A campaign to get more teenage girls cycling will tomorrow celebrate a national day of cycling. Bike With Your Bestie, an #andshecycles summer celebration, is part of a campaign by An Taisce’s Green-Schools programme, which focuses on encouraging young women – particularly teenagers – to cycle while recognising and discussing the reasons why they feel that cycling is not for them.
Bike With Your Bestie takes place on Thursday, July 22, with the programme asking everyone to get on their bikes and cycle – be it a short spin or a long ride – and share their journeys with Green-Schools online. The message will be echoed by this year’s group of #andshecycles Ambassadors, 25 students from schools around the country who took part in the pilot ambassador programme during the 2020/2021 academic year. The Ambassadors will, where possible, be biking with their besties.
Why are young women avoiding the bike as a means of transport? Notwithstanding the usual concerns facing every cyclist on our roads, the #andshecycles campaign has found that social issues like peer pressure, harassment, and a perception of cycling as ‘uncool’ or ‘not for them’ has impacted the number of young women who choose to travel by bike.
Jane Hackett is the manager of the Green-Schools Travel Programme: “When we launched our campaign in late 2019 we hoped to bring it around on the country on a roadshow but 2020 put paid to our plans. With our #andshecycles Ambassadors on board now we feel this is the perfect time to celebrate cycling and the campaign; there’s no doubt that the number of people cycling has increased in the past year and we want to make sure that teenage girls feel included in this and have their unique concerns about cycling listened to.”
Tomorrow’s event also hopes to ‘switch up the stock image’ of girls on bikes. During its launch period in 2019, the programme placed images of female cyclists on advertising hoarding around Dublin City; images very unlike those you might find during an online search for images of young women cycling. On Thursday it is hoped that shared images from participants will move towards replacing the standard stock image, which often portray a woman cycling as either a very sporty endeavour or a poetic image of a woman cycling through a field or on a beach, both rarely the case for the average cyclist.
To entice everyone to share their journeys, Green-Schools are hosting a giveaway for a bike on their Instagram account and during Thursday will have spot prizes running for anyone who shares their Bike with their Bestie.