Getting Glasgow's girls on bikes, ahead of 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships

Getting Glasgow's girls on bikes, ahead of 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships

Giving girls an exciting taste of all that cycling has to offer, is the latest initiative being delivered by Glasgow Life, the charity that delivers Culture and Sport in Glasgow, ahead of the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships

S1 pupils from St Paul’s High School took part in a thrilling BMX Freestyle session at the Loading Bay, Glasgow’s first indoor skatepark and freestyle facility.

As a principle funder of the World Championships, Glasgow’s vision is to create a vibrant cycling city where cycling is accessible, safe and attractive to all, continuing its commitment to deliver a tangible legacy for local communities from staging major events.

Girls most at risk of inactivity and isolation are a key target group for the city’s sports development team, and working closely with Education colleagues in the PEPASS (Physical Education, Physical Activity and Schools Sport) team and Active School Coordinators, this innovative programme is being rolled out to 12 schools across the city.

Each school group of up to 10 girls attend for an intensive ten week block, that aims to ignite interest in cycling generally, through exposure to cycling in all of its forms, break down perceived barriers to participation, promote healthier lifestyle choices and ultimately signpost girls to further cycling opportunities so they can continue their involvement, including cycling to school.

With equipment and coaching support provided, cycling taster activities over the ten weeks include:

  • Track sessions at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome
  • Mountain Bike sessions with the Endura Lifecycle Trust at Balfron
  • BMX Freestyle sessions at the Loading Bay
  • Scottish Sports Futures Workshop
  • Two led ride sessions delivered by Bike for Good with roadside maintenance included
  • sportscotland Fit For Girls Workshops

A culmination event will take place for all girls involved as well as gathering the groups to take part in any public mass participation rides planned for next year, ahead of the World Championships.

Throughout the sessions there is an emphasis on having fun and building self-confidence on bikes, whilst developing core skills including stability and balance with particular emphasis on breaking down any perceived barriers to participation.

Today’s BMX Freestyle session is being delivered by Jack Mills, Loading Bay Centre Manager and supported by Glasgow Life’s resident female BMX coach, Dasa Polakova, who is the ideal role model for the girls.

Dasa, a former elite BMX competitor who was once a World and four-time European Champion, initially started her cycling journey in the former Czechoslovakia, prior to moving to the UK following 2008 Beijing Olympics. As well as promoting participation in the sport, Dasa supports the development of young BMX riders, through Scottish Cycling’s BMX Talent Development sessions.

A huge advocate for women’s sport, Dasha said: “Sport has massively shaped my life right from helping me with staying off the street and learning to push myself with something I was good at from a young age. It helped shape who I am and gave me skills of determination and independence. I was fortunate to be able to travel the world and meet so many amazing people, learn a new language and become part of a great community. My passion for bikes helped me to also start a new career in this industry after my racing career ended and now as a coach I can share my passion with the next generation.”

Attending today’s session to see the programme in action, Bailie Anette Christie, Chair of Glasgow Life said: “I am delighted to be here today to meet the girls and the coaches and see for myself the impact this programme is starting to make after just a few weeks.

“It is so important that we normalise cycling for girls, and show them that riding a bike can give them such freedom and enjoyment in so many different forms, with something for everyone.

“By aligning the programme with so many different agencies working in this area, we hope to give clear signposting as to how girls can access more affordable cycling opportunities to continue their involvement going forwards, as well as helping them become role models and leaders to encourage even more girls to get on their bikes.”

Councillor Christina Cannon, City Convener for Education, Communities and Equalities, Glasgow City Council said: “The great thing about all these amazing events being hosted in the city is the influence the particular sport has on encouraging participation amongst Glaswegians.

“This is particularly important in some of the harder to reach age groups and I am delighted that our female population are being given this opportunity to learn new cycling skills and, in some cases, get back on two wheels and the many benefits that come with this enjoyable sport and mode of transport.”

From 3-13 August 2023, the inaugural UCI Cycling World Championships will be hosted in Glasgow and across Scotland. It will be the single biggest cycling event in history, bringing together 13 existing individual UCI world championships into one mega event, with five venues in the city staging no less than eight of the 13 UCI World Championship events, including BMX Freestyle at Kelvingrove Park.