The wheels are turning on projects to increase cycling participation in women across Greater Manchester.
Following the Olympic successes of Victoria Pendleton, Lizzie Armitstead and Laura Trott, the Manchester ‘Breeze in the Park’ will take place this Sunday, starting at the Velopark Café at 10:00am.
‘Breeze in the Park’ is a nationwide event with rides taking place in parks up and down the country – the rides are non-competitive events designed to help improve women and children’s participation and confidence.
And they seem to be working, with Sport England’s latest figures showing 54,000 more women taking up cycling across England in the year to April 2012.
Salford community worker Christine Barker, 46, has been organising rides since November 2011 when she passed her British Cycling cycle assessment to become a ‘Breeze champion’.
Christine said: “I have been trying to organise one or two rides a week. I have one regular rider and average three or four new women for each ride.”
Figures from British Cycling show that Christine is among 66 champions to have been trained in the Greater Manchester area since May 2011.
These champions have organised approximately 400 rides with over 1000 women taking part.
Her followers came from as far afield as Stockport, Bury and Clifton, and have since started Breeze rides in their own respective areas.
British Cycling’s Northwest manager for recreational cycling, Jackie Brennan, said: “Breeze rides are funded by Sport England with their active women scheme.
“We launched in May 2011, it takes time for a network to develop but we’re seeing a gradual increase in numbers of ‘Breeze champions’ and new riders.
“Our women are so keen and eager. It’s all voluntary and they do a fantastic job of inspiring other women to get on a bike and gain confidence.”
Women can also access free professional road cycling training in Manchester via BikeRight!, an organisation that caters for complete beginners up to those wanting to learn how to deal with heavy commuter traffic.
A spokesperson for Bike Right! said sessions run free of charge three times a week in Openshaw Park – adding that ‘on average they are around 90% women’.
The rides come hot on the heels of Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins declaring an interest in helping to fund a professional women’s road cycling team out of his own pocket.
You can find out more about participating in ‘breeze rides’ by logging on to: www.goskyride.com/breeze.