‘Put our safety first!’

British women and Sustrans in an urgent safety plea to governments

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Women don’t believe that British roads are safe enough for them to cycle on and the truth is that they are not.

That is the clear message from a poll of British women by sustainable transport charity Sustrans, in which concerns for their own safety emerged as the most common reason why women do not cycle at all.

Governments have yet to take the problem seriously, but, women who are no longer prepared to feel prevented from cycling by an unsafe environment can now make their feelings known.

From Tuesday 1 September to the end of November they will be visiting www.bikebelles.org.uk to support ‘Motion for Women’, Sustrans’ urgent plea to governments to make cycling in Britain safer for women. The petition is already being backed by organisations including Mind, the National Federation of Women’s Institutes and the Townswomen’s Guilds.

Melissa Henry, Sustrans’ Communications Director, said: ‘Women are telling us in no uncertain terms that they don’t feel the roads are safe enough for them to cycle on. Their response so far to the woefully inadequate provisions for cyclists in Britain has been simple; they don’t cycle. In fact, 79 per cent of women do not cycle at all.’

‘But, women are also telling us that they desperately want that situation to change. The desire to cycle, and to enjoy all the benefits that cycling brings, is becoming a priority for women. We need to make it a priority for governments too and push for real changes in the way our villages, towns and cities are planned. Now women have 90 days to register their support so we can ensure their voices are heard across Britain .’

Some of the vital changes that women believe are necessary include the creation of more cycle lanes that are separated from all other vehicles - 67 per cent of women in the Sustrans poll believe this would encourage more women to travel by bike.

But, let's face facts: it is not only women that have this problem. Our roads are no safe for male cyclists either. Too many motorist do not like sharing the road with cyclists and treat cyclists people who should not be on the road.

Personally I have heard the comment many a times – from a passing car – that cyclists have no right on the road as they don't pay road tax, etc.

It is about high time that the driving public be educated that the cyclists were here before the motorcar and will be here still after the car.

Sustrans’ ‘Motion for Women’ petition will be open for 90 days from 1 September. Every voice will count, as all signatures will be presented to Government in December. Women are asked to add their support at www.bikebelles.org.uk then circulate to all the women in their lives who deserve a safer space for cycling.

Sustrans is already leading the way for positive change as part of its year of activities to encourage more women into the saddle. The experiences of women when shopping for bikes and accessories, gathered via the bike belles website, is currently being used to inform parts of Britain’s bike industry to help them better cater for needs of women.

© 2009