Women in Cycling – Victoria Leiper


victoria_picIntroduce yourself (and your bikes…)

Hi, I’m Victoria Leiper – I work at Glasgow Bike Station.  Working for a bike charity/social enterprise certainly tempts you to buy lots of bikes and at the moment I have 8!  My motto is you can’t have too much of a good thing and a bike is certainly a good thing!

What is your connection to the world of cycling?

My bike is my only mode of travel….I haven’t yet learned to drive as I haven’t seen the need!  I’m yet to find a destination my bike (often combined with a train!) can’t take me.  I use my bike day-to-day for the boring stuff like getting to work, doing the shopping, running errands etc.  But more importantly it is my gate-way to adventures!  I love cycle touring and although I haven’t done much of it yet, I have big plans!! And…. as if this wasn’t enough, I have met some really great people via bike rides, groups, networks and my work (for a cycling charity) who will be friends for life.  So I guess my connection to cycling is my whole life!

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

I cycled lots as a kid but like many teenage girls, abandoned my bike in favour of boys and looking as trying to be as ‘cool’ possible.  I didn’t realise at the time that cycling was super cool!   I snapped out of that mind-set as a student but didn’t have the budget or the knowledge to invest in the right bike. I struggled by with a ‘bike shaped object’ which did the trick for a wee while.  It wasn’t until my first ‘real’ job in a social enterprise skatepark that I was surrounded by people who could give me the advice I needed.  I made lots of friends in that job and we would cycle together socially – this was my first taste of the social aspect of riding a bike.

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

I work for the Glasgow Bike Station as Head of Projects which means I lead a whole package of outreach projects that support people realise the benefits of cycling. This includes those with long-term health conditions, young people, women who have/are experiencing homelessness, refugees and asylum seekers.  Our reach goes from 4 to 84 and every year we work with upwards of 20,000 people in Glasgow alone. While I realise this isn’t one particular achievement, I’m proud of the contribution I make everyday.

Oh and I also set up the first Belles on Bikes group in Glasgow…..this has grown arms and legs beyond what I ever expected!

What’s your biggest frustration?

Although I feel very comfortable walking into a bike shop, lots of women don’t and this is largely due to the lack of female staff employed in the retail/maintenance industry.   I’m making it my mission this year to find and employ female mechanics and have a project to tackle this up my sleeve!

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

That we could turn the clock back and instead of bull-dozing Glasgow City Centre to make way for the M8, we built a network of cycle paths and transformed our city into a space for people to move freely by bike or foot.

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

I pretty much live and breathe bikes…..I cycle everywhere and work for a cycle charity which means I talk bikes/cycling everyday!

I’d love to drop everything and tour the world for a year.  I’d start in Europe and move onto Asia and who-knows where!  I’m not sure when I can make this happen so in the meantime I’m pretty content with my role here in Glasgow and the impact I can make via the Bike Station.

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 see the end of the dreaded all-male panel. Would you be interested in speaking more on panels or at conferences and if so what about?

Yes definitely – the male-centric approach is something I have always been aware of.  Having said that, I have been invited to events/conferences to speak but the cynic in me felt that I was the token female!  It would be great to be represented in equal numbers rather than the one female contributor in an event/conference made up of males.   Sign me up!

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

I love hearing from those doing extraordinary things like  Ishbel Taromsari – I can live vicariously through them!   But I also really love hearing about the women who get cycling after years of not being on a bike and get the bug….Belles on Bikes and the projects I run via work are full of these wonderful women and they are the reason I love my job!

Editor’s note – Victoria might like to read Stephani’s interview as one such woman – who rides a Glasgow Bike Station bike!