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New charter hopes to encourage more women and girls to cycle in Bristol

By ellie pipe, Friday Oct 11, 2019

A new charter to encourage and support more women and girls to cycle has been hailed an opportunity to facilitate positive and lasting change.

“Cycling gave me the freedom I did not think I needed,” said Abiir Shirdoon, speaking at the launch event on Thursday, October 10.

An instructor with Life Cycle UK, Abiir seeks to inspire more people to get on their bikes and works with adults and children to teach road safety and help riders build up confidence.

Abiir Shirdoon is an instructor with Life Cycle UK and works to inspire others to cycle

Only 17 per cent of women cycle on a weekly basis in Bristol, according to a report by Sustrans, yet researchers found that 30 per cent who don’t currently ride would like to.

The CEO of Life Cycle UK, Poppy Brett, argues it is time to change the narrative around cycling in order to facilitate positive change and encourage more people to get on their bikes – and the new charter is the catalyst for this.

“We’re launching this charter because we want to raise the profile of cycling among women and encourage more women to give it a go.

“It offers a really affordable and healthy way to make local journeys in the city independently, yet women are put off cycling by lack of knowledge of good local cycle routes and concerns about safety.

“But we don’t think it has to be like this. Our experience is that women can be empowered to cycle, they just need the right information, knowledge and skills to make journeys by bike.”

The aim is to encourage and support more women and girls to cycle

The charter is a call to action for businesses and institutions to ensure women’s voices are listened to in planning infrastructure and their needs taken into account.

Explaining why the charter is aimed just at women, Poppy said that overcoming the barriers faced by women will in turn make cycling a more accessible and safer option for all groups.

“Women will help create a positive, visible impression that cycling is for all,” she said.

The premise is that if women are empowered to make everyday journey by bike, whole familes could start cycling too.

Siobhan Fitzgerald, a cyclist and partner at TLT, and Abiir Shirdoon sign the Bristol Women’s Cycling Charter

The launch of the cycling charter took place in TLT’s Redcliffe Street offices as the firm is an early adopter and supporter of the initiative.

Addressing the packed room, Megan Streb, interim head of partnerships at Sustrans, called it an exciting moment for the future of cycling.

“We know from our Bike Life Bristol report that the majority of women would like to cycle more,” said Megan.

“To create a city that really works for all it is essential to understand and address the barriers and needs of all genders.”

The launch of the charter took place at TLT’s offices on Thursday

She referred to research conducted with cyclists in London, which revealed that while most were confident to cycle on roads and in certain cycle lanes by themselves, the percentage who would be happy to go on the same routes with a child dramatically plummeted – this highlighted the need for more people to be involved in planning in order to make cycling a viable option for all.

Life Cycle UK is encouraging organisations and individuals across Bristol to sign up to the charter and is offering practical advice to support more women to ride.

The charter aims to share the joys of cycling and highlight positive role models, provide information, advice and practical support, call on organisations to take the needs of women into account, champion a cultural shift and speak out against any harassment or intimidation of cyclists.

Adding her support to the charter, Thangam Debboniare, MP for Bristol West, said: “I support the Bristol Women’s Cycling Charter and Life Cycle’s efforts to get more women in Bristol cycling.

“We need dedicated separate space for cyclists so everyone can feel safe cycling in our city”.

Poppy Brett, Siobhan Fitzgerald and Abiir Shirdoon with the Bristol Women’s Cycling Charter

To find out more and sign up to support the charter, visit www.lifecycleuk.org.uk/bristol-womens-cycling-charter

Read more: ‘My goal would be to get as many people as possible cycling’

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