On 22nd March eight ladies gathered at Hatch Warren Community Centre for the launch of ‘Breezingstoke’ – the Breeze Network in Basingstoke, Hampshire. The aim is quite simply to get more women cycling more often, in a way that suits them.
There are lots of reasons given for not getting on a bike, but these ladies found so many reasons to do it, that the ride and the next one were over-subscribed in a couple of days.
As the target group for this ride was mums with young children, for some of them it had been the offer of two hours free childcare provision that swung it. But it also appeared more about a collective will to take the opportunity presented.
They hadn’t seen their bikes in quite some time, most of them. It was the first time one had left her child, another had not been on a bicycle for seventeen years, and one nearly went home in trepidation before we set out. But once we set off it wasn’t long before the ladies were comparing notes.
As we cycled through parks out of the town all on fairly new and well maintained shared cycle paths, it was clear that their eyes had been opened on several fronts, but most obviously that they were taking personal responsibility for not having done this themselves before – and began working out ways of being more active and making it part of their routines in future.
The ladies came back after an hour, some knackered, but all buzzing from the experience and asking ‘when’s the next one’.
So yes, the infrastructure in Basingstoke is not amazing for cycling, it was not built for it, and you could write a book (one has actually been done) about dead end and uneven cycle paths.
But let’s say three things;
- one, there are some paths completely off road like this one, which are plenty long enough for ‘starter’ rides;
- two, once confidence is built up then, for most people, there are quieter roads for commuting and generally getting about avoiding heavy traffic;
- three, urban Basingstoke is not a big place. Once fitness and cycle confidence increases enough for you to cycle out of Basingstoke, the abundant lanes and minor roads of Hampshire are great for those who want to take it further and there are local club rides to join and cycling events to enter as targets to keep the motivation up.
A recent study concluded that “Substantial increases in bicycling require an integrated package of many different, complementary interventions, including infrastructure provision and pro-bicycle programs, supportive land use planning, and restrictions on car use.” It’s also generally accepted that one of the best things for cycle safety is more people on bikes.
So we’ve got a local ‘pro-bicycle’ programme up and running, and if the recent All Party Cycling Group activity and Times Campaign is anything to go by, there seems to be a fair amount of political will out there at national level looking at the rest. There is also evidence of some local improvement already, and some more investment on the way in infrastructure and cycling programmes county-wide.
So while it’s undoubtedly important, don’t just let’s look at the reasons not to, get on it and give it a go. These ladies have. And loved it.
If you’re a woman looking to get on a bike, check out www.breezebikerides.com for organised, safe, rides led by a trained female ride leader. If you’re in the Basingstoke area, keep track of us on www.facebook.com/breezingstoke and www.twitter.com/breezingstoke or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Osborne, who cycled on the launch ride, said: “Today gave me a lot of confidence that I can get on a bike again and that there are places I can ride in Basingstoke that don’t need to involve cycling on roads, while I build up my confidence. I am now planning to buy my own bike, just because I had such a great time today!”
Ruth Crawford, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine
Ruth Crawford lives in Basingstoke in Hampshire, cycles for fun, functionality, and fitness, and is a trained British Cycling ride leader. She has also recently launched her own business, 2Si Plus LLP, which has the underlying aim of getting more people active more often.
Image credit: Clive Copeland
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