British Cycling has today launched Breeze, the biggest ever programme focused on getting more women into riding bikes. Breeze is a National Lottery funded nationwide network of fun, local and flexible bike rides designed to close the gap between the number of men and women cycling regularly, and introduce over 80,000 new women to bike riding.
Led by women for women, Breeze bike rides are local, friendly and informal. The short, traffic-free rides are ideal for busy mums and anyone who hasn't been on a bike for a while and would like to go for a casual bike ride with a small group of women from their area.
Breeze is British Cycling's response to the growing gap between the number of men and women riding their bikes. Currently three times as many men take part in cycling regularly and the gap is growing, yet research suggests that nearly one million British women would like to ride a bike more often.
In 2011 British Cycling surveyed over 1,000 women to find out what was discouraging them from riding. Results showed that safety concerns, lack of knowledge of routes and having no-one to cycle with were the key barriers to getting involved.
Breeze addresses these concerns and offers women flexible, safe, accessible and fun opportunities to ride a bike as well as training and support. The rides are organised by British Cycling trained local Breeze champions and fit around busy work and family lives. Breeze bike rides are free, friendly and open to women of all ages and abilities.
Natalie Justice, Network Manager at British Cycling, said: "Currently only two per cent of women cycle regularly compared to six per cent of men yet we know that nearly one million women would like the opportunity to get out on their bikes and socialise with other women.
"Breeze gives them the chance to do just that on their doorstep and change cycling for women forever. If you'd like to get out on your bike, whether it's for the first time or after a long break, Breeze is for you."
The first Breeze bike rides will start in June and roll out in towns and cities across England over the coming months. As part of the programme, British Cycling will train and support 1,000 local Breeze champions, female volunteers who will add their riders to the Breeze network at times to suit them and their groups.
Jennie Price, Chief Executive of Sport England, said: "Breeze is responding to what women want by offering them a fun and flexible way to get involved in cycling. Our investment of almost one million pounds of Lottery funding in Breeze will help us to tackle the gender gap in sport and deliver a mass participation legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games."
Breeze is funded by the National Lottery via Sport England's Active Women's Fund and designed to get over 80,000 women back on a bike or riding for the first time. It also aims to convert 20,000 of them into regular cyclists over the next three years, reversing a trend that has seen 35,000 women drop out of bike riding in recent years.
To find a Breeze bike ride in your local area or to find out how to become a Local Breeze Champion, go to www.goskyride.com/breeze .
photos Janos Schmidt