Interview with Dr Rachel Aldred on increasing everyday cycling – the write-up

Podcast interview logoJust before Christmas, I interviewed Dr Rachel Aldred, who does fantastic work both as a Senior Lecturer in Transport at the University of Westminster, and with her Near Miss Project, looking at what helps and hinders people to cycle more in the UK, including a focus on issues of equality, diversity and equity in cycling.  You can listen to the interview as a podcast here, and I’ve transcribed it below, if you prefer to read instead.


ProWomensCycling: Can you describe what you do in a nutshell?

Rachel Aldred:  I do a lot of research in cycling in a range of ways, using a lot of different methods, but cycling is really my research passion.   I also teach Transport Planning as well, and lead an MSc in Transport Planning.

PWC: And you have quite a lot of other strings to your bow – you’re involved in the London Cycling Campaign, and a lot of other projects.  The one I was interested in is the Near Miss Project – can you tell us a little more about that?

RA:  The Near Miss Project got going just over a year ago, and it looks at cycling ‘near misses’, but at the heart of it, I wanted to do this One Day Diary, and get people to record cycling trips, and any near miss-type incidents they experienced over the course of one day, and then the idea was to derive a near miss rate that you could compare with injury rates, for example, because it seemed to me – and we know now from the research too – that near misses are really very common, and can have a substantial impact on people, but there’s very little work done on them.  We don’t know how often they happen, and so on.  So I really wanted to find out about near misses, both from injury prevention purposes, but also from the cycling experience angle, that these things that happen, potentially, every day, could have a substantial impact on people, and how people feel about cycling.

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Increasing everyday cycling: Sarah interviews Dr Rachel Aldred

Podcast interview logoThere are a lot of theories on how to get more people riding their bikes, and what stops people cycling, but some of the most interesting research in the UK is being done by Dr Rachel Aldred, a Senior Lecturer in Transport at the University of Westminster.  She’s got a really interesting perspective, coming at transport policy from a background in sociology, and she’s especially interesting for her approach of looking at how social, cultural and infrastructure issues interact, and also her focus on diversity in cycling – including specific issues around cycling for women, older people, Black and other minority ethnic communities, disabled people, children and more.

We talked about what her research has shown her about barriers that stop people cycling, what more could be done, and the initiative she set up last year, the Near Miss Project, and what that’s already showing about attitudes to cycling.  This is naturally a little bit UK-focused, but there’s so much here that will be applicable everywhere, so if you’re not in the UK, don’t let that stop you!

Listen to the podcast here, or click through to Soundcloud to download it, or you can read the interview over here.



You can get automated free podcast updates via the iTunes store here (leave us a review too!) or via our RSS feed. (Please note, this is a new RSS, so long-time listeners may need to re-subscribe)

Find out more about Dr Aldred’s work on her website – and I recommend the paper she co-authored with James Woodcock and Anna Goodman, Does More Cycling Mean More Diversity in Cycling?  And follow her twitter for lots of fantastic links to research and work on cycling issues. (You can get to her paper about protective gear that we talked about from here, and to her blog about MGIF & cost-benefit analysis).  The work she did on the Cycling Cultures Project on their website.

Definitely check out the Near Miss Project website, and if you’re in the UK, ask your local Police Force if they have a way to report cycling near misses – and then, if you experience them, report them (for example, here’s how you can report to Avon & Somerset Police).  And if you want to help improve things for everyday cyclists, contact your local democratic representatives to tell them what you’d like to see, and help them hear positive stories about cycling (in the UK?  Contact your Councillor, MP, and Scottish/Welsh/London Assembly representative!).

I’m funded to do these interviews thanks to my wonderful Patreon supporters – thank you so much!  If you want to join them from just $2 a month, there’s more information here.

A collection of posts about women and sports

I’ve had this post in draft for the last month, and every time I’ve been about to post it, I’ve seen something new.  But I should just press “publish” now – it’s a collection of things I’ve seen in the last month about women and sports, with an emphasis on cycling, of course!

There was a lot of talk about women and sports and equality recently, and my favourite was this piece by Hadley Freeman in the Guardian:  Female athletes stealing from men?  I call it equal pay.  It’s a pithy, witty, and righteously angry response to some really stupid commentary that we can’t give parity to women as it would hurt men somehow.  Click through, you won’t regret it.

Here’s a great tweet about the issue in cyclocross

And some really interesting information about the Basque campaign for equality for women’s cycling.


While equal pay is a huge issue in women’s sports in most of the world, it’s important to me to remember that just riding a bike is a right not all women share.  So I’m always heartened by articles about the Afghan women’s cycling team, like this one in the Guardian, on how they’re aiming for the Olympics.  And there’s a great audio interview with Yara Sallam, a young Egyptian feminist and lawyer, on how women are reclaiming public spaces by riding bikes, scooters and motorbikes.  It’s by the Association for Women’s rights in Development, and it’s really inspiring.

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Equal prize money for women at the Koppenbergcross

It’s pretty crazy, but bike races in Europe have major prize differentiations between women and men – and it runs across different kinds of racing.  Last week there was a great “first” – the Koppenbergcross became the first European C1 cyclocross race to offer equal prizes, and it’s especially interesting because the money behind it – just €5,000! – was put up by Twenty20 Cycling, a 2-shop bike company based in Baltimore USA.  So political, I love it, the fact it takes a USA bike shop to bring this step towards equality to Europe!

Kona rider Helen Wyman has been instrumental in making this happen, and I interviewed her last week on Podium Café about the process, the politics, and why it means so much more than just money.  More things you might like to read about this include:

And follow them all on twitter – Koppenbergcross, Twenty20 and Helen Wyman.

Here’s hoping that other cyclocross races follow suit – and the road races with women’s and men’s editions, like Flèche Wallonne, Omloop het Nieuwsblad and Ronde van Vlaanderen step up too.

Update!  Here’s this week’s GCN News video, with Helen talking about all this

Cycling and the unspoken

Anyone who’s been a cycling fan for more than five minutes has had to confront the doping question, explaining to friends & family why we still follow the sport, explaining Lance Armstrong, looking at Tour de France performances and questioning them even when it’s riders we love.  But sometimes I think the doping question is used as an excuse to hide every other issue.  There’s a feeling out there in the media and some fans, that once we conquer doping, cycling will be sorted.  As a women’s cycling fan, of course I know that’s not the case, but there’s a whole range of things that aren’t talked about in the media or on fansites – or at least publicly – and that make me angry.  I love this sport, so much, but there are so many issues that worry me, enrage me, and make me feel helpless, because how can fans change things?

Why the petition for a women’s TdF is vitally important

So yesterday on the podcast Sarah and I made mention of the petition that is running now to ask the ASO to commit to a women’s TdF. The petition’s been started by several pro cyclists and Emma Pooley has given a couple of great interviews about it and what they’re trying to achieve.

If you’re still trying to decide whether you should sign the petition or not, let’s talk through some of the things that it is and isn’t for, and what it will and won’t achieve.

My take on the petition from the start has been that it’s a good thing, even though it’s unlikely to achieve all of its aims (it’s asking ASO to institute a fully-equitable women’s race in terms of distance, race days, prize money and coverage in 2014).

Without taking anything away from the ambition at all, I think it’s safe to say that any fan of women’s cycling who’s been around for more than 5 minutes knows that this just won’t happen. But as Pooley herself acknowledges, the petition is about staking out an ideal and working towards it, and this is why the petition is vitally important.

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Investing money in women’s cycling will totally, utterly and irrevocably ruin it

WARNING: This post may contain traces of sarcasm

Recently everyone’s favourite host of late-night (or early evening the previous day, depending on your timezone) Q&A sessions, Amber Pierce wrote a rambling and hysterical piece of histrionic propaganda about the paucity of financial investment in women’s cycling. Among her many emotionally charged and irrational claims was this little gem:

“And for the love of pete, STOP this narrative that investing money in women’s cycling will somehow ruin it. Money is precisely what women’s cycling needs to progress; the passion, professionalism, people, ideas and motivation are all there.”

Amber is, of course, dead wrong. Continue reading