Women bike for integration

| December 6, 2017

By Hanne Thomsen-Mühlbrand og Lene Ahle Skoubo, Herning Municipality and Anne Marie Lautrup, Rambøll

Learning to cycle is not only great fun, but it also make women more mobile

”Cycling is dangerous for women .” This is what many doctors said when Danish women first started cycling. Since then the bicycle has become a part of Danish culture and a natural choice when it comes to transport – both for women and men, young and old.

Since 2011, Herning Municipality has been working on the project ”Herning Cycles”, which aims to improve cycling conditions for the almost 90,000 inhabitants. The municipality has been working with both infrastructure projects and campaigns. With this project we focus on getting immigrant women cycling.

On average, employment for immigrant women in Denmark is considerably lower than for the rest of the population. If we can get some of them to cycle we can create new cycling ambassadors, introduce immigrant women in general to the Danish (bicycle) culture, strengthen their independence and mobility and improve integration.

Balancing was the hard bit

The project was carried out in 2016-2017 and the three bicycle workshops of 15-20 hours were spread out over 5-10 sessions. One of the participants was Jamilla from Syria.

”I learnt to cycle at this workshop. My children cycle around every day and now I can cycle with them,” says Jamilla with a smile. In the beginning, Jamilla was a little afraid and finding her balance was hard. Therefore the pedals were taken off and Jamilla found her balance by using her bike as a ’running bicycle’.

”Cycling is about more than just jumping on the bike. It is about balance, health, behaviour, traffic and safety,” says Misse, who is project manager at the women’s part of an integration and inclusion project called The Unity Plan – Room for differences.

A success

26 women have attended the workshops and they were a success: ”At the beginning we tried to ‘entice’ them with cooking and a nice get together. However, it turned out that it was unnecessary. The workshops were booked up very quickly and there were even waiting lists,” says Lene Ahle Skoubo, project manager, Herning Cycles.

At the workshops they talked about good reasons to cycle, what is necessary when cycling, how far you can cycle and where, traffic regulations and where you can find help for looking after your bicycle. At the last workshop, apart from the regular workshop participants, 5 cycling instructors were trained.

”During the workshops we have focused on the women’s different preconditions. Therefore we tried many different types of bicycles, everyone got a helmet and on the longer trips a car followed the women. The possibility of getting a lift if their legs couldn’t make it was decisive in everyone participating,” says Hanne Thomsen-Mühlbrand, communication and project worker at Herning Cycles.

A different culture

”The women who attended the workshops come from countries where they are not used to cycling. When they come to Denmark, however, they quickly discover that they have become part of a bicycle culture and that cycling is prestigious,” says Misse.

Many of the women don’t have access to a car and by cycling they can get around more. At the same time, the women become role models amongst their peers which contributes to integration.

The future for the project

The first cycling-team in the “Herning Cycles”-project.

Herning Cycles had as its goal that the bicycle workshops could continue after the project had ended. The experiences with the project have now been passed on to the municipality’s department for health and the elderly, who added it onto projects for immigrant women with a focus on health. The collaboration is carried out by volunteers – amongst them the newly trained instructors – and the first bicycle workshop began in August 2017. The participants have to pay 200 DKK themselves but after the workshop, the participants get a secondhand bike so the goal is that the women will continue to cycle.

5 good pieces of advice for similar projects:

1. Look into where similar projects have been done before – volunteer networks are priceless.

2. Make agreements with other managers, departments, volunteers etc. – laws and regulations must be respected.

3. Ensure a good bicycle instructor – to give both future volunteers and the women a good and safe introduction to the bicycle.

4. Practice cycling in traffic and ensure necessary breaks. Maybe arrange a visit by a traffic police officer.

5. Communicate in the right places and through an interpreter if possible – it is important that the women understand that they commit themselves to turn up at the agreed times.

You can read more about the workshops here

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Category: Campaigns, Danish cycling culture, Health, Newsletters in English, Uncategorized

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