By Anna Allatt BBC News
- 21 January 2018
The bicycle was once a symbol of women’s emancipation, with suffragettes taking to two wheels to spread their message of equal rights. But the latest figures show a big gender divide when it comes to cycling. Why?
About 50% fewer women than men cycle twice a week or more, according to walking and cycling charity Sustrans, and when it comes to cycling on the roads, the number drops again.
Commonly cited reasons for shunning the benefits of getting into the saddle include sexual harassment, fears about appearance and concerns about safety. So what can be done to get more women on their bikes and out on the road?
Tackling sexist attitudes among male road users would be a first step, says Leigh Campbell, who leads all-women cycling rides in Nottingham.
“Sometimes, when I’ve been out cycling on my own, I’ve had male drivers shout at me as they’re overtaking,” said the 45-year-old British Cycling Breeze Champion.
“I’ve been told to ‘read the Highway Code’ and ‘get off the road’. I’ve also been sworn at.
“I’ve even had ‘keep pedalling, nearly there’ – from a male cyclist. They wouldn’t have said it to another man, it’s so patronising and uncalled for.
“All I want to do is ride my bike and I don’t think I should have to put up with abuse from other – mainly male – road users, just because I’m a woman.”
What some men may see as harmless fun can be unnerving, frightening and confidence-draining.
Helen Pidd, a journalist who has written a book aimed at women cyclists and rides with an all-female club called Team Glow, has had her fair share of comments.