British Cycling wants one million more women cyclists by 2020

Safety campaigning and more racing opportunities key to new programme

One million more women cycling at least once a month by 2020 – that’s British Cycling’s target announced today which it hopes to achieve through increases in recreational events, greater depth in the women’s racing calendar and continued campaigning for safer roads.

The plan was unveiled at a launch at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport attended by top British athletes including Olympian Jess Varnish and new double track world champion, Becky James.

The national federation, with support from sponsorship partner Sky and Sport England, said it wanted to attract more women to every level of cycling, from recreation and grassroots competition to elite athletes. Existing cyclists riding more often will also contribute towards the one million target, however.

British Cycling (BC) also aims to more than double its current female membership base from around 10,000 in 2012 to 26,000 in the next three years.

BC President, Brian Cookson said it would be a challenge but that “the direction of travel is important: our ultimate aim is to inspire one million more women to get on bikes and we are determined to make this happen.”

Safety will be a key issue. Road safety for all cyclists was a pillar of the strategy because it had a particular effect on putting women off cycling.

According to figures from the Annual Cycling Survey, numbers of female cyclists are already increasing rapidly, which could partially be explained by British female success at the Olympics. Currently 525,000 women are cycling at least once a week and 1.2m women are on their bikes at least once a month.  

BC said it would fold the female-orientated strategy in all the federation’s work. It would support and foster more opportunities for women and girls to experience racing and recruit more female volunteers, coaches and officials to its ranks.

Last week, race organiser SweetSpot said a women’s race would precede the final stage of the Tour of Britain in London in September and has initiated ambitious plans to bring an international five day stage race to the UK in 2014.

British Cycling claims that through its programmes it has already influenced 430,000 women to cycle regularly. Its National Lottery-funded Breeze programme – a network of informal rides organised by women – has received 21,000 riders alone since it was set up in May 2011. The programme added Lizzie Armitstead and Jessica Varnish to its list of ambassadors earlier this month.

At today’s launch Varnish said: “If we can realise this ambition it will go a long way to refreshing cycling’s image so it is not seen as a sport only for men in lycra. The best thing about cycling is that anyone can do it, and in whatever form they like.”

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