Introduce 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!