1,000-strong protest for women’s cycling safety takes to London this Sunday

Following findings that nine in 10 women have suffered verbal abuse whilst cycling, cyclists in London are taking to the streets to make a statement

Clock09:30, Saturday 2nd March 2024
The ride will pass London landmarks including the Mall and the West End

© London Cycling Campaign Women's Network

The ride will pass London landmarks including the Mall and the West End

This Sunday, around 1,000 women and allies will take over the streets of London on two wheels in the second annual LCC Women’s Freedom Ride.

The ride, organised by the London Cycling Campaign’s (LCC) Women’s Network, is intended first and foremost as a protest for safer streets for women. After delivering a petition to the Mayor’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner Will Norman, the riders will begin a tour of central London, beginning and ending in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

Alongside making a political statement, the organisers want the ride to be a fun, accessible and welcoming event for women who would otherwise not feel comfortable cycling in London. LCC’s Central London Coordinator Clare Rogers spoke to GCN to explain more.

Protesting for women’s safety

“We're calling on the Mayor of London to make cycling safe for women across London,” explains Rogers.

“We want gender parity by 2030, because at the moment, less than a third of cycle trips in London are by women.”

To make their concerns known, the ride will begin by handing a petition, already bearing over 5,000 signatures, to Will Norman, the Mayor of London’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner. The petition sets out the three main objectives of the LCC Women’s Network, which Rogers summarises:

“There’s physical safety, so that's things like protected bike lanes. And then secondly, social safety, which has to do with policing and adequately lit routes. And then the third one is to do with local cycle networks, because that really benefits women when they can do their local journeys by bike.”

The campaign’s objectives have been formed around the findings of a public survey, published by the LCC Women’s Network in January 2024. The survey’s results paint a clear picture of just how dangerous London’s streets are for women on bikes. Amongst a spread of grim headline statistics was the fact that 93% of respondents had experienced drivers using their vehicles to intimidate them, and that nine out of ten respondents had experienced verbal abuse whilst cycling in London. For 63% of respondents, verbal abuse was a monthly recurrence.

“It's normalised abuse of women cycling,” says Rogers. “It just feels like a sort of hidden epidemic that's going on under people's noses all the time.”

The report found that nine out of ten women would start to cycle, or cycle more, if the infrastructure was there for them. Sunday’s ride is intended to demonstrate just that. Namely, that if you make the roads safer, women will ride bikes:

“The primary thing is to say to the mayor and the police and the boroughs, ‘Look how many women want to cycle. And look how strongly women want their freedom.’”

The bicycle is indeed a tool for freedom, perhaps even more so for women than men, as Rogers explains:

“Typically women are on lower incomes, and cycling is cheap. You don't have to go on public transport, which is not ideal for women. Not all women own a car, so it is really freeing. In countries like the Netherlands, you'll see 51% of [bicycle] trips are by women. So where it's made possible, women really benefit from it.”

A safe, fun and confidence-inspiring day on the bike

Alongside the political message, the organisers have structured the day to make the protest ride into an opportunity for new cyclists to find their feet cycling in the capital. As well as featuring music, fancy dress and a party atmosphere, the ride will be guided by experienced female road marshalls, who will take control of the roads, giving a safe, confidence-inspiring space for cyclists to protest.

To help people get to the start, the LCC have arranged smaller feeder groups to usher less confident riders from further-flung London boroughs to the centre in safety and confidence.

“I think 16 boroughs have got feeder rides planned,” says Rogers. “So a woman can get on her bike in Enfield or Redbridge or Hammersmith and Fulham, and be safely led in a group to the main event.

“We've had women coming who have hardly ever cycled before, but they're made to feel safe and they've had a blast. Hopefully some of those women will go on to ride independently, Or to use our Cycle Buddies scheme, which pairs up experienced riders with nervous new riders. So I think it is hopefully getting people, more women, to feel confident on the road.”

The ride begins in Lincoln’s Inn Fields at 12:30 on Sunday 3 March. To attend, register yourself here. If you would like to sign the petition ahead of Sunday, you can do so here.

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