typically prevent women from riding were removed, the true potential to grow women’s cycling would equate to almost 10 million women cycling more frequently.
The 14-time Paralympic gold medallist, and British Cycling Policy Advocate, said:
“We know that there is huge potential for women in particular to make more everyday journeys – especially commuter trips – by bike. Despite women on average having a shorter commute than men, only a quarter of all cycle commuters are women, so we clearly have a lot of work to do.
“The reasons for this are quite clear: over two thirds of women believe that it is too dangerous for them to cycle on the roads, with most citing driver behaviour and inadequate cycle lanes and infrastructure as the main hazards deterring them.
“What these barriers also tell us is that painted, poor quality cycle lanes on the road simply won’t cut it. We have to stop creating cycle lanes that are too narrow, poorly maintained and disconnected from other routes.
“Above all this comes down to the allocation of space, and if we continue to squeeze the space available to people on bikes and foot they are more likely to have a negative experience. If anything, the current provision in many cases makes it even harder for us to enable new people to cycle, and offers very little incentive to those who would otherwise like to make more active travel choices.
“If we are to truly make people on bikes feel safer and reduce the potential for conflict between road users we need high-quality, fully-segregated routes in all towns and cities, built to clear and consistent design standards, and properly enforced 20mph speed limits on quieter streets. Anything less than this and cycling will continue to be confined to the brave.”
The number of people who cycle to work in Britain currently stands at 1.9%, though there are pockets of growth in certain areas such as London (3.2%) and the eastern region (4%) – which is largely driven by cycling’s popularity in Cambridge.
British Cycling continues to work with national and local leaders across Britain to improve conditions for people on bikes, with lower speed limits, ‘best-in-class’ infrastructure and revising the Highway Code all key aims of the Walking and Cycling Alliance – of which British Cycling is a member, along with Cycling UK, Sustrans, Living Streets, Bicycle Association and Ramblers.
This work takes place alongside the organisation’s enormously successful HSBC UK Breeze and HSBC UK Let’s Ride programmes, which provide vital support for women looking to get back on a bike, build up their confidence or learn to ride for the first time.
As the organisation closes in on its ambitious target, Storey is confident that the current momentum behind women’s cycling can be the catalyst for transformative change in communities around Britain.
“The success of Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ campaign shows that when we make change easy and attractive there are no barriers that we can’t overcome. Getting more women on bikes for everyday journeys is great for our health, our environment and the places we live and work, but we can only get there with strong leadership and sustained investment.”
British Cycling is urging women across the UK to join its ‘One in a Million’ campaign to help address the gender gap in cycling. For more information and practical tips about how to take to two wheels visit www.britishcycling.org.uk/womenscycling