Community leaders join push to get Sydney women cycling this International Women’s Day

Political, business and community leaders will ‘gear up’ this International Women’s Day as part of efforts to redress Australian women’s low levels of participation in bicycling.

The Heart Foundation GEAR UP GIRL Ride on Sunday 8 March is Sydney’s largest female-only recreational bike ride. The initiative of Bicycle NSW aims to increase the number of women in NSW who bicycle for recreation or transport.

NSW Minister for Family and Community Services, The Hon. Gabrielle Upton, deputy president of the NRMA Wendy Machin, and chief executive of the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia Pauline Vamos are among those supporting the event. Each is an ambassador for GEAR UP GIRL 2015 and will take part in the ride.

Presently, only 7% of Australian women use a bicycle for transport. A 2013 survey by the Heart Foundation found more than 60 per cent of women said they would like to cycle more often, but were inhibited by a number of concerns including safety.

Heart Foundation NSW Chief Executive Kerry Doyle(pictured) said the charity was partnering with Bicycle NSW to host GEAR UP GIRL not only to get women bicycling for its heart health benefits, but also to assist in removing barriers to participation.

“Heart disease is still the number one killer of Australian women, and many women are risking their heart health by not being active enough,” Ms Doyle said.

“Through GEAR UP GIRL, we hope to highlight that bicycling can be a fun and enjoyable way for women to exercise with friends and family.

“We also want to spotlight that helmet hair, getting sweaty and a fear of getting their dress caught in a bicycle chain are not the only barriers to more women cycling. Women are being let down by a lack of safe cycle ways.

“In a 2013 survey we conducted with the Cycling Promotion Fund, 50% of women said that the thing that was most likely to get them riding more often was having more separated cycle paths, bike lanes and wider lanes on the road.

“We want both state and local governments to ensure safe walkways and cycle ways are incorporated into future planning decisions, and are actively calling for this change in the upcoming NSW election.

“GEAR UP GIRL demonstrates that when safe cycle ways are available, women do bicycle ride and can really enjoy their journey,” Ms Doyle said.

Bicycle NSW Communications & Advocacy Director Sophie Bartho said the event, founded in 2008, was expected to attract 1000 women and children in 2015.

“Women are the change agents in our communities. We hope by encouraging women to ride, eliminating barriers to participation and growing their confidence, they can bring others to this important and healthy lifestyle,” Ms Bartho said.

“By showing the community the existing cycling infrastructure including cycleways and bike lanes, it is proven that women will ride more regularly. The popularity for the event demonstrates the growing demand for more safe cycling infrastructure.”.