Our previous blog post detailed one of the best ways you could explore a place – walking. A close second would have to be cycling.
We recently met up with the HSBC UK Participation Programmes Officer at Scottish Cycling Melanie Toner. Melanie supports the development of the Let’s Ride programmes in Scotland – Breeze and Ride Social. Breeze supports more women to cycle. Melanie also chairs the Scottish Cycling Women’s Development Group, bringing together a team of committed women to support the growth of women and girls cycling. Read on to know more of these initiatives…
The Let’s Ride initiatives
‘Let’s Ride’ is the suite of participation programmes developed by British Cycling and funded by HSBC UK, which are delivered across Great Britain, and in partnership with Scottish Cycling in Scotland. The Let’s Ride website hosts all of the different programmes, including HSBC UK Guided Rides (led by British Cycling trained ride leaders),HSBC UK Breeze (led rides for women), HSBC UK Ride Social (social rides) and HSBC UK Let’s Ride Pop-up (local cycling events).
The purpose of the Breeze program
HSBC UK Breeze supports more women to cycle by providing training and support to volunteers, our ‘Breeze Champions’, to lead rides for women, and women and children, in their local areas.
Fewer women cycle compared to men, and Breeze provides opportunities for women to get out on their bikes in the company of other women, building their confidence and skills, improving health and wellbeing and (re)discovering the joys of riding a bike.
A typical Breeze event
Breeze rides are graded ‘easy’, ‘steady’ and ‘challenging’, so there is something for all abilities.
You can search for a Breeze ride in your area by visiting the Let’s Ride website, where you can sign up for a ride that suits your level and interest. If there doesn’t appear to be any rides happening near you, perhaps you or someone you know would make a good ride leader, and would be interested in becoming involved. We’ll have more Breeze Champion training courses taking place next year and anyone interested can register their interest via the website.
All of the Breeze rides come with the support and guidance of a friendly ride leader; sometimes there can be two or more. You will recognise them by their snazzy red kit, with ‘Breeze Champion’ adorned across the back. They will welcome everyone to their ride, brief riders on the route, help everyone carry out a quick safety check of their bike and then it’s good to go.
The reception received
Breeze started in 2011 in England and the first training course for Breeze Champions in Scotland took place in Glasgow in 2014. Scottish Cycling became involved last year and I came into post in the August. Since then we’ve delivered courses across Scotland, including Inverness, Dundee, Aberdeen, Dunfermline, Galashiels, Dumfries, Edinburgh and Glasgow. We’ve had Breeze rides as far north as Thurso and as far south as Castle Douglas.
We have an amazing network of Breeze Champions delivering rides in their local areas, helping more women to cycle, learning new routes, discovering new cake stops and making new friends in the process.
How forthcoming are local governments in supporting these initiative
Local governments have been helpful with the marketing and promotion of our Breeze Champion training courses, and we’ve been able to attract good numbers to them, increasing the number of ride leaders, and hence the number of rides, being delivered across the country.
We have made strong links with Glasgow in particular, where the team at Glasgow Life have been involved in supporting all of the participation programmes since the first mass participation event in the city, the Glasgow Sky Ride, in 2010. They’ve even funded a supply of bikes for Breeze, which open the rides to women who don’t have their own.
This has definitely helped attract more women to the rides in the East End of Glasgow, where we have weekly rides leaving from the Emirates Arena, and the bikes get regular use. Support like this helps women return to cycling by removing the barrier of needing a bike. Some of the women I’ve met had not ridden a bike since childhood, and for one woman, this was a gap of 50 years!
Popular cycling holiday destinations for families traveling to the UK
This summer I cycled the Hebridean Way, a route across the Outer Hebrides, starting in the tiny island of Vatersay and finishing at the very top of Lewis. Any family not up for cycling the full 185 miles, might enjoy exploring any of the ten islands by bike; you don’t have to visit them all in one trip! The islands are beautiful; there are golden sandy beaches, stunning coastlines, amazing wildlife and Gaelic language and culture.
I’d also recommend the Isle of Cumbrae for a family day out, which is very popular with cyclists, young and old. It’s not so far to travel from the central belt of Scotland, just a short ferry ride from Largs. It’s a ten mile cycle around the island, where there are apparently 1,000 bicycles available for hire, so you don’t even need to bring your own!
In addition to the led and social rides of Breeze, Guided Rides and Ride Social, there are Let’s Ride mass participation events in Scotland, held in both Edinburgh and Glasgow in 2017 and 2018.
These closed-road events enable large numbers of people to come together and enjoy cycling away from motorised vehicles, with a festival atmosphere and attractions adding to the occasion.
We had a beautiful sunny day for the Edinburgh event in June this year, and around 7,000 people attended. Sadly the weather on the Glasgow date was atrocious, reminding us what a Scottish summer can expect! However there were still some hardy folks who braved the elements and enjoyed the day.
On a much smaller-scale, Glasgow also hosts Let’s Ride Pop-up events. This year these have been taking place in Alexandra Park, in the East End of Glasgow, providing a traffic-free route through the park to cycle on, an information stall with knowledgeable volunteers and a skills area supervised by a Go Ride coach.
These events provide a great opportunity for the local community to come together and celebrate cycling; families can cycle together, children can improve their bike handling skills and people who don’t usually cycle can give it a go.
The local bike hub, Alexandra Park Bike Hub, have been fantastically supportive, providing bikes for free hire, tasty homemade soup and a friendly, welcoming space.