Almost half of UK women would like to take up cycling. Still, concerns about dangers on the road, personal safety and a lack of cycling infrastructure remain significant barriers, according to new research.
The research by Bott and Co solicitors revealed that 90% of women don’t own a bike, and of those that do have one, only 16% cycle every day and 18% once or more a week.
A further 49% would like to own a bike but are discouraged by worries over road safety and the risk of being injured, a lack of cycle lanes, and not wanting to ride alone.
The research also revealed how many long women had been out of the saddle. Almost a quarter (23%) hadn’t cycled for two years or more, and 10% ten years or longer. One in ten admitted to never having cycled.
In response to these shocking stats, Bott and Co , alongside Paralympic champion, Dame Sarah Storey, have launched a national campaign called She Can Ride to encourage more women to take up cycling and have designed an interactive web tool so budding female cyclists can find like-minded cycling groups and enjoy local rides together.
Although cycling has grown in popularity in the UK in recent years, a gender divide remains. Official statistics shows that in 2019 men made three times more cycle trips than women (24 trips compared to 8 trips), although, in 2020, this fell to twice as many.
When asked about their attitudes to cycling, 64% of women cited concerns about their personal safety due to cars and other people.
Almost two-thirds (62%) said they enjoyed cycling, but motorists made them anxious, while 22% thought more needed to be done to improve safety for cyclists.
Factors that prevent women from cycling more frequently include a shortage of cycle lanes, poor weather, a lack of winter daylight and doubts about their fitness.
Significantly, just a third of women (31%) and men (29%) believe that recent changes to the highway code will be helpful.
The new code includes recommendations for cyclists to take the centre of their lane where there are no separate cyclist facilities, supposedly to make them more visible.
But the Covid-19 pandemic has had a positive impact, with 33% of women and 32% of men taking advantage of the quieter roads during lockdown to start cycling.
And 26% of women and 24% of men said they had cycled more over the past two years due to safer roads.
David Bott, the senior partner at Bott and Co, said: ‘Although cycling has grown in popularity in recent years, we know there’s a gender gap and women cycle far less than men. Significant barriers remain for women who want to get into the saddle. The survey shows they have concerns about their personal safety and dangers on the road, whether caused by too much traffic, some motorists’ attitudes or a lack of cycling infrastructure.’
‘Women can feel far more vulnerable than men when they’re cycling, so it’s not surprising their participation rates are lower. This is why we’re launching our national campaign, and She Can Ride, to encourage more female cyclists.’
‘Our website features a Find a Club tool that will allow women to join other would-be female cyclists in their area so they can enjoy local rides together. Hopefully, this will help boost participation rates.’
One of the most decorated British athletes in history with 14 Paralympic gold medals, Dame Sarah Storey, is backing the campaign to get more women cycling. She said: ‘I love cycling and feel so fortunate to ride my bike every day, but I know not everyone has that confidence.’
‘While the number of people I wave to on my rides has risen sharply over the past decade, it’s still very noticeable that men are more likely to be riding, and if I pass groups, there are very few women on bikes.’
‘We must look to address the challenges from all angles and initiatives. Bott and Co’s cycling group finder tool will make a significant difference to those women who have said they’d love to ride more! I’m excited to be able to support this campaign and look forward to meeting new women of all levels of experience out on our bikes very soon.’
Read Dame Sarah’s top tips for any ladies thinking of getting into cycling here.