Girls on Bikes is a pioneering new project developed by Sustrans to tackle low levels of cycling, and physical activity in general, amongst teenage girls in Newham, London.
The girls are gearing up for a new adventure in life. They have their new bikes and have begun training to become confident cyclists. They are being given everything they need for regular cycling, from their bikes, training and encouragement, to inspiration, motivation and purpose. Once they have the skills and confidence they can use the bikes for their everyday journeys and be free to do anything they want with the bikes, planning their own routes, trips and adventures.
They are building a blog and sharing their experiences through social media and daily interactions. If they keep up using the bikes to get to school and make their own trips, they can keep their bikes for good!
The project draws inspiration from Anna McNuff, who cycled all 50 states of the US, stopping on the way to share her adventure with local children and young people. Anna is currently running across New Zealand, and raising money for the Outward Bound Trust, and in the UK for The Superhero Foundation. Both causes will work towards enrolling as many kids as possible on an outdoor learning programme – It’ll help the kids become more confident and capable at school, college and at work, and above all, give them a shot at an adventure – when they wouldn’t have otherwise had the chance.
Using adventure as a platform to help kids explore the planet beyond their playground ~ Anna McNuff
Girls on Bikes aims to create this for the girls on a micro, everyday level, because on a bike they have a new found freedom to explore the world around them, to discover new places, to experience things in a different way, to experience a new independence and take on a new kind of challenge. From this point on, the program will be shaped by the girls’ own ideas. Anna will be working with the girls to help them this, skyping with them mid adventure from New Zealand!
Cycling is now recognised as an excellent way to increase levels of physical activity, and research shows that on average, boys cycle 138 miles a year and girls only 24 miles.
According to studies, just a quarter of girls take part the government recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day, compared with a third of boys. The proportion of girls taking part in the recommended levels of activity a week declines with age, particularly after the age of 10. Further to this, the level of 11 to 15 year olds that are overweight or obese is at its highest ever, 37%, according to a study in 2013. This is a major issue facing a whole generation of our society, and an issue for which Public Health England said there was no room for complacency.
So what is this all about?
It turns out there’s a real lack of research and evidence to identify the major barriers, which is just what this innovative new project will address. Working with small groups of teenage girls in 2 Newham schools, Sustrans want to know what the girls think about this issue, what affects them personally and what they think would make a difference for them.
The girls, who have been selected on the basis of application, are preparing to become leaders on the issue amongst their peers.
A partnership between Sustrans, TfL, Newham Council and Lister Community School, this is a really exciting development in redressing the long standing gender imbalance in cycling, and a great opportunity to change the lifestyles, habits and health of young girls.