Oxford welcomes a different kind of JoyRider

By Annette Pattinson

Remember those days when joy riding in stolen cars was constantly in the news in Oxford? Well, a new and so much better form of joy riding is coming to Oxford – JoyRiders Oxford, women enabling other women to cycle. 

The idea for JoyRiders started in London in 2016, following the introduction of Waltham Forest ‘mini-Holland’ schemes.

JoyRiders asked why so few women rode bikes – and set about changing this with social rides for a range of skills, confidence levels and distances, combined with coffee and cake. By JoyRiders’ third year, 730 women participated in a JoyRide.

The pandemic hit but, although rides had to pause, the coffee and cake certainly didn’t. In lockdown, JoyRiders continued their bike-themed social meets online and turned their attention to sharing a wealth of videos and resources for women wanting to start riding for exercise or commuting by bike during the pandemic. Women from all over the world – Saudi Arabia, New York, and even Oxford – found their way to JoyRiders online. This January, JoyRiders London became JoyRiders Britain to reflect this ever increasing interest.

JoyRiders’ aim is simple: to change the cycling equation. Only 30% of regular cyclists in the UK are female. Elsewhere in Europe the balance is tipped the other way, with a share of just over 50%. So why is this?

In 2018/19, JoyRiders surveyed their riders to ask what had prevented them from cycling. The top three answers were dangerous roads, lack of confidence and not knowing routes.

A year later, the share of respondents who stated they never cycled had fallen from 75% to 4%, with 30% saying they now cycled every day from 2%. Importantly, those who felt confident to ride on the road rose from under 40% to over 70%. Respondents also cited other positives such as mixing with different communities, encouraging friends and family to ride, and feeling more connected within their community.

Oxford is a small, compact city, and getting around by bike can be quick and practical when you know how and have the confidence. If the County and City Councils are resolute in their plans to create a safer environment for walking and cycling through Connecting Oxford and low-traffic neighbourhoods, the scene will be set for more cycling. Enabled by these changes JoyRiders will help more women gain the confidence to cycle.

Oxfordshire’s Bikes for Key Workers scheme launched during the first lockdown – offering a refurbished bike along with tuition and route finding – raised the rates of commuter cycling which was sustained. So we know there is pent-up demand and we know JoyRiders will help. 

One prospective JoyRiders volunteer told us that when she arrived in Oxford in the early 1970s “everyone, but everyone, was on their bikes”.  Without doubt Oxford will return to being a Cycling City for all! 

Cyclox is helping JoyRiders Oxford with roll out. JoyRiders will start commuter and community rides in Oxford and Oxfordshire this April (restrictions permitting): Do you love to ride and want to help other women gain the confidence to ride like you? Get in touch!

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