Tuesday 17 April 2012

Come and ride with us on May 13 and celebrate women's cycling

On May 13th Cycletopia are leading a tour of the Pennines in support of Cyclofemme's Global Women's Cycling Day.
The Cyclofemme rides are the brainchild of U.S. based women's biking webzine GirlBikeLove and are being held to commemorate and celebrate women and cycling across the world, in their words, "to honour the past, celebrate the present and empower the future". 
Currently there are 67 rides registered to take place in nine countries and the list is still growing.
The rides are free and open to all, with the option to sign up to an existing ride or register a ride of your own on the Cyclofemme site.
So why not join us to celebrate women's cycling on May 13? 
Our Pennine ride is a hilly 35 mile on-road route taking in some stunning scenery across West Yorkshire and Lancashire. We'll be setting off from Hebden Bridge train station at 10am (to link up with the 9.08am train from Manchester Victoria) and having a cafe stop in Trawden. The ride is most suitable for road bikes and hybrids with slick tyres as we're aiming for an average speed of 10-12mph, but we won't leave anyone behind. 
EVERYONE is welcome on the ride - although the aim Cyclofemme is to celebrate women's cycling, the rides are not exclusively for women - so if you know a bloke or two who would like to join us on the ride then please feel free to bring them along too.
A map of the route can be found here.
To register for the event in advance click on our facebook event page or send us an email.

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Fancy a go at cross-country MTB racing?

Here at Cycletopia we're all about empowering women to get out and ride their bikes, so the Stilettos on Wheels event is definitely worth a mention on these pages. There are a growing number of road-based women-only events around, but this is the first event we know of that is aimed at mountain bikers.

This event is aimed at all levels of rider interested in taking part in cross-country (XC) mountain bike racing and there will be four entrance categories: solo (2- or 4-hour) and pairs (2- or 4-hour). Usually enduro (or XC) races are longer than this -- 8, 12 or 24 hours -- so having the chance to ride this shorter race makes the event accessible to beginners or anyone wanting to have a go and see whether they enjoy it. You don't have to be a hardcore rider to want to give it a try, but if you have raced before you can go and give it your all for the full 4 hours.

The best bit (because we all like a freeby) is that anyone signing up for the Birchall (Derbyshire) race on May 19th gets a free waterbottle if they sign up by the end of April. And it's pink! A few of us from Cycletopia will be there so why not come along too?

Sunday 11 March 2012

Sharing skills on International Women's Day

To celebrate this year's International Women's day on March 8th, we ran our first ever Women's basic bike maintenance course in partnership with Bradford-based bike recycling scheme Cycle-re-Cycle.

Two of our female mechanics were on hand to share basic maintenance skills and offer guidance on what tools to buy and what to take out on the road for emergencies, post-ride bike cleaning tips, rear wheel removal and fixing punctures.

The workshop was well-attended and we had really positive feedback from all the women who took part. Everyone said that they learned something new during the evening, including the most experienced cyclists, so we are very happy that we were able to share some of our skills and enable women to feel more confident about tackling their own maintenance and emergency repairs.

We are hoping that this workshop will be the first of many and are already planning to run another one in partnership with Cycle-re-Cycle in late April.

A big thank you must be also be given to the University of Bradford who provided us with a great space in their Student Central building to hold the workshop when our original venue fell though at the last minute.

We'll be posting up more information on our April workshop when the dates and venue are finalised, so keep an eye out over the coming weeks.

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Hi there!

Glad to be a part of Cycletopia and getting excited with ideas about where we can take it in the future.

Ange H

Friday 24 February 2012

Calling all women bike mechanics...

Women's mechanics session at Pedal MCR, Manchester
I keep meeting women cyclists at events and workshops, especially Breeze and CTC rides, who keep asking me about learning the skills to fix up their bikes and keeping them in good condition.
Almost all of them say that they still feel a little overwhelmed when walking into a bike shop, even if the shop staff are friendly and approachable, because they don't really understand enough about how their bikes work and therefore often feel a bit helpless when trying to explain what they need. 
Breeze are currently in the process of establishing a brand new partnership with the Association of Cycle Traders (ACT) to promote female friendly bike shops, but there are also lots of female mechanics out there working in voluntary projects and bike co-ops all over the UK who run women's only maintenance sessions, courses and drop-in tools clubs.
Over the next few weeks we are hoping to start compiling a database of female bike mechanics and women's bike projects across the UK so that women across the country can find out where to go to get help fixing their bikes and learn maintenance skills for themselves, so that next time they walk into their local bike shop they'll have the confidence to chat comfortably with the bike shop staff about their needs.
We know there are some great projects up and running in Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and London but there are probably loads more women out there working in bike shops and volunteering in projects that we've not heard of, so please drop us a line at info@cycletopia.co.uk and let us know about you and your project or shop.
We'd also like to set up an online forum so that female mechanics can contact each other, swap stories, tips and offer support, so watch this space...

Monday 13 February 2012

Show your bike some love on International Women's Day...

Fed up of feeling a bit overwhelmed when you set foot in your local bike shop? Well help is at hand on International Women's Day (March 8th) as we are teaming up with Bradford-based Cycle-re-Cycle for one of our women's basic bike maintenance workshop sessions.

The 2 hour introductory session is delivered by a female mechanic and is aimed at female cyclists with little or no bike maintenance know-how. It's suitable for riders of road, hybrid and mountain bikes.

Bring your bike along to the workshop and we'll show you around the bits of your bike and give you some top tips on how to clean and maintain it. We'll also show you how to diagnose basic common problems, discuss what basic tools you'll need to carry for roadside emergencies, and how to fix those dreaded rear-wheel punctures!

As well as a bike MOT you'll also get a mini-guide to take away with you so you won't forget the new skills you've learned.

The session will cost £10 (£8 NUS / unwaged) and will run from 7pm to 9pm on the 8th of March. It's being held at Cycle-re-Cycle's newly-opened bike workshop and shop in Garden Mills on Westholme Street, just off Thornton Road, close to Bradford town centre (see map). Places on the session are limited to 12 so booking is essential.

For further information and to book your place please call 07702034467 or email cycle-re-cycle.org.uk.

Sunday 5 February 2012

Times gets the ball rolling but not quite far enough...

This week I've been closely following the Times newspaper's new 'Cities Fit for Cycling' campaign. The paper was moved to do something about the state of cycling safety on our roads after one of its journalists, Mary Bowers, was seriously injured after being hit by a lorry on her way to work last November and has still not regained consciousness.

Since its lunch last Thursday the campaign has been backed by many local authorities and some big name celebrities including Sirs Chris Hoy and Alan Sugar and all of the London mayoral candidates.

The Times has certainly got people talking and so far the paper is doing a pretty good job at trying to represent the many viewpoints being aired by its readers, cyclists and non-cyclists alike. It's even got the official backing of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group who are now planning to table an early day motion in support of the campaign in the house of commons on Monday morning.

Now, don't get me wrong, I think that the Times really should be commended on getting the discussion of cycling safety off the cycling blogs and out there in the mainstream arena, but I'm really not so sure that such a great amount of emphasis needed to be placed on the danger of cycling. If non-cycling Times readers didn't think that cycling was a dangerous, life-threatening form of transport prior to last Thursday's launch, well they sure do now.

As a cycle educator I spend a lot of my time extolling the many virtues of cycling in all its forms and much of that time is often spent reassuring people that cycling is safe way to travel to school and work, providing that we cycle responsibly and assertively. The Times may have suddenly made my job a whole lot harder.

The campaign focuses around an 8-point manifesto (listed at the end of this post) calling for all cities to be made fit for cyclists. The 8 points listed in the manifesto are all good ideas, but it falls short of campaigning for a change in the law to protect cyclists, by adopting the EU stance on strict liability. Strict liability would be a sure-fire way of protecting cyclists more than any amount of tax money spent on improvements to infrastructure because it gives cyclists status on the roads by emphasising their vulnerability to drivers. Currently in the UK, when an accident occurs it's up to the victim to prove the other party is negligent. However, under strict liability it is up to the perpetrator of the injury to prove that the victim was negligent.

Now we all know that when we're driving we are meant to give cyclists plenty of room and to wait behind them until it is safe and clear for us to overtake, but they're so slow and they get in the way and we're always in so much of a hurry to be somewhere. But if the UK adopted the strict liability law I'd certainly be making sure that I'd slowed down and gave that cyclist plenty of room, wouldn't you?

Any UK cyclist who's cycled in Amsterdam will recognise the jaw-dropping effect of the strict liability law in practice - it's why all those lovely courteous drivers stop for you and give you right of way when you're on a bike. Now many will argue that there's a lot more to it than that, and that strict liability is just one part of a far bigger cycling strategy in the Netherlands, but I'm sure that the psychological effect on drivers of having a law that protects the vulnerable goes a long way to re-enforcing the safety of cyclists in countries that have adopted strict liability legislation.

Alongside the manifesto, yesterday's Times supplement featured 12 ways to cycle safely - many of them good common sense, however from a female viewpoint I would quite strongly disagree with their suggestion of taking an off-road cycle path in preference to a busy road. Many off-road cycle paths are isolated, poorly lit - if lit at all, and have intermittent entry and exit points, so as a solo female cyclist I feel far more comfortable cycling alongside the flow of traffic on a well-lit, well-populated road.

Taking us off the roads just marginalises cyclists even further and could make us more vulnerable in other ways, so let's instead change attitudes by changing the law and making space for everyone on the roads.

The Times 8-point manifesto:

  1. Trucks entering a city centre should be required by law to fit sensors, audible truck-turning alarms, extra mirrors and safety bars to stop cyclists being thrown under the wheels.
  2. The 500 most dangerous road junctions must be identified, redesigned or fitted with priority traffic lights for cyclists and Trixi mirrors that allow lorry drivers to see cyclists on their near-side.
  3. A national audit of cycling to find out how many people cycle in Britain and how cyclists are killed or injured should be held to underpin effective cycle safety.
  4. Two per cent of the Highways Agency budget should be earmarked for next generation cycle routes, providing £100 million a year towards world-class cycling infrastructure. Each year cities should be graded on the quality of cycling provision.
  5. The training of cyclists and drivers must improve and cycle safety should become a core part of the driving test.
  6. 20mph should become the default speed limit in residential areas where there are no cycle lanes.
  7. Businesses should be invited to sponsor cycleways and cycling super-highways, mirroring the Barclays-backed bicycle hire scheme in London.
  8. Every city, even those without an elected mayor, should appoint a cycling commissioner to push home reforms.