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Dame Sarah Storey calls for bike lanes fit for everyone, 'not just the brave'

Joe Robinson
6 Feb 2019

Paralympic champion believes better cycling infrastructure is key to more women cycling

Multi Paralympic champion Dame Sarah Storey has urged the government to 'build bike lanes fit for everyone, not just the brave' in order to get more women riding bikes.

During a speech to promote British Cycling's #OneinaMillion campaign, Storey made it clear that the key to getting more women on bikes was to address the perceived danger of riding on the road and for local and national authorities to step up their games in regards to cycling infrastructure.

British Cycling research has found the potential for 10 million regular women cyclists to be unlocked if the 'typical barriers' preventing women from cycling were taken away.

In her speech, Storey highlighted that only a quarter of cycle commuters are women, despite commuting by bike being cheaper, healthier and often faster than other modes of transport.  

'Over two-thirds of women believe that it is too dangerous for them to cycle on the roads, with most citing driver behaviour and inadequate cycle lanes and infrastructure as the main hazards deterring them,'  said Storey.

'What these barriers also tell us is that painted, poor quality cycle lanes on the road simply won’t cut it. We have to stop creating cycle lanes that are too narrow, poorly maintained and disconnected from other routes.'

The 41-year-old said the lack of allocated space has created a 'negative experience' for cycle commuters and that current provisions and infrastructure offer little incentive for active travel. 

Just 1.9% of Britain's workforce cycle to work and while the likes of London (3.2%) and East Anglia (4%) are considerably higher than that average, it still pales in comparison to the likes of the Netherlands, where 30% of workers commute by bike, mainly due to established infrastructure.

Cities such as London and Manchester have committed themselves to projects to build substantial cycle networks and have backed this up with significant financial input.

Last week, Transport for London confirmed it was one step closer to building the first 'safe' cycle superhighway through West London. 

British Cycling is also working with cycling charities Cycling UK and Sustrans to lobby government for revision to the Highway Code and a push for 'best-in-class' cycling infrastructure. 

But all this work takes place in the face of those who oppose cycling infrastructure, such as former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne and prominent businesswoman Karen Brady who have both claimed the London Embankment cycle superhighway causes increased congestion and pollution.

However, Storey believes that the real way forward for promoting more female cycle commuters is by focusing on building fully segregated routes to a set standard nationwide, not just in the busiest centres.

'If we are to truly make people on bikes feel safer and reduce the potential for conflict between road users we need high-quality, fully-segregated routes in all towns and cities, built to clear and consistent design standards, and properly enforced 20mph speed limits on quieter streets,' said Storey.

'Anything less than this and cycling will continue to be confined to the brave.'