The results of the survey so far are below. Want to make your voice heard too? Answer this super short 6 question survey.
Who’s responded so far?
Mostly women responded with a handful of men giving their views too, and a wide range of roles within the cycling community have given their views including:
- Race organisers
- Women considering racing
- Women considering cycling
- A women’s team owner & sponsor
- A disability cyclist
- A coach & commissaire
What types of cycling do they do?
66% said they cycled as a form of transport, with almost the same amount cycling for leisure. Around a third were involved in cycling as a sport.
There’s a good mix of types of cycling they do with road being the most popular among respondents, but lots also interested in other types of cycling such as mountain biking, track cycling and time trialling:
The problems raised by respondents can be grouped into 6 main themes with some additional miscellaneous issues such as “Fitting utility cycling around child care /drop offs”. The main themes are:
- Infrastructure, Fear of Traffic & Driver Behaviour
- Media, Image, Stereotypes, Sexism, & Culture
- Shops, Equipment, Clothes & Facilities
- Skills & Confidence
Some examples of what they said…
- Same as men’s – lack of infrastructure
- Poor infrastructure. Cycle paths not joined up, not going where I want to go.
- Unless you are fearless and don’t have a family dependent on you to stay alive, it’s a risky thing to do.
- Traffic, fear of the roads, aggressive drivers, paths with poor lighting, roads not suitable for cycling with
- There’s too much intimidation from drivers – especially female drivers weirdly, it’s an awful feeling being punishment passed, let alone car doored or hit. (I’ve had all of these).
- Women worried about sharing road with cars, being hit, and safety. Not knowing which streets are safer for bikes, not knowing the “bike route” to get to places.
- Buses and HGVs are terrifying!
- Aggression/carelessness from car drivers making cycling on the roads scary
- Clubs tend to be male dominated and hard to see that they need to be different to attract women
- Generally with a club, you’re expected to have these (bike maintenance) skills already
- Clubs and events geared towards male cyclists
- Lack of women riding regularly in clubs
- As a small club of about 60 members we only have two female full members and two 2nd claim members who race for other teams. The club originated from a racing team and there is still a strong emphasis on racing and therefore our members are mainly strong experienced riders. This I feel intimidates women, and some men, to consider us as a club even though we actively welcome and try and accomodate women into our club. As a racing club we are finding that any women racers with ability are being cherry picked by teams and not representing the club and therefore not racing/riding in the club colours to promote us as an option to other interested women.
- Structure of many traditional cycling clubs that are not supportive of women entering the sport, one of the reasons there are so many women’s teams.
- In terms of clubs it’s hard to find people to help you get up to the standard needed to out on most club rides, even “beginner” rides can be 30-40 miles at a decent pace, it’s taken a me a long time to get to that level.
- Numbers of competitors still low
- Lack of entries for women’s races, lack of support by women
- Lack of progression routes. Women’s rides often easy, not so much next step up, although breeze challenge rides a good step this direction.
- Skills and experience gap to transition from casual rider to racer, though this is being addressed (Racing Chance and others), lack of support or no support from BC to bridge that gap (same applies to men’s racing as well TBH)
- Few teams offering genuine opportunities for rider development.
- It is quite intimidating from the outset to get involved in women’s cycle races. It seems very technical sometimes and there seems to be unwritten rules of conduct that apply to cycle racing that are quit daunting for newcomers to the sport.
- Cost of getting started
- Lack of promoted events
- Not enough races for 1st cats (as a coach and team manager we have to chase races all over the country to support our 1st and elite riders, this is expensive)
- More events for women to attend/race at. Although there is somewhat of a chicken and egg situation as organisers won’t put on events that they believe won’t get enough entries, which they don’t because there aren’t events for women to know about
- Race organisers don’t promote their races very well and then when they get low numbers they post messages that sound threatening
- Races are not always well publicised by organiser, and then the women’s races cost the same amount as the men’s for a shorter race
- No pyramid – so no real regional races for E,1st, good 2nd cat women – so jump to next level for good 2nd/1st cats is straight to racing against World champs and Olympic champs at national level, this hampers development opportunities.
- Women forced to cycle inferior/shorter routes to male counterparts
- Some races still don’t have equal prize money, even at grass roots level
- Sponsorship gap between top women’s domestic teams and men’s teams is massive
- No minimum wage for female pros
- Poor coverage of women’s races
Media, Image, Stereotypes, Sexism & Culture:
- Lack of coverage of sport, role models
- Culture of “you have to fix your own bike and be super-fit and super-strong and super-aggressive” among some male cyclists
- Different women have different goals- not everyone wants to be competitive and this should be supported.
- Cycling is seen in the UK as white, middle class, male and macho
- Stereotypical nature that women don’t race or ride bikes
- When I lead a ride I get some men making out they can do a better job, making jokes about speed, other comments my body size. Highjacking my ride. Certain Men always take over
- Not seen as mainstream or equal to men’s
- Poor coverage of women’s races
- Poor coverage of female events
- Not all, but some ladies (myself included) always put everything else first. If there are jobs to be done, I always do them first before even thinking about getting out. This means sometimes the cycling doesn’t get done 😦
Shops, Equipment, Clothes & Facilities:
- Lack of decent colourful prints for clothing! Lack of decent colours for cyclocross cycles (just done loads of research and they are mostly black, grey, covered in ugly text). I’m hoping a green Felt F85X might do as a replacement tourer for me. I suspect there are quite a few men who don’t like the choice of colours – not sure it’s necessarily woman thing. Problems – I still wear a lot of trousers as I get around by bike so my clothing wardrobe feels limited on occasions. I do cycle in skirts but it’s not so elegant.
- Cycle shops rarely stock a wide range of women’s bikes and clothes
- Not a great choice of clothing
- Cycle clothing don’t cater for curvy girls
- Finding the right bike for them, and at a shop where they feel comfortable and not patronized. Being able to ride somewhere and still turn up looking professional (if work) or nice (if going on date, to coffee shop, out with friends, etc) and not being sweaty and with helmet hair.
- A secure but easy to access place to store a bike.
- Lack of facilities with employers – e.g. showers, lockers etc…
- Feel like they need to invest in a lot of kit just to try it, whereas running for example is more accessible.
Skills & Confidence:
- Lack of confidence in most women
- Fear of mechanical problems
- Not good at route finding, worried about getting lost
- Worried about not having the bike maintenance skills required to go out riding
Many suggestions were very general and high level such as skills courses, better infrastructure, more action against drivers, more women’s races, wider variety of women’s clothes and women staff in bike shops, “it needs support from the National Governing Body” and better coverage of women’s races but there were some more specific suggestions too including:
- Lobbying for better infrastructure inc a nice huge joined-up network of bike lanes separate from motor traffic, so that the slow, ill and timid get to cycle in safety and convenience. Then it won’t just be for the super-fit and confident any more. (There’s some info on campaigning in this post here)
- Letting women contribute to cycle campaigning
- Signage when on tricky stretches reminding drivers there could be a cyclist ahead. Camera or other enforcement of advance stop lines
- I have also recently asked our two full women members to try and recruit other women at time-trials and races which I’m hopeful will increase interest as well as encourage them to get more involved with the club as female ambassadors for us.
- BC to work with clubs to help make them more female friendly and so increase the numbers of women entering the sport. (There are some suggestions for clubs in this post here)
- Clubs focus on female potential members.
- The women in my club arrange their own rides alongside club rides, more accessible and less intimidating in terms of pace.
- Clubs to put on developmental rides e.g 20 miles in an evening followed by a social coffee or similar with other women who aren’t all speed demons (although it’d be nice if they came too)
- What worked for me: Joining a cycling club. Putting on my own rides for the club. Arranging to ride with friends.
- We should encourage each other as a community and be patient with newcomers, we will learn fast but remember that we all need to make a few mistakes in the beginning but we will get there in the end with the help of more experienced people in the field.
- Guide to promoting a women’s race. (There’s a post on this here)
- Get people to ask their cycling clubs to have equal prize money.
- Creating a group of influencers in smallish areas that will ensure women get to events and help to persuade organisers that it is worth putting on the event. (There’s a post on creating a local women’s cycling community here)
- More introductory sessions for beginners on race circuits so we can learn the basics of riding in groups, etiquette, technical skills and handling etc
- BC to support the promotion of women’s road races on challenging courses to encourage riders away from crits
- Continue to build numbers but link introducing new rider to skills development, promoting train and race days, where riders develop skills in the morning and then race in the afternoon
- Events like the Tour series treating women’s race as an equal event to the men’s race, thus ensuring equal TV time and so bringing in sponsorship.
- BC and race organisers managing a calendar to ensure fewer clashes, currently teams and riders sometimes get the blame from orgaisers for not riding their race, this is not the team/riders fault as races go on the calendar late when other races have already be planned into schedule or are on at stupid times – 5.30pm, most women who race have jobs and limited holiday time, most of which is given to the sport).
- Formalised planning for race organisers, deadlines to get races on the National A calendar (as the UK example) and BC need to involve themselves more proactively to reduce calendar clashes and get organisers talking to each other to avoid damaging each other’s events (also true at the 3/4 level). Great to have more races but no good if theres nothing for a month then all the local circuits have a crit on a Saturday morning followed by another month of nothing).
- Tell race organisers if we are unhappy with the time or price, otherwise they’ll never know it’s a problem
- Lobby employers to provide suitable facilities, especially larger employers like councils, colleges etc…
- Disability cycling consultation
- Don’t make every female garment pink – the majority of us grew out of the Barbie stage years ago!
- A mentoring scheme would be helpful where someone already jnvolved in the sport and preferably in the local area would provide help, support and advice for newcomers so some of those initial fears and anxieties can be resolved before they prevent progression in the sport.
- Just generally raising the profile of all types of women’s cycling. Not just road racing but mountain biking, touring (like that Clare Balding programme), and general leisure stuff that is accessible by all.
How can we help people who are already trying to solve these problems?
Some general points raised:
- Lead more women’s rides
- Help to promote women’s events
- Join existing campaign groups to lobby the government for better infrastructure
- Encourage new women riders/racers
- If we can afford to sponsor / help fund a women’s event/team then do so
- Help a race organiser to organise and run a women’s event. (There’s a post here on helping women’s cycling associations)
- Enter races in advance to show the organiser it’s worth putting the race on
- Ride/race regularly, talk about it and share photos of you and others riding/racing to inspire & encourage others
Some of these have been expanded on in separate posts here.
What have you done, or have seen being done, that seems to be working? If you have some ideas or want to share what’s worked for you then fill in the survey or get in touch. Or if you’re thinking “what’s the point?” then read this – sharing ideas is working! 🙂