A crisis of confidence: why don't more women ride bikes?
Two thirds of women (64%) say they don't feel confident riding their bike on the roads according to a British Cycling survey from last year - that's 26% higher than men. It also reflects what I hear regularly too. When women find out that I am a mountain bike leader, their first response is "isn't that dangerous?".
"Cycling is increasingly being understood as a fundamental part of the solution when it comes to issues of public health and air quality," said British Cycling chief executive Julie Harrington.
"However change will not come unless people feel safe on the roads and we know this disproportionately affects women."
One way of encouraging more women to try getting back on a bike (and I must declare and interest here) is to start off riding off-road. There are more and more options available available, with trail centres popping up all on Forestry Commission land all over the country, and increasing numbers of off-road cycle paths in cities.
On road, there is only so much a bike rider can do to control the danger. We can't stop cars overtaking when they can't see what's coming round the corner, or opening their door as we cycle past. But off-road we can choose what level of difficulty (or otherwise) we want. The green, and some blue, routes at trail centres are perfect places to find your balance, remind yourself how the gears and the brakes work and build confidence without having to worry about traffic or navigation.
It's also a safe space to learn the necessary skills for riding confidently on the road, such as looking over your shoulder, or putting your arm out to indicate. If you join a group it can be great fun and very sociable.
If you want to try it out for yourself, I run weekly Get Back on a Bike rides at Haldon Forest Park near Exeter, and also a Ride the Blues group for those who have progressed onto the more challenging trails. Do come along and give it a go.