Sport England has handed British Cycling £992,159 of National Lottery cash in a bid to get 80,000 women back on a bike or riding for the first time.
The National Women’s Cycling Network will help women of all ages and ability to organise fun, recreational group bike rides for other women in their local area.
The project, to be launched this spring, aims to encourage 20,000 women to cycle at least once a week and 1,000 female cycling champions will be trained to become ride leaders over the next three years, equipped with the know-how to organise group rides on local routes – planned and mapped by them.
The programme seeks to draw inspiration from the success of Britain’s top elite cyclists – Olympic silver medallist Emma Pooley the pick of the bunch in 2010 after claiming world time-trial gold in Melbourne, Australia.
“We are delighted that Sport England has awarded us funding to roll out this ambitious project designed to get more women on their bikes,” said British Cycling chief executive Ian Drake.
“We have had significant success in increasing participation in cycling through Sky Ride, developed with our principal partner BSkyB, and we will take our experience in this area to launch a bespoke programme for women that will be delivered by women.
“Our female athletes are the best in the world and we want to use that as an inspiration to attract thousands more women to our sport.”
The National Women’s Cycling Network is one of 20 projects backed as part of Sport England’s £10 million Active Women campaign to tackle the gender gap in sport. It aims to encourage women with children and those from disadvantaged communities to play more sport as part of the drive to deliver a mass participation legacy from London 2012.
Last month, Sport England figures revealed the number of women cycling once a week has decreased over the past two years despite an overall increase in cycling participation.
Sport England chief executive Jennie Price added: “For many women with children or those managing a tight budget, sport – and time to themselves – can slip down the list of priorities.
“The projects we’re funding today have asked local women what is preventing them from getting involved and what sports interest them, before coming up with an offer that is appealing and accessible.”
The announcement has been welcomed by the Minister for Sport and the Olympics, Hugh Robertson and badminton player Gail Emms.
“We have many fantastic female athletes in this country, but not enough women participating at sport’s grassroots,” said Robertson. “More needs to be done to encourage women to participate in sport, particularly those from disadvantaged communities.”
Former world champion and Olympic silver medallist Emms added: “As a new mum, I know only too well how difficult it can be to make time for yourself and to get out there and play sport.
“The projects receiving investment from Sport England today will make a big difference because they’ve really thought through the challenges women face in becoming regular sports participants.”