It is well-documented that more men cycle than women and confidence and skills are known barriers to women who want to cycle. Many women are worried about cycling on roads, where to cycle and what to do if something goes wrong. But more women have taken to two wheels since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic and we wanted to find a way to capture that momentum and keep women cycling as life returns to 'normal'.
We set up the Wheel Women project to break down the barriers that prevent them from cycling and give women the skills, knowledge and confidence to cycle more often. Inspired by the success of the This Girl Can campaign, we wanted to show that cycling is for everyone, not just the preserve of the 'MAMIL'. We also wanted to encourage women to cycle for utility trips as well as for leisure and fitness.
As a result of the pandemic and the enforced lockdowns, we found that many people are suffering from anxiety about attending activities with other people, and we wanted to provide a Covid safe way to enable women to enjoy cycling together.
We teamed up with a local cycle training business, Wheel Education, to run short, beginner bike rides from easily accessible locations across the Tees Valley. We learnt from previous projects that weekday activities are difficult for many women to attend due to work, family and childcare commitments, so we offered rides at a variety of times that suit women's lifestyles, including weekdays, weekends and evenings.
We collaborated with two local influencers on social media to invite them to participate in the bike rides, maintenance sessions and one-to-one training sessions. This was a new experience for us and it was a very successful way to introduce the campaign to local women who might not consider cycling themselves.
The Sustrans Hub in Stockon-on-Tees provides free cycle maintenance lessons, which we promoted through the campaign. We also increased awareness of our Bike Buddy scheme, which provides one-to-one route planning and cycle training for people wishing to cycle on a particular journey, for example, to work and school.
The outcome was that over 100 women participated in the Wheel Women bike rides, most of whom are new to cycling. Almost 300 women joined the Wheel Women Facebook group and thousands more have visited the website to learn about cycling in the Tees Valley. The programme has been shortlisted for a Modeshift National Sustainable Travel Award 2021 for Excellence in Cycling.
We learnt that listening is key. Finding out what people's concerns, worries and barriers are gives you remit to help them overcome them. If you don't know what the problem is, you can't fix it.
Read around the issue. Is there existing research that backs up your theory? What other projects or programmes can you learn from? We found the This Girl Can project very inspiring and used our own 'real people, real journeys' theme to bring the campaign to life.
Find others with similar aims and collaborate to achieve a shared objective or objectives. Working as a team is far more productive than operating in silos.
Celebrate your successes! Set your benchmarks and document your activities so that you know what has worked and what hasn't. Review your activities as you go along so you can adjust your programme to work best for you.
Members joining the Wheel Women Facebook Group.
Engagement on social media.