MORE than 30 women took to the streets on bicycles yesterday to celebrate their new riding skills on International Women’s Day.
Members of the Portsmouth Women’s Learn to Ride group, supported by the national cycling charity Cycling UK, have only learned to ride in the past few months and went on an outing to celebrate their achievement.
Khaleda Begum, one of the women who has learned to ride with the group this year, came to Portsmouth from Bangladesh in 2005 with her four sisters.
The mother-of-three said: ‘When I was at school I wanted to learn to ride a bike, but we haven’t got any brothers, so we didn’t have any bikes in our home.
‘I’m from Bangladesh and in Bangladesh if there is any boy, he will get a bike, but it’s not for girls.’
Khaleda was inspired to learn to ride by her 11-year-old daughter who has been riding since the age of three.
She added: ‘I didn’t have any chance to learn.’
Many of the women in the group come from cultures or communities where girls riding bicycles was and often still is considered inappropriate, meaning they never had a chance to cycle in childhood.
Alex Cuppleditch, Cycling UK’s Cycling Development Officer for Portsmouth (pictured left), said: ‘When discovering their reasons for wanting to learn to cycle, I learned many of these women wanted to ride with their families and teach their children to ride.
‘That’s why I thought a group ride would be a wonderful way to finish the eight-week course and show how far these ladies have come.’
The bicycle has always been a symbol of women’s freedom, giving independence and mobility, and was a valuable tool in the fight for universal suffrage.
The ride also tied in with Cycling UK’s launch of the Women’s Festival of Cycling for 2018, a month of events throughout July designed to encourage and celebrate women who cycle.