pgc all green working and signpost with lettering new colour 2
pgc all green working and signpost with lettering new colour 2
facebook icon twitter icon

Share this article share on facebook share on twitter

ride participants gather at palmers green triangle

PG residents joined the feeder ride to Marble Arch at the Triangle

Palmers Green residents were among more than 1100 people who took to the streets of central London on their bikes on Sunday for the Women's Freedom Ride, and indeed there was a strong Palmers Green connection in the shape of Clare Rogers, who works for the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) and was in charge of organising the ride.

The event was a joyous celebration of the freedom that riding bikes offers, but at the same time carried a serious message: a demand for a better deal for women cyclists on London's streets. It was the first stage of a new campaign launched by the LCC to persuade the Mayor of London and borough leaders to do more to take away the fear that deters many women (and plenty of men too) from using this healthy and benign form of transport.

"The most fantastic and euphoric day of my life", was how Clare described it. "When we first planned the event we were expecting a couple of hundred people to take part, but more than 1200 signed up for the ride on Eventbrite and most of them actually turned up! It was a protest, but a happy one, with a carnival atmosphere."

Filmmaker @carlafrancome's short documentary about the Freedom Ride starts in Finsbury Park, as new riders join the feeder ride from Enfield Town and Palmers Green to the start of the main ride at Marble Arch

clare rogers on e-bike at marble arch during women's freedom ride

Freedom Ride organiser and PG resident Clare Rogers: "Euphoric"

Clare explains that the next stage of the campaign will be a petition to the Mayor of London. The aim is to persuade him to set a target date of 2030 for there to be as many women cycling on the capital's roads as there are men - a normal situation in some cities on the continent, but here in London twice as many men as women ride bikes as a means of getting around.

So why do women currently cycle so much less than men?

Clare points me to the research carried out by Lucy Marstrand-Taussig of Metis Consultants, which suggests that women, along with older people and children, are more deterred than younger men by the danger resulting from unsafe road design and the attitudes of some other road users.

woman at the women's freedom bike ride dressed as a suffragist with votes for women sash

The red sashes worn by Clare and other ride leaders had more than a hint of the women's suffragists about them, but this rider made the connection explicit!

Secondly, the cycle infrastructure that councils have been installing is geared towards commuting along radial routes into central London, where male riders predominate. Yet overall commuting accounts for only 15 per cent of trips made in England and women in particular make non-radial journeys

What turned Clare Rogers into a campaigner?

"It was the frustration of trying to get my children to school locally without using a car - because I didn't want to add to the air pollution problem - that got me into campaigning...

"As outer London residents, we are so dependent on our cars, but we shouldn't have to be - we're doing mostly short journeys. It's just that the roads are so hostile that we get in our cars."

So what's needed so that people can make these local trips safely, for instance doing the school run by bike?

"People shouldn't have to brave heavy traffic to get around by bike - that's not normal, but it's the situation that we're in," says Clare. "For local journeys we need a fine-grained safe network, a combination of low-traffic networks that we can ride through safely, good crossings and protected bike lanes along main roads."

The obstacles to more women cycling and what LCC wants to be done to remove them

women cycling in a group

Fear of motor traffic

Not many people love mixing with lots of traffic when they cycle, but women are generally less willing to share a lane than men, as well as more likely to be travelling with children. Studies show women feel far more comfortable cycling on protected bike lanes or routes with low traffic – this study is a good example. So we’re calling for physical safety via high-quality cycle networks across London, which either provide separation from motor traffic or very low-traffic routes. Without these, we will not achieve gender equity in London’s cycle trips.

Fear of violence and abuse

Cycle routes on poorly lit, socially-isolated routes such as through parks or along canals do not serve women because of fear of attack, limited exit opportunities and low lighting levels (including in winter). And on busy roads, drivers behave differently around women – the Near Miss Project found women reported a higher rate of ‘near misses’ when cycling. So we’re calling for social safety for women cycling. This could include making it easier for women to report abuse or dangerous driving when they cycle, and for police and the authorities to act far more diligently on such reports, as well as ensuring signed routes and cycle parking are well lit, feel safe at night and don’t use industrial estates, parks, canals and so on.

Lack of cycle networks for local journeys

The planning of London’s cycle routes has mainly focused on radial commuter routes, converging on the centre. But commuting makes up only 15% of journeys and these journeys are primarily done by men. As an example, women in their thirties do four times the distance of ‘escorting education’ trips (taking kids to school) and half the distance of commuting trips compared to men of the same age (from Lucy Marstrand-Taussig). So we are calling for local cycle networks, such as low traffic neighbourhoods and safe routes to schools, to get the same priority as cycle corridors into central London.


Sign the petition calling on the Mayor to make London a city where any woman can cycle safely

Log in to comment
Adrian Day posted a reply
09 Mar 2023 18:34
A great profile of a local hero!
Ediz Mevlitt posted a reply
09 Mar 2023 20:36
Yes my daughter a young woman had no chance of safety when cycling ….. many in these otitis decided to sacrifice this young woman to provide for themselves. More pollution, congestion and danger from all angles…. Your right young women like my daughter need safety…. LCC done the opposite and sacrificed her
Adrian Day posted a reply
12 Mar 2023 21:16
Your daughter is very welcome to come on one of our rides (with an adult if she's a child) - we have another ride in east Enfield on April 30th. Please can you explain in what way LCC 'sacrificed her' ?
Karl Brown posted a reply
13 Mar 2023 09:36
There’ll be no surprise to me if something along the lines of a “Lineker Window” emerges in the very near term (albeit informally) framing what is and is not seen as acceptable use in public discussion in a new-world which has evolved at breakneck speed. High profile politicians feeding bases with terms such as “swarms” and “invasions” will find themselves on the outside looking into this new landscape. I have an inkling that references to sacrificing daughters may go the same way.