Women in Cycling – Lizzie Reather

Introduce yourself (and your bikes…)

I’m Lizzie, and cycling used to be pretty much my whole life. Now it’s just part of my life, which is a lot better!

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The ‘cycle path’ that turned Lizzie into a campaigner

I’m a bit of an outlier: after many years not riding, I bought a bike-to-work bike and just started cycling to work without any sort of social cycling introduction. I fell off once and cracked my helmet, but now I usually cycle without one. I count myself a pretty experienced cyclist but I choose to commute along one of the council’s fiddly cycle routes. If I’ve learned one thing about people who ride, it’s that they don’t usually fit in boxes!

What is your connection to the world of cycling?

I really enjoy riding my bike. If I’ve had a stressful day at work, the ride home makes me feel better. A ride at the weekend means I see the sky and the seasons change (and can eat more cake!) I believe everyone should be able to experience the joy of cycling, and I think it’s worth fighting for.

In response to a pretty horrible commute when I lived in Leeds, I joined the local cycling campaign and then mysteriously became Chair! In 2013 the city was awarded £30m of cycle infrastructure funding, and the campaign was heavily involved in trying to make sure that scheme worked for all ages and abilities. Plus, in 2014 the Tour de France came to Yorkshire. I don’t believe there’s an automatic connection between cycle sport and active travel, but lots of people do believe it! That meant I got opportunities to appear on the local and national news, and even shared the plenary bill with then transport minister Robert Goodwill at a conference in Leeds town hall. I got great feedback from those, and I think we’ve moved on from there with many more women challenging perceptions of cycling and cycle campaigners. Now I’m part of a group working to bring Pedal on Parliament to my new home city of Glasgow!

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Lizzie at the Leeds Cycling Campaign S4C Christmas Ride

What got you into cycling? (or back into it?)

It was cheaper and quicker than the bus.

What would you say was your most significant achievement (so far!)?

Refraining from trying to get my dad to learn to ride a bike.

What’s your biggest frustration?

That my dad doesn’t ride a bike. Kidding.

The contradiction between overwhelming weight of evidence that more cycling (and walking) really does have the power to change the world for the better, and the continued refusal by anyone with power to make it happen.

If you could wave a magic wand, what’s the one (cycling-related) thing you’d wish for?

All those in a position of power must experience the full range of transport modes on a regular basis. Then they’d realise!

What’s your typical day/week in cycling? And what are the rides you dream about?

I tend to ride to work 3 or 4 days a week. It’s only a couple of miles so I ride in normal clothes and try my best to look like I’m enjoying myself.

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I enjoy cycling holidays and touring but hate pedalling a heavily laden bike, so my ideal cycling trip is a few longer stays in cycle-friendly locations and maybe a bit of help from trains in between. I can’t stand all the purist ‘cheating’ nonsense: for me anything that involves a bike is still a win, and yes I plan my train-assisted weekend rides based on the wind direction. Brian Robinson has an e-bike!

One of the purposes of the Women’s Cycle Forum is to promote women who are in cycling and make them more visible – and particularly to seethe end of the dreaded all-male panel. Would you be interested in speaking more on panels or at conferences and if so what about?

Absolutely! One of my proudest moments was being re-tweeted by Beaker the Muppet while speaking at the Cycle Cities conference in Leeds.

Who are the women in cycling you’d like to hear from next and why?

As I get older I’m learning the power of positive role models that can admit failure, be fragile, and becomfortable not knowing. We tend to celebrate superwomen, for good reason, but they can be hard to draw real life lessons from. I love people like Ruth-Anna, Ellen Murray,and Sally Watson, who just make cycling part of normal life.

Editor’s note: Why not read about Jenny Tough next – we already got her interview on the blog. She simply rocks – get a cuppa and keep reading.