53-year-old Alison Lewis is doing something incredible for the ever-growing community of cyclists in Brighton and Hove. As the local organiser and coach for Breeze, she’s a huge part of the reason why more and more women in the area are getting in the saddle.
She said the number of women participating in cycling in Brighton is rising more rapidly than in other cities: “London obviously has a large number of women cycling in the city, as does Manchester, but Brighton offers something unique and that is that we have very good flat routes to ride such as along the promenade and more challenging routes out of the city near the South Downs.”
HSBC UK Breeze is a national women’s cycling organisation which aims to encourage women to cycle for fitness and fun. It’s one of the biggest ever British women’s cycling groups. The group’s next local ride is a picturesque 12-mile route around the Hove and Shoreham area on 28 February.
Alison, who lives in Hove, said: “I believe that nationally there are around three times more men participating in cycling than women and that is something I would like to see change as soon as possible.
“It is thanks to Breeze and our coaching group in the city that we are encouraging many more women to come on rides.
“There aren’t many others in the city pushing for increased female involvement in the sport and that is why I believe my group has had such an impact in the area.”
Since 7 January, Alison has helped Breeze run a Rider Development (coaching and ride) series which taught local women key bike skills including climbing and descending hills, turning corners safely, riding one-handed and cycling in a group. Although Alison hopes some of theselovely ladies will go on to take part in more challenging bike rides such as the London to Brighton event, most of the Rider Development gang are just keen to get out and about on their bicycles.
Last Saturday, Brighton and Hove Mayor Pete West presented 16 women with rewards for attending Alison’s free six-week series of cycle coaching sessions.
Alison is eagerly awaiting Brighton’s answer to Boris Bikes, called Hourbikes, to launch in town by June. She said the scheme will make it more convenient for groups or individuals to travel around the city, especially for people who don’t own a bike.
She added: “It seems some women do not like the idea of cycling alone and this scheme will allow groups to organise bike rides a lot easier.”
The scheme will see 430 bikes available for hire from 50 docking hub locations all over the city. Gill Mitchell, lead member for environment and sustainability at Brighton & Hove City Council, said: “This is an exciting scheme that should work well for the city. The aim is to provide a flexible service that will give more choice to those who live, work or visit the city – providing an opportunity to cycle, even if you don’t own a bike or can’t bring one with you.”