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Following International Women's Day, it is important to highlight the significance of female representation in all aspects of life, including the world of cycling. Historically, cycling has been a male-dominated sport, with little recognition or opportunities for women. However, in recent years, the sport has seen a positive increase in female participation and representation. This has brought attention to the need for gender equality in cycling and the importance of providing equal opportunities and support for women in Manchester across all areas of cycling, from bike maintenance to community cycling schemes. With more women participating in cycling, we subsequently help break existing gender stereotypes and improve inclusivity in this sector. To get a first hand look at this, we recently interviewed two women about their experience working in different areas of the cycling sector, and the barriers to improving representation in cycling. "mANY PEOPLE DON'T SEE THEMSELVES REPRESENTED IN THE SECTOR" Belinda Everett is a bike mechanic based in Rusholme and runs ‘Bee Pedal Ready’, an organisation that provides bike maintenance and rides aimed at women, and is part of the change to diversify the cycling sector. Speaking about work she does, Belinda explained; “Working in cycling, I realised there were few women and people of colour in the sector; especially in bike maintenance. The main obstacle is representation – many people don’t see themselves represented in the sector. Women and people of colour often don’t see themselves as ‘part of cycling’, and often lack the confidence to get involved. Bee Pedal Ready is working to address this. Many women want to learn in a safe and supportive space, with someone who represents them”. She further explained how “language can also be a barrier. I delivered a great bike maintenance and safety session to the Chinese Health Information Centre in the City Centre and they had a translator which broke down this barrier”. And finally listed other barriers women encounter; - Equipment – helmets not fitting women with thicker hair/braids – reinforces their exclusion. - Women still having more childcare duties - less free time. - Less disposable income and time - Safety / difficulty getting to venue – safety and accessibility are important considerations for women. Anna Smith is a Community Involvement Officer from Levenshulme who works at Station South. Her role is all about community engagement and encouraging people who are new to cycling to jump on the saddle and have a go. Through funding from Cycling UK’s Big Bike Revival and MCRactive, Anne also runs bike rides and Women in the Workshop sessions using the fab female mechanics in the city. Station South is also a recipient of TFGM Cycle and Stride and Bike Library funding; enabling further community cycling opportunities. Anna noted; “The lack of female representation in the cycling industry is an issue, so we’ve worked hard to engage women of colour in particular from the local area. This includes building up close relationships with those women who are interested to support and encourage them, with some going on to take up cycling training themselves to access paid work. Childcare often comes up as an issue, so we enable women to bring along their children and put on an activity for the kids whilst the mums do the maintenance sessions. It’s little things like that that can really make a difference to women’s engagement. One woman brought her little one in a sling and did the workshop with the baby attached!” "I NOTICED IT WAS ALMOST ALWAYS MEN WHO DID THE FIXING...SO I DECIDED TO LEARN TO DO IT FOR MYSELF" Belinda’s cycling journey began around 14 years ago, when she started working at Platt Fields BMX track and then began coaching at the National Cycling Centre BMX track, working with all ages and abilities, including elite riders. From then, Belinda began delivering cycling proficiency lessons in schools across Manchester and found her real passion. Belinda explained; “I loved the community engagement work and decided this is where I wanted to focus. I regularly experienced mechanical issues with riders’ bikes and found that I didn’t have the skills to fix them and often had to ask someone to help. I noticed it was almost always men who did the fixing and I wasn’t learning from them, so decided to learn to do it for myself”. "THERE ARE SO MANY DIFFERENT TYPES OF CYCLING TO GET INVOLVED IN" Anna Smith’s journey also began around a similar time, where around 15 years ago she was involved with I Bike MCR and the Critical Mass rides. She was also involved in community art projects, so Anna combined this with community cycling where she could. For example she painted the fantastic mural on the side of the Platt Fields boathouse (as shown in the attached picture). From there, she became a cycling instructor for a number of organisations. Speaking on her love of cycling, Anna said; “There are so many different types of cycling to get involved in – community work, teaching, led rides, the BMX tracks and velodrome – all here in Manchester! I’m now getting my kids involved in cycling and have the challenge of how to fit them and all their stuff into the cycle trailer! I also love all the people and partnerships involved in cycling in Manchester – everyone seems to know each other, often joining forces to make great things happen!” Finally, speaking ahead of IWD, we asked both women about what’s next, and how others can get involved. Belinda told us; “I’m involved in several International Women’s Day events. I’m sharing a stage with actress and keen cyclist Maxine Peake at a Rapha event – talking about women’s cycling, accessibility and representation; I’m one of the guest speakers sharing my ‘cycling story’ at the Ladypedal Women’s Cycling Stories event at Station South; and I’m teaming up with other fantastic cycling women from Moston Cycling Club and Station South to run an International Women’s Day ride – can’t wait! ! All of these events are SOLD OUT! Which shows the amazing level of interest in women’s cycling in Manchester. However I’m continuing to develop Bee Pedal Ready this year and deliver further activities, so watch this space” Anna then said; “I have put together a photography exhibition of the MCRwomenbike, which is now available to view at Station South. Come and take a look at 50 of the fab Manchester cycling women and what they love about riding. I can’t wait to run the International Women's Day ride with Belinda from Bee Pedal Ready and Marina from Moston Cycles. Around 60 women riding together!. In my role as Community Involvement Officer at Station South, I’m planning lots of cycling activity in 2023; as well as developing the walking and gardening activity at the centre”. Closing the gender gap in female representation in cycling is an important step towards closing the current gaps in cycling participation and promoting inclusivity overall. While progress has been made in recent years, with increased funding and support for women's cycling, there is still much work to be done. Encouraging more girls and women to participate in cycling at a grassroots level, increasing media coverage of women, people of colour and LGBTQ+ achievements in cycling, and providing pathways for women in cycling and mechanics are just some of the ways that we can work towards closing the gap. By doing so, we can create a more diverse and inclusive cycling community that empowers people in Manchester to lead a more active lifestyle, move more, and enjoy themselves whilst doing it We’d like to thank both Belinda and Anna for taking the time to speak to us and sharing their experiences. You can find out more information about them below Belinda/Bee Pedal Ready Social: Facebook / Instagram Anna/Station South Web: Website Social: Instagram / Twitter / Facebook Email: firstname.lastname@example.org