A new project that will get 80,000 women back on a bike – or riding for the first time -was unveiled today after Sport England awarded British Cycling £992,159 of National Lottery funding.
The National Women’s Cycling Network will help women of all ages and ability to organise fun, recreational group bike rides for other women in their local area. Over the next three years, 1,000 female cycling champions will be trained to become ride leaders, equipped with the information and know-how to organise group rides on local routes - planned and mapped by them. The programme will draw inspiration from the success of Britain’s top women elite cyclists and will aim to reach women in every local authority in England. Its long-term aim will be to encourage 20,000 women to cycle at least once a week.
It’s one of 20 projects backed as part of Sport England’s £10 million Active Women campaign to tackle the gender gap in sport. It aims to encourage women with children and those from disadvantaged communities to play more sport as part of the drive to deliver a mass participation legacy from London 2012.
Last month (Dec 2010), new Sport England figures revealed the size of the gender gap in sport. At present, one in eight (2.761 million) women regularly play sport in England. Whilst this has increased significantly in the past five years, it still trails behind men’s participation, with one in five (4.176 million) taking part. Sport England figures also show that women from disadvantaged communities play even less sport, with fewer than one in 10 taking part. Over the past two years, the number of women cycling once a week has decreased despite an overall increase in cycling participation.
The National Women’s Cycling Network will be delivered by British Cycling, the national governing body for cycling. Ian Drake, British Cycling’s Chief Executive, said:
“We are delighted that Sport England has awarded us funding to roll out this ambitious project designed to get more women on their bikes. We have had significant success in increasing participation in cycling through Sky Ride, developed with our principal partner BSkyB, and we will take our experience in this area to launch a bespoke programme for women that will be delivered by women. Our female athletes are the best in the world and we want to use that as an inspiration to attract thousands more women to our sport.”
Jennie Price, Sport England’s Chief Executive, said:
“For many women with children or those managing a tight budget, sport – and time to themselves - can slip down the list of priorities. The projects we’re funding today have asked local women what is preventing them from getting involved and what sports interest them, before coming up with an offer that is appealing and accessible.”
Today’s announcement was welcomed by the Minister for Sport and the Olympics, Hugh Robertson MP and Gail Emms - one of Britain’s greatest ever badminton players, who won World Championship Gold and Olympic Silver medals.
Hugh Robertson said:
“We have many fantastic female athletes in this country, but not enough women participating at sport’s grassroots. More needs to be done to encourage women to participate in sport, particularly those from disadvantaged communities. The £10 million being invested by Sport England will give women the chance to try out new sports as part of a dedicated programme and hopefully keep them in sport in the future.”
Gail, who became a mum nine months ago with the arrival of Harry, said:
“As a new mum, I know only too well how difficult it can be to make time for yourself and to get out there and play sport. The projects receiving investment from Sport England today will make a big difference because they’ve really thought through the challenges women face in becoming regular sports participants.”
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS