Despite the gold medal winning success of British female cyclists in Beijing, research commissioned by Cycling England reveals that many women are missing out on the benefits of regular cycling due to concerns about post-cycling appearance.
Men are still three times more likely to cycle than women. Today’s poll suggests that the perceived effect of cycling on appearance, together with a lack of confidence in cycling on the road, is behind this gender imbalance. Two thirds (64%) of women say they never cycle and just 2% cycle every day.
Women are three times more likely to cycle indoors on an exercise bike (14%) than to work (4%). When it comes to cycling to work, it seems that fear of being anything less than well groomed in front of colleagues is an off-putting factor. Among 18-34 year old women:
* 58% wouldn’t want to arrive at work sweaty
* 50% would be worried about getting wet in the rain
* 38% wouldn’t want to have to carry a change of clothes
* 38% say there is nowhere to shower at work
* 27% would be concerned about ‘helmet hair’
* 19% wouldn’t want colleagues to see them without make-up or stepping out of the office shower
Although concerns about appearance are most prevalent in the 18-34 age group, they are replicated across women of all ages.
Safety concerns are also a factor: 53% of women say that safety is an issue and 42% say they lack the confidence and skills to cycle on the road. When asked what would make them feel more reassured about cycling on the roads, a quarter (26%) would consider cycling if there were shower facilities to freshen up at work and 16% would be more likely to cycle if they had received proper cycle training to equip them with skills and confidence.
Phillip Darnton, Chairman of Cycling England, said: ’It’s very worrying that we have such a gender imbalance when it comes to cycling in this country. Women, and in particular mums, have a key role to play in encouraging greater take up of cycling in general – so it’s vital we get more women on their bikes. This research highlights some of the perceived barriers that prevent more women cycling, such as showers in the workplace. Our 17 cycling towns and cycling city, Bristol, will be working hard to make cycling more appealing to everyone’.
‘Concern about safety is understandable but we need to remember that on-road accidents are in long term decline. Cycle training is key to getting more people cycling more safely, more often. Bikeability - the new cycling proficiency scheme for the 21st century - is predominantly marketed to children but I would urge anyone keen to develop their cycling proficiency to take up this training.’
When it comes to female cycling, the UK is behind mainland Europe where male and female cycling rates are broadly equal. A number of initiatives are now in place to inspire and encourage more women and girls to take up cycling. Exeter-based Emma Osborne, a Sustrans Bike It Officer, has run a successful project called Beauty and the Bike to show teenage girls that cycling has a key role to play in looking and feeling good.
Emma Osborne said: ‘Cycling from A to B doesn’t have to mean you arrive dishevelled at your destination. In fact cycling is one of the best things you can do to promote health and wellbeing. Cycling doesn’t have to be a race – you can take it at your own pace without having to work up a sweat or don Lycra cycling wear.’
‘Women who cycle regularly look and feel great, and with increasing numbers of celebrity female cyclists looking chic on a bike, we hope more women will feel inspired to take to their bike and feel the benefits of choosing to travel in an active way.’
Original article here