For every five men who cycle regularly in the capital, there are only two women, according to Transport for London.
In July 2003, the Women's Design Service, a charity working with women in urban environments, launched a project in the London boroughs of Camden and Lambeth, with help from Transport for London and the London Cycling Campaign, to find out why. The project included bike maintenance classes and bike rides for women.
It also aimed to raise the profile of cycling for women. The message to policy makers stressed that because females account for almost all of the increase in car use, encouraging them to cycle would indirectly also tackle pollution and congestion. And because women are five times as likely as men are to make trips with children aged under five, they act as greater role models for young people.
A survey revealed that safety concerns and problems relating to clothing, showering and storage at work were the two main barriers to women. The most popular ideas to encourage greater take-up were effective cycle lanes and more cycle training.
Two hundred women took part in cycle maintenance classes. Before the classes, nearly 60 per cent of participants were put off cycling by a lack of maintenance knowledge. Afterwards, more than 90 per cent said they felt more confident.
"The project proves that women's demand for cycling exists in abundance," said project worker Alix Stredwick. "But it has been suppressed by car culture, and to some extent is not encouraged by the macho cycling culture."
The project was nominated for London Cycling Campaign Best Community Cycling project, and the Women's Design Service has been involved in Transport for London's cycling audit. A good-practice CD has just been released.
WHAT IT IS
A project to find out why fewer women cycle and to encourage more to take it up
What it does Undertake research, organise women's cycle rides and provide cycle maintenance classes
How it's funded £45,000 from the Big Lottery Fund and £3,000 from Transport for London.