Cycling has been the fastest growing mode of transport in recent years! 🚀
During the pandemic, the profile of Londoners cycling started to change. For the first time ethnic minorities were broadly as likely to have cycled in 2020 as white Londoners. Although still relatively low, participation among women, lower income groups and disabled people also significantly improved.
However, there’s still work to do to get more people of colour, particularly women, to cycle. We chatted to Marlena from Trace UK about their mission to encourage more women of colour to get cycling 👇
About Trace TV
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Marlena and I’m the Project Manager at Trace TV. This means I support brand propositioning-based activities for the UK, driving traffic to our channels. Experiential marketing is my preference, I like to inspire and excite, but all projects vary.
I love to keep fit, spend time with my two teenage girls, and more recently I have enjoyed going for bike rides. 🚲
Who are Trace TV and why did you want to partner with TfL?
We’re a multimedia platform, dedicated to urban and afro contemporary music and cultures, with music and entertainment channels on Sky. 🎵
Our objectives are to prioritise social inclusion and positive diversity initiatives, and to inform and support the health and wellbeing of those particularly from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
We spoke with TfL about ways that we could empower and inspire our audience. Their research highlighted that people cycling in London are more diverse than ever, and that half of Black and Asian non-cyclists are open to cycling. We felt that this synergy provided an opportunity to show people of colour that cycling really can be for everyone, no matter what age or ability. 🙌🏿
You launched the partnership with an influencer bike ride to inspire more women of colour to cycle, how was it?
I knew it was going to be a positive, uplifting day, but I hadn’t anticipated the power of a group of women on bikes. So many of the women hadn’t ridden since childhood, or even learnt to ride, so seeing them on the bikes, their confidence and their smiles was contagious and inspiring. It was also clear to see that our diverse presence was needed. 💕
We stopped traffic, and cars honked their horns with delight (I’m not sure how many Londoners can say that) and cheered us on. Hearing the women sing “I’m every woman” as we cycled through Hyde Park confirmed that this partnership was a success. The initial apprehensive women were now confident cyclists, keen to share their euphoria with anyone who crossed their path.
Using Santander Cycle Hire was the perfect option with what we are trying to achieve, by removing barriers for women to cycle. Having the bikes in key locations makes it possible for women to say yes to going on a ride with their friend, or like Chaly Dn, who used them to teach herself to ride in Hyde Park.
Prior to the ride, when was the last time you had ridden a bike?
I haven’t ridden a bike for 15 years. 😲
I went out with Lizi from TfL and Louise from Cycle Confident a week prior to the ride. I don’t really get nervous, perhaps it’s hidden by my competitive nature, but as much as my bravado covered the potential nerves in my head, I felt a slight apprehension as we set off. That didn’t last long as with the segregated roads and clear navigation, I was soon cycling with my legs out wide as I went down a long ramp after leaving Tower Hill, feeling elated and free. Tower Hill was a great start point, the segregated cycleway and the iconic sights are such a reward. You can’t get that kind of experience when you’re on the underground or in your car.
I did notice however, that I was the only black woman on the cycleway, and that’s when it hit me that this partnership could be really powerful.
What advise do you have for other women who are unsure about cycling in London?
✔️ Give it a go
🧑🤝🧑 Go with someone who is confident
⌚ Make the time
✋ Don’t make excuses
To get started:
- Black Girls Do Bike
- Black Cyclist Network
- Black Women on Wheels
- Together We Ride
- Evolve Cycling Network for Muslim Women
📍 Find a local cycling group for you or your child with Walking and Cycling Grants London
Hear from other women
I haven’t ridden a bike for years. I was nervous going into the bike ride, but once I met all the amazing women, heard their stories, and started the bike ride, I soon felt confident. It helped that the weather was lovely. I found cycling with the ladies very therapeutic. Taking part in the bike ride has made me want to cycle more and as a form of transport. My advice for other women considering cycling would be to just go for it. I guarantee you will love it once you do it.Alexis Economou
After being asked to join this ride, I immediately called up my friend and told her we were going bike riding in Hyde Park. She asked if I knew how to ride a bike; I told her no, but I will learn, and you are coming with me. I grew up in Ethiopia and didn’t learn to cycle as we didn’t have a bike. I taught myself to ride a bike in Hyde Park, using Santander Cycles. It was a bit difficult at the beginning. I fell down three times, but I kept going and it got easier. And now cycling is one of my favourite things to do. I love it so much. The ride changed my mind that it’s not scary to cycle on main roads and it gave me confidence to do it more often. I have done it a few times since, and I even took part in Freecycle which I would never have done before. My advice to other women is to take it easy and learn it at your own pace, have confidence and in no time you’ll be a pro.Chaly Dn
I was really apprehensive to take part at first, I was worried about riding a bike on the main roads. I usually drive or walk everywhere. The last time I had rode a bike I was 17 years old. Back then I remembered being unsteady and unable to turn left without falling off. I felt confident to ride on the day for a number of reasons. 1) I had borrowed a bike and had been riding it every day for 30 minutes. While I re-learnt to ride, my son decided to learn to ride to support me. 2) We took part in a Cycle Skills family session and that helped us feel comfortable being on the main road, as we had been sticking to the park to practice. 3) Knowing that I was doing the ride with other women with different capabilities on a bike inspired me to keep going. Also, that most were younger than me, I felt I had to keep up and hold my own for the other 40+ age, menopausal women out there. 4) Having the cycle lanes and the Cycle Confident team alongside us made me feel secure that I would be safe no matter what. My advice to other women who are thinking of cycling is to feel confident riding a bike first before going out on the roads. I would also say planning your route to places will make you feel better about your journey. I think the biggest worry for women travelling anywhere and by any means of transport is their safety. We as women should be able to travel anywhere, by any means, and at anytime without fear for our safety.Natasha Garcia
Have you cycled in London? If so, share your experiences for others below 👇