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Women from Palmers Green were among more than a thousand participants in last Sunday's Women's Freedom Ride, organised by the London Cycling Campaign as part of a campaign calling on the Mayor of London, Metropolitan Police and London boroughs to take stronger measures so that women can cycle on London's road without facing the levels of danger and abuse that they do currently.

participants in the 2024 womens freedom ride at palmers green on their way to londonPicking up in PG on the way to the Freedom Ride. Seven-year-old Anna-Maria had already ridden down from Enfield Town and went on to complete the journey to Lincoln's Inn Fields and the circuit of central London

The contingent from PG joined a feeder ride to central London organised by Enfield Cycling Campaign that had set out from Enfield Town earlier in the morning. At Lincoln's Inn Fields they joined forces with groups who had cycled in from across the capital before completing a circuit that took in Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and the Mall.

The event began with the handover of a petition of over 5,000 signatures to the Mayor’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner, Will Norman.

The LCC Women's Network is calling on the Mayor, the Metropolitan Police and local councils to act now to address issues of physical safety, including lack of protected cycle routes; social safety, including the lack of police reporting on gendered abuse women face while cycling; and enabling cycling locally, where women undertake the majority of journeys.

Excerpt from a press release issued by the London Cycling Campaign

The petition calls for the Mayor to take steps so that riding a bike is made safe, easy and convenient for women of all ages, backgrounds and abilities, across the whole city. The necessity of taking action became clear after London Cycling Campaign surveyed women cyclists, revealing a shocking amount of what can only be regarded as hate crime directed by some car drivers against them (see the box below).

The survey also found that safe cycling infrastructure in London (where it exists - and there are several boroughs which have done little, or in some cases nothing, to protect the lives of cyclists) is overly focussed on commuting routes into central London, which favours male cyclists.

freedom with safer streets notice

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Eilidh Murray, Coordinator of the LCC Women's Network, said "Cycling is such a joyous, healthy and freeing mode of transport in London for so many women. But it's also far too frequently where women face gendered abuse and aggressive driving and they're impacted by not only a lack of safe cycle routes but often a choice between hostile main roads or isolated parks and industrial estates for their cycle routes after dark and in winter. Freeing women to cycle in London will mean making big steps against misogyny and sexism in our capital and its transport networks"

freedom riders in central london

Another organisation involved in putting on the Freedom Ride is Edmonton-based Londra Bisiklet Kulübü (LBK), mainly run by and for members of London’s Turkish/Kurdish community. LBK provides cycle training, organised bike rides, bike repair workshops and an adult bike hire scheme, and campaigns for active travel. Over the last four years it has enabled hundreds of people to cycle, especially women and children in low-income ethnic minority communities.

Commenting on the successful day, LBK's co-founder Menekse Ayrilmaz said, "March 3 saw women of all abilities and creeds cycling the streets of central London and bringing joy to them. Women should be free to cycle our city every day without fear or abuse. The Freedom Ride is not only a great fun ride for the cycling sisterhood of London, it's also making a serious point that there are far too few days where most of these women will feel comfortable cycling on our streets."

Some of the thousand plus riders echoing Aretha Franklin's cry of "Freedom! Freedom!" (Video by Carla Francome)

Mariam Draaijer, CEO of JoyRiders UK, said, "Nearly every woman you see cycling in London has faced abuse just for getting about on a bike (or trike). We get heckled for taking our kids in cargo bikes, we are abused racially, far too many of us have even been assaulted while cycling. We’re body shamed and made to feel that we have no place on London’s roads. We need urgent action to ensure any and every woman who wants to cycle in London has the freedom to do so. That means more focus on the barriers from our Mayor, and in particular the Metropolitan Police."

Riding alongside her party's candidate for Mayor of London, Zoë Garbutt, was Caroline Russell, a Green member of the London Assembly. Caroline commented:

"This Sunday’s freedom ride was a glorious expression of the freedom that comes with riding a bike in our city, that also came with a serious message: Misogyny directed at women on their bikes is utterly unacceptable and must be called out.”


What are the problems facing women cyclists in London?

cover of what stops women cycling in london report jan 2024

In the summer of 2023, the London Cycling Campaign's Women’s Network asked women about their experiences of cycling in London via a public survey. We wanted to understand why less than a third of London’s daily cycle trips are by women, in contrast to Dutch cities, where women make up more than half.

Based on more than 1,000 responses, the survey results show with real clarity some of the key factors that put women off cycling in London – including a shocking level of abuse and aggression from drivers, and a lack of safe cycle routes to use all year round.

It seems that abuse towards women cycling has become normalised.

Read the full report

Some of the report's key findings:

  • 93% of women surveyed said drivers had used motor vehicles to intimidate them. 77% said they experienced this at least once a month.
  • 9 out of 10 said they had experienced abuse from other road users while cycling - 63% said it was at least once a month.
  • The abuse was often verbal but included sexual harassment, physical threats, and physical and sexual assaults, such as groping or slapping women on their bikes while stopped at traffic lights.
  • Most common verbal abuse was a variant of 'Get off the road!'
  • Over 1/5th of women said they'd given up cycling, temporarily or permanently, as a result of these experiences.
  • 9 out of 10 said they would start to cycle or cycle more if they had safer cycle routes, for instance with protected cycle tracks, for their journeys.
  • Over half of women said they are forced to choose between cycling on busy roads without any safe space or through isolated, quiet or dark places for their journeys.

Calling for action!

The survey reinforces the LCC Women’s Network campaign asks to the Mayor of London, Transport for London, the Metropolitan Police and every London borough to act, urgently, on these barriers to women’s mobility and freedom - so that women can cycle all the everyday journeys they want to, for greater equality, more active lifestyles, less road danger and lower carbon emissions

Safe cycling for women: sign the petition

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