Women and cycling – what is it to celebrate?

Cycling UK is celebrating a broad range of women in cycling – in this article, Claire, Newcycling’s co-founder and Secretary explains how it exemplifies the conflicting aims of Cycling UK.

“I feel very touched to feature in the 100 Women in Cycling, year 2017. And I’m indeed very thankful for the nomination and for Cycling UK to accept it.

I’d like to reflect on this recognition and what it means to me. As a woman and as a campaigner, not a “cyclist”. It is hard to explain that even though I cycle everyday, I spend time campaigning for more and better cycleways, I don’t see myself as a cyclist and I don’t like being labelled a cyclist either.

I know nothing about bicycles and how to fix them; I’m not interested in cycling clothes or bottom cream, I don’t follow cycling as a sport, not even le Tour de France. The only thing I like about the biggest free sporting event in the world is the idea of spending a day in the south of France, by a pretty countryside road, sipping Pastis with friends and enjoying the sunshine.

Like most of us, I move a lot – there aren’t many days in a year where I don’t go anywhere. Shopping, visiting friends and family, work, studies, So I cycle, walk and use public transport. Yet nobody calls me a walker or a public transport user… There is a long way to go in the UK to disassociate cycling from leisure/sport and link it to transport, a normal activity that everybody can do, if only the city streets could allow it.

That’s why I remain sceptical about putting all cycling women in the same bag – it shows diversity, yes, but what is the message we want to convey and what is the change we want to inspire? What I certainly don’t do, as one of the 100 women in cycling, is encourage women to cycle. The irony, I know but it’s true. My kind of cycling, getting from A to B in normal clothes, is not something that will happen without some radical changes in our urban landscape and the reallocation of space from cars to people. My friends, especially those with kids, wouldn’t dare cycle as part of their everyday activities in the current road conditions. Quite rightly, and so I don’t talk them into cycling. What I think is important, though, is to make our politicians and decision-makers experience how it is like to ride a bike in our cities. To understand the conflicts and the tensions and therefore why kids, a lot of women and also the elderly don’t cycle.

It is time for Cycling UK to campaign more clearly and loudly for everyday cycling. And also celebrate those women who campaign for change – maybe next year have a separate award category for activists, women engaged in political lobbying, who don’t clock many miles on a bike, but are working to make their cities, their neighbourhoods, their streets a better place for everybody.”