Cyclists in the UK often point to Denmark and the Netherlands as examples of what we at CTC call Cycletopia: truly bike-friendly societies. An important feature of life in cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam is that men and women are equally likely to cycle – roughly 50 per cent of cyclists are female in both cities.
Not in the UK, alas. Somehow we have managed to make cycling mostly for men. Check out anyone battling the rush hour on a Boris Bike, or climbing a steep hill on a Sunday morning, or taking part in a race. They will probably be male, as only around 25 per cent of cyclists are women and an even smaller percentage use Boris bikes or has taken up cycling as a sport.
Does this matter? Well, invisible barriers seem to be deterring half our population from getting on their bikes, so that’s one unfairness. And then the liberal application of Lycra and cycling’s sporty image adds to the perception that this great way of getting around is not for everyone. And that stops people getting on a bike – it becomes a vicious circle.
So why on earth is CTC backing a team of elite women racers?
Getting women cycling is our job. CTC has always been a campaigning organisation, and as far back as the 1890s we were fighting for the rights of women cyclists to be just as welcome at wayside inns as their male counterparts.
CTC is the cycling organisation with the largest percentage of women members at 25 per cent and many CTC member groups already do great work encouraging women to ride – for example, the inspirational Fabulous Ladies of Chester – and our staff run inspirational activities for women cyclists across the UK.
So although it’s the very first time that CTC is sponsoring a women’s racing team in our 134 years as a national cycling organisation, the move clearly links up with our work past and present. With the invaluable support of our co-sponsors, we decided to launch Team CTC to highlight this work.
Members of the team have committed their non-racing time to visiting CTC activities around the country to help us get them the media coverage they deserve. We also want to show by actions and not just by words our support for women’s cycling and what we think of the disgraceful disparity between support for sporting men and women.
We seem to have struck a chord.
Within days of the team’s launch CTC members emailed us to welcome the initiative, and a number of people told us that our support for women’s cycling had inspired them to join. At least one organisation has adopted CTC as their official charity for the same reason.
CTC people are passionate about cycling. As a nationwide membership organisation we represent all cyclists: we believe everyone’s life is made better by being on a bike. Women are greatly under-represented in cycling in the UK, and we are using the high visibility of Team CTC throughout the season to help us raise awareness of this fact and our work to get more women on bikes.
There's more on the launch of the team here.