Women and cycling

This article was published in 2016, in Newsletter 125.

Catherine, Head Mechanic for Outspoken and Roxanne, our Campaign Officer
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International Women’s Day (8 March) was celebrated in Cambridge with a weekend Women of the World (WOW) Festival. Together with Outspoken we participated in the festival to celebrate the relationship between women and cycling in Cambridge and to help empower women to make their cycling experience even better.

Our stall was in the Market Square where Roxanne, our Campaign Officer, and Catherine, Head Mechanic for Outspoken, had many great conversations with local women (and some men) about their cycling experience, what was good about it and how it could be improved.

Three puncture-repair demonstrations were provided by Catherine which were well attended and appreciated by participants, a few of whom mentioned that simple maintenance issues had prevented them from cycling in the past.

Roxanne also presented a ten-minute ‘WOW bite’ about the relationship between women and cycling in Cambridge. The presentation briefly explored the early days of female students in Cambridge where, along with global movements, the bicycle became a symbol of their changing world. Roxanne also discussed the present day where Cambridge leads the rest of the UK with very high rates of women cycling.

Key facts about women and cycling in Cambridge

(Based on cycling to work statistics from 2011 Census)

  • 45% of commuters are women
  • 29.7% of female commuters cycle
  • 30.6% of male commuters cycle
  • if all active travel modes are considered then 46.7% of women use active transport, 44.2% of men.
  • UK average: 3.9% of men and 1.6% of women cycle to work
Early image of the The Girton Bicycle Club featured in the Girton Review.
Source: The Mistress and Fellows of Girton College
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The key messages – women have always had a relationship with cycling, and for them cycling has a strong alignment with political action and change. Now, women must campaign for a world where they can cycle safely. There is no magic formula to increase rates of women cycling, the same solution applies for all and that is better infrastructure. Cambridge has a long way to go but is still an example to the rest of the UK and beyond.

All in all the day was a great success which we hope to expand upon next year with, among other things, a celebratory bike ride around Cambridge.

History of women and cycling in Cambridge

‘Bicycling has been the chief amusement of considerably more than half the College this term. From the early hours of the morning till dark at night, figures are seen riding round the woodlands and gravel tennis courts’

Girton College Review 1894 (Girton College was for women only until 1976).

‘Male students protesting in response to a proposal that full degrees be awarded to female students. They hung an effigy of a women in ‘rational dress’ riding a bicycle above Market Square. Following the vote against the favour of women, the effigy was destroyed, decapitated and pushed through the gates of Newnham College.’ Cambridge Daily News, 1897

Source: Cambridge Daily News, 21 May 1897
Via: http://www.sheilahanlon.com
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If you would be interested in participating in a history project about women and cycling in Cambridge to present at the 2017 festival please email contact@camcycle.org.uk