Tuesday 8th March 2022, is International Women’s Day (IWD), celebrating the achievements of women, their independence and what they have achieved as well as promoting gender equality. At ecobirmingham we are very proud to have a very strong team predominantly women doing great work helping Birmingham to become a greener place to live & inspiring people to live more sustainably. Jackie, leading on our power to grow project, Anne inspiring children through our outdoor education program including forest school sessions and mini-craftivists workshops for school & community groups. Esther and Lisa leading our cycling projects encouraging people to explore Brum By Bike tackling climate change one pedal at a time, and keeping our projects going is newest team member Fundraising and Projects Assistant, Tori.
This IWD we especially want to highlight the importance of the bicycle, not only for the future of the planet but for the strong connections between riding a bike and women’s empowerment. The bicycle has been a tool of liberation and freedom, empowering women all over the world to break bias’s.
Today we are seeing more and more women enjoying life by bike and all the benefits that come along with it, whether that be as a means of transport, for exercise, health and wellbeing, freedom or a way to meet new people. Although it is a great time for women in the world of bikes at the moment and the cycling industry is booming in the UK post covid there is still a lot of work to be done to achieve equality in cycling. Research has shown that women are less than half as likely to cycle compared to men, professional female cyclists are constantly fighting for fair pay and equal balance in media coverage. The stereotypical image of a cyclist being a middle aged man on a road bike wearing lycra needs to go!
At Ecobirmingham we truly believe cycling can change your life, this March we are celebrating women, girls, non-binary and female identifying people in cycling and their achievements. Breaking stereotypes and barriers in cycling and showing the world that cycling is for everyone!
We have put together a list of people doing some fantastic stuff in the cycling world, challenging bias’s and taking action for gender equality, breaking the stereotypes and social expectations. Follow the links below to find out more:
Jenny Graham – Fastest woman to cycle around the world unsupported, all round badass Scottish endurance cyclist and host on GCN presenter. Follow her on instagram @jennygrahamis_
Aneela McKenna – A Scottish Asian rider with Pakistani heritage, trailblazer and a pioneer in the world of mountain biking. She is Chair of British Cycling’s D&I Advisory Group, partner & MTB guide/coach of @gowherescotlandmtb and Founder of Mòr Diversity.
Ayesha McGowan – Making history as the first African-American female professional cyclist for @livracingxstrawt and advocate for better representation for “Black and Indigenous people of colour. (BIPOC) in the bike industry. She rides for ‘The Black Foxes’ cycling team, an international collective of unapologetically Black cyclists – a group brought together by a love of the outdoors and a mission to welcome more Black people into outdoor spaces. Follow her on instagram @ayesuppose
Sarah Berry – Joyful travel campaigner inspiring a new generation of everyday cyclists through her blog ‘Diary of a New Cyclist’ and one of Cyling UK’s #100WomenInCycling 2021. She is host of @NewRoadRage and trustee of @livingstreets
Philippa York – A Scottish journalist and former professional road cyclist. Philippa is one of Britain’s most successful cyclists and the first to be publicly transgender. While living as Robert Millar, she won individual stages of the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia. Philippa’s voice and visibility are helping to change attitudes towards gender and sexuality in cycling for the better. Watch this video where Pippa chats to Matt from Sigma Sports telling stories from her heyday in the peloton and discusses the inclusion of transgender athletes.
Below the ecobirmingham cycling team share their cycling stories and tell us what cycling means to them:
Esther – Cycling Projects Coordinator
I’m Esther a 40-year-old mum of two and I love exploring Birmingham by bike. When my daughter was 4 and had learned to ride her first pedal bike, I hopped on my bike to keep up with her. Since then we have cycled thousands of miles together always looking for fun days out by bike, if necessary, we use the train to help us get home at the end of the day. We learned traffic free ways to traverse the city and as our ability evolved, we took our adventures further afield including riding the Devon Coast to Coast, Hadrian’s Cycle Way and the South half of Lon Las Cymru. When I became pregnant with my son, I didn’t let that stop me riding. Now we all ride as a family with my son in a trailer, it’s great for the childminder drop off and shopping as well as heading out to the country lanes for some lovely views.
I ride because it makes me feel happy, free and full of childlike joy. I’m not relying on anyone else to travel about, it’s just me and my bike working together. As a teenager I worked out that exercise is a key to keep my mental health stable. Working and having a family doesn’t give a lot of spare time but using my travel as my workout it’s easy. Birmingham is a gorgeous city if you don’t drive around in a car, I get to see lots of lovely wildlife on my way to work including Kingfishers and Muntjac deer. I like to see the seasons and light change throughout the year, something you don’t experience when sat in a car. It’s these small things that help keep me smiling. The fact that I’m not contributing to the air pollution or congestion in the city is a bonus.
To someone new to cycling I would say come and join a group ride, enjoy meeting others, a good cafe stop and exploring Birmingham from a different perspective. You may find yourself falling in love with Birmingham and cycling.
Lisa – Cycling Projects Assistant
From a young age I have been having fun riding bikes and trying tricks which more often than not resulted in bumps and bruises. As I got older my bike was only used during in the summer months and the occasional day trip. As a kid my bike was my permanent companion. Cycling gives you a sense of freedom and happiness that you can only get from riding a bike, these feelings came rushing back when my husband and I want on a biking trip in Hawaii. We got kitted up with gear and a downhill bike watched the sunrise from the top of a volcano before biking down to the beach. The adrenaline was running high and I was instantly hooked, I felt like a kid again and this was the beginning of my adult bike journey. From exploring Brum by bike, discovering amazing green spaces and long rides along the canal it wasn’t long before I started to commute by bike. We ditched our family car in 2017, I use the bike for day to day travel, shopping trips and fun days out, sometimes with the assistance of trains spending the week looking forward to weekend adventures by bike. I love my gravel bike, the freedom it gives me to enjoy every ride! Have fun on rougher terrain and big days in the saddle chasing awesome views on and off road.
The best part of my cycling journey is the amazing people I’ve met along the way, the awesome adventures we’ve had and making memories that will last forever. Seeing Birmingham from a bike, having fun on two wheels, sharing the ride with others, awesome cake stops, post ride beers, organising a group ride and seeing the smiles on people’s faces is what it’s all about for me.
Anyone new to cycling or thinking it isn’t for them I’d urge to just give it a try. It’s hard to describe but once you’ve felt it you’ll understand. I promise you wont regret it, you might get a sore bum but you’ll get where your going with a smile on your face!
Feeling inspired to explore Brum By Bike? There are some fantastic people in Birmingham doing amazing things to make cycling more accessible and empower women through bikes, click the links below and get involved!
Sähëlï Cycling Club – Pioneering women’s cycling in Birmingham since 2006, they have taught over 800 women how to ride a bike for the first time from 14+ to their most senior rider who was 68 years old. They offer womens cycling activities in Ward End, Handsworth and Calthorpe Park.
Sarah & Mary – The faces behind The Bicycle Adventure Club – A community for folks who love exploring, adventure and travelling by bicycle. They wanted to spend more time exploring and having adventures. This evolved into sharing their adventures via a Blog and YouTube Channel, encouraging others to get out and have adventures of their own as well as sharing their skills/advice and organising group rides. There are no expectations being part of this group, distance or speed doesn’t matter, you can wear what you like, take lots of lovely pictures and just have an adventure. Check them out and get involved HERE.
Ruth – A Birmingham based cycling enthusiast and advocate as a cycling family trying to minimise their impact on planet one pedal at a time. Definatly worth following their cycling journey and everyday adventures on social media. HERE.
Alisha Kiselman – Inspiring women and her community to ride she is one of the ride leaders from ACP Community Cycling Group in Sparkbrook. We recently joined one of her weekly led rides out to Earlswood Lakes, recommended if you’re looking for fun times by bike, a relaxed chatty ride where you don’t stop smiling from start to finish.
Cat Watson – Birmingham based cyclist working as project officer for Sustrans, promoting walking and cycling across the midlands she is also on the Brum Bike Polo team. A very inclusive mixed cycling group advocating for fun on two wheels. Join them every Wednesday in Cotteridge Park, find more info on instagram @brumbikepolo
Breeze Rides – These are women-only bike rides led by women through British Cycling. Breeze offers fun, free bike rides for women of all abilities helping women build their confidence across the UK. In Birmingham we have quite a lot on offer, find a group of amazing women to ride with on the Lets Ride website or visit the Facebook page for more info.
Sam Sahdra – Ride Leader at Handsworth Community Cycling Club, she is a bundle of joy giving her time to get more people on bikes. She teaches Learn to Ride sessions for women and children as well as building a fun active cycling club to bring a sense of unity through regular led rides for all abilities.