Celebrities including actress Kelly Brook and model Erin O’Connor are giving it a go, and now the women of Shrewsbury are being urged to jump on their bikes.
Biking initiative Cycle Shrewsbury has launched a new campaign to encourage more ladies to hop on the saddle and discover the benefits of pedal power.
According to statistics, women cycle far less than men do. This is a figure that Cycle Shrewsbury wants to reverse by providing free training for women who want to learn how to ride a bike, or want to build up their confidence in order to cycle more often.
Emma Bullard, promotions manager for Cycle Shrewsbury, said: “Woman find they do not have the time to exercise. They are missing out on the important health benefits cycling can bring.“Cycling is easy, you don’t need special clothes and it keeps you fit.
“Many women have missed out on learning to ride a bike. Our aim is to hold their hands as they get started.”
The initiative has had two recent success stories, helping 47-year-old Denise Williamson and her friend Pauline Hyde learn to ride a bike for the first time.
Denise, from Belvedere, said: “At first I was terrified of falling off but the team were brilliant, really patient and encouraging. I now go out cycling at the weekend with my husband which is something I could never do before. I would encourage others to give it a go.”
The Cycle Shrewsbury team hope if more mums learn to ride, it will help the whole family to get on their bikes.
Emma said: “Mums influence the family. With training and confidence they could take the all the kids to school on bikes.”
The team have launched ‘Women on Wheels’, a social bike ride for ladies that takes place on the first Sunday of every month. Starting in the Quarry at 10.30am the group go on a leisurely cycle through Shrewsbury and the surrounding countryside, stopping for regular breaks and refreshments.
The rides are designed to appeal to women who have not cycled in a while but all ablilities are welcome.
Emma said: “Some ladies may have cycled when they were younger but have lost confidence as they have got older.
“Others may simply want to feel more confident in traffic, we cater for all abilities.”
Cycle Shrewsbury was set up in 2008, after the town became one of only 18 places in the country to be awarded ‘cycle town’ status. ‘Cycle towns’ receive extra funding from the Department of Transport to encourage a more European attitude to cycling in the UK.
Emma said: “As well as the health benefits, cycling can reduce congestion and help the environment.
“Shrewsbury is the perfect place for cycling. The town centre is very compact.”
The team go into schools and work places to persuade kids and adults to get on their bikes. They also offer a free bike maintenance service.
As well as promoting cycling, the team have also been behind changes to the road infrastructure around Shrewsbury, making it more cycle friendly. Recently, they helped implement a new crossing on the Welsh Bridge, making it possible for cyclists to travel safely nearly all the way around the town centre.
With national government cutbacks taking force, Emma fears for the future of the bike scheme in Shrewsbury. The team’s three-year funding ends in March, and after that the outlook is uncertain.
Emma said: “My advice to budding cyclists is use us before you lose us.”
At the moment bike lessons are free but there may be a small charge in the future. For more information contact Cycle Shrewsbury on 01743 255435 or visit the website at www.cycleshrewsbury.co.uk
by Catherine Ferris