Women on Wheels sets cycle training standard

By on 19/06/2013 in Cllr McKay, News

A programme designed by Birmingham City Council to get more women from black and minority groups into cycling has been hailed a success in a new report.

Between July 2011 and September 2012, a total of 145 women who had never previously cycled were trained through the Women on Wheels scheme – staged free of charge at a number of sites across inner city Birmingham.

The success of the scheme has led to many enquiries from several other councils and public bodies, prompting course founder Fareeda Akbar from the council's Smarter Choices Team to join forces with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) to create a study to share the city's findings.

Course participants are able to borrow bikes for the training from community cycle hubs set up by British Cycling in partnership with the city council, and key findings in the report are:

-    145 women have reached the Level 1 cycling standard (safely cycle in a traffic-free environment)
-    8 of those 145 have reached Level 2 (on road standard)
-    85 per cent of women surveyed are keen to progress to Level 2, meaning there is a need for further training between Levels 1 and 2 to ensure more cyclists progress, possibly through a longer Level 1 course or a new intermediate programme
-    Led rides for novice cyclists need to be organised on regular basis to ensure continued progression for bike users
-    The trust between instructors and course attendees is crucial, and can create a 'virtuous circle', developing a new generation of course leaders, enabling new schemes to be set up in other locations for even more cyclists

Prior to establishing the courses, meetings were held by members of the BME community, in Sparkbrook and Ward End, two of the city's most deprived areas, to gain an understanding of the issues that were preventing women from getting involved with cycling.

Fareeda Akbar, Sustainable Promotions Officer at Birmingham City Council, said: “For decades the focus on cycle training has been children, with little resource available for adults - no previous research had ever looked at barriers and possible solutions for women from BME communities.

“But given the council's aim to encourage sustainable forms of travel and reduce health inequalities, this seemed an idea worth exploring.

“What was obvious that almost all of the women we spoke to when developing the idea of this scheme had an interest in cycling but lacked access to bikes or appropriate opportunities to learn.

“What we have done is put in place a programme that allows them to do this, crucially overcoming many barriers highlighted by women such as the perceived image that you need to have tight fitting clothing or that they had no financial ability to purchase a bike.”

Lindsey Brough, road safety research and evaluation officer at RoSPA, said: “Women on Wheels is an excellent example of how research and evaluation can benefit the design and future planning of an intervention.

“Sharing the findings will help others to replicate the work done in inner-city Birmingham to successfully get non-cyclists cycling, boosting their confidence and helping to improve their health and fitness levels in the process.”

Despite the focus on female cyclists from BME communities, the programme is open to all women, and a similar project was run last autumn for male riders - known as Men on Wheels - with 25 men having now reached Level 1 standard.

And since the period covered by the study, a further 80 women have been on WoW courses, taking the overall figure for those benefitting from the scheme up to 250 men and women.

Fareeda added: “The results have been hugely encouraging and the most pleasing point of all is how we have developed a self-sustaining user-led scheme with high levels of community ownership.

“Women take part, learn the skills, volunteer as course leaders, and then become trained cycle instructors, enabling them to lead new WoW groups elsewhere in the city.

“We fully understand more needs to be done to continue the early progress we have achieved, but WoW is giving the city a great platform to build upon.”

WOMEN ON WHEELS – Development and Evaluation Report


Notes to editors

About Women on Wheels

The course, delivered without charge to participants by accredited instructors, offers three levels of training;-

Complete beginners: Balance and control
Level 1: Bikeability level 1 to safely and skilfully cycle in a traffic free environment
Level 2: Bikeability level 2 for on-road training over a 4-6 week period of one-hour sessions.

Course participants are able to borrow bikes for the training from community cycle hubs set up as a pilot by British Cycling in partnership with Birmingham City Council.

Women on Wheels aims to:

-    Teach women to safely and skilfully cycle in a traffic free environment
-    Increase women's confidence to enable them to cycle with their families
-    Encourage women to progress to organised group rides
-    Support women to take up level 2 standard (on-road) training
-    Improve women's health and fitness levels through participation in physical activity
-    Improve women's social skills and confidence

About RoSPA

RoSPA is a charity which has been at the heart of accident prevention in the UK and around the world for almost 100 years. We promote safety and the prevention of accidents at work, at leisure, on the road, in the home and in schools and colleges. Visit www.rospa.com

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