Pedalling for female empowerment

If talk of cycling conjures up images of ‘middle aged men in lycra’, this could be why. It turns out only one in three bike riders are women! To help redress the gender imbalance, TAKE2 member Bicycle Network has gone back to school.

MIND.BODY.PEDAL is a workshop for female students that is successfully promoting a more active lifestyle through bike riding. Delivered by Bicycle Network’s popular Ride2School program, its innovative and holistic approach was recognised with a VicHealth Award in 2017.

“The program is unique because it addresses all barriers that hold young women back from riding a bike,” says Bicycle Network’s Leyla Asadi. “It’s become clear through several studies that girls face more barriers to exercise than boys – with fear and ridicule playing a big role.”

To help build confidence, participants learn how to do a bike check and change a tyre. There is a fully supported bike ride, as well as discussions around issues such as self-esteem and peer perception. With research showing that a teenager’s level of physical activity often carries over into adulthood, the workshop is a potential life changer.

“Your teenage years are really your turning point to the habits you will have later in life,” says Leyla. “Regular physical activity not only has benefits for physical health but also mental wellbeing, which as a teenager are extremely important. It can have direct impacts on learning abilities, which can attribute to school performance.”

While Mind.Body.Pedal is about inspiring the next generation of female bike buffs, the Bicycle Network’s Women’s Community supports riders of all ages and abilities. With free rides and events on offer, together with information on everything from road rules to bike maintenance, it’s a sure-fire way to overcome any lingering worries before strapping on a helmet.

Leyla says most Bicycle Network members ride because it is an easy transport option and helps them keep fit. However, some have eyes on a bigger picture. “As the population increases and space is of a premium, from an economic sense, our members are interested in being on a bicycle to support the case for building infrastructure and space for bikes, to sustain population growth,” she says.

Of course, cycling is a great option for anyone concerned about their carbon footprint. A 10-kilometre ride to work each way – considered the maximum commuting distance to either reach your destination or connect to public transport – can save as much as 1.5 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year!

There is plenty more information at the Bicycle Network website. Next time you’re heading out, consider leaving the car at home and walking, cycling or taking public transport. You’ll be completing a TAKE2 action if you do!