We catch up with Alex Bright, the fun and enthusiastic national participation coordinator from Cycling Australia, who is responsible for coordinating and supporting grassroots participation projects for cycling and find out about the state of women’s cycling in this country.
Alex, what is happening in cycling for women in Australia at the moment?
While more women are getting out on the bike, there are still significantly less women riding than men. According to an ABS Report “Participation in Sport and Physical Recreation” (2011-12), women’s participation in cycling has risen by over 50% since 2005, almost double that of men. This same report has women’s participation in cycling at 35% as compared to men at 64%.
Cycling Australia conducted surveys into women’s cycling in November 2013: The top challenges identified to riding more were feeling unsafe on the road, lack of time and work commitments. Access to safe on road facilities (e.g. bike lanes), social/women’s riding groups, skill development opportunities and connecting with other women who ride at their ability level were identified as key areas that would assist women to ride more often.
The top five reasons women ride a bike were fitness, fun, health, socialisation and for the challenge. Interestingly, competition ranked 6th behind these five factors for female member survey respondents. In terms of riding behaviours, all respondents ride an average of three times per week. 52% of women who ride bikes in the community also indicated they wanted to be more confident riding on the road in traffic.
What are some of the current initiatives available to get more women on their bikes?
These findings allow us ensure we provide relevant programs and activities to meet the needs of all women who want to ride more confidently and competently; whether that be recreationally in the community or within the sport of cycling through membership to a cycling club to race or take part in cycle sports or other mass participation events.
Our major initiative following the findings is targeted at women riding recreationally in the community. Cycling Australia has developed the She Rides Program, an 8-10 week introductory riding program that is focused on fitness, development of skills and the creation of a social riding community of like-minded women. This program commenced over the Autumn-Winter period with successful pilot programs in NSW and QLD and has been expanded to 30 programs for the Spring period.
Programs for both road/traffic and off-road/mountain bike are available in locations across ACT, NSW, QLD, SA, VIC and WA for spring, with plans to expand further in Autumn 2015 to TAS and the NT as well as new locations in existing states.
What benefits do women get from getting involved in these initiatives?
Feedback from the Autumn-Winter 2015 pilot programs has been very positive! Women across all programs have achieved so much over the course of She Rides including learning skills, increased confidence, new friendships, improved fitness/health outcomes and opened up new and exciting riding opportunities. One of our participants even dropped 9kg during the program! Here are some other great stories:
Having not been on a bike for 50 years, I found the leaders very supportive and encouraging, especially on the hills! I now ride confidently at least 5 times a week and I am already looking at buying a better bike. My goal now is to ride in the 55km Spring Cycle Ride. I would encourage women of all ages to do a She Rides program, it doesn't matter if like me you have not ridden for years. You will learn all the skills you need on course and before you know it you will be back on the bike and enjoying the freedom cycling gives you. The support and encouragement I also got from the other ladies on the course was wonderful. She is now riding.
The timing of 'She Rides' was perfect for me! With a brand new bike, it had been 16yrs since I had last ridden. Riding solo does not interest me, and I am so happy to have found like-minded woman who are not into fast pace racing and want to just ride to explore, breath in the fresh air and be healthy, fit role models :)
I had been sometimes riding to work after having ridden bikes to commute since I learnt to ride when about 8 years of age. I wanted to motivate myself to do this more regularly and didn't have any other expectations. I found instead a wonderful group of interesting people and very inspirational and skilled teachers. I learnt so many new riding skills too and am now much more confident and comfortable riding to work. We are still going to get together regularly to do some rides which is fabulous.
Check out the She Rides website to find a program near you & get on your bike!
Want to read more about the benefits of riding, check out our article HERE