Cycling promotion for migrant women
Starting the local initiative
"I can manage to cycle on the road, but I think I will get lost if
I cycle on my own"
"I have a bicycle, I can cycle but I have had a flat tyre for a while now and I have not used the bicycle since"
"I would like to cycle to work, but somehow I do not manage to actually do this"
A lot of people in Western European countries can cycle, have a
bike and have some motivation to do so, however they have trouble
to fit bike commuting into their daily life.
The Centre for Immigrant Women in Tilburg, the Netherlands, recognised this issue amongst their target group and started the pilot project "Cycle Friends" in spring 2004, a project that combines cycling, social cohesion, the sharing experiences and lifestyles. The aim of the project is to bring together experienced cyclists (mainly Dutch women) and beginner cyclists (immigrant women) that have successfully finished a cycling course. When the two women meet, they make plans together. Arrangements are made for when and how long they will cycle. They create their own kind of contact for example, cycling, drinking tea or perhaps visiting a museum. This working method has two aims: to stimulate cycling amongst immigrant women and to create an opportunity for women from different cultural backgrounds and with different lifestyles to meet and undertake activities.
Here the experiences of the pilot project will be presented, together with the factors of success and lessons learned. In between an example of a couple of Cycle Friends will be shown.
In spring 2004 we started the recruitment campaign for Cycle
Friends volunteers. We aimed at reaching about twelve Dutch women
that like cycling, would like to do voluntary work with a lot of
freedom and are curious to meet women from other cultural
backgrounds. We had a small budget (4.000 Euros) for a single
project leader, who had to develop the concept into a full project
with activities, posters and flyers for the recruitment campaign,
had to organise a training for the volunteers, evaluate the project
and formulate recommendations for the future.
The project has been carried out in five different phases.
Recruiting volunteers and immigrant women that had recently learned to cycle
We searched for volunteers through a poster, flyer and e-mail
campaign, an article in the regional newspaper, information on the
website, an advertisement at the local voluntary office and word of
mouth. This resulted in thirty responses. Twenty two women (and one
man) were invited for a first introductory meeting which resulted
in twelve women that agreed to become a volunteer and join the
We searched for immigrant women that had recently learned to cycle, by using our own network and addresses (we organise cycle training for this target group). The women that were interested to hear more about the project were invited for a meeting. This resulted in fifteen women that wanted to join the project. Unfortunately nine of these women did not have a bicycle yet. They were encouraged to buy a bicycle and supported in finding a bicycle that fitted well (the average Dutch bicycle is too big for these women). In the end there were only two women that didnt have a bicycle.
Training the volunteers and developing the concept
In cooperation with a trainer in cross-cultural communication a
training of two evenings was developed. The main elements addressed
in this training were:
- Getting to know each other
- Your culture vs. my culture
- What is a Cycle Friend?
- A cycle exercise in the neighbourhood
- Points of attention when cycling with a beginner
- What arrangements should be made?
- What will we do next?
Matching the Cycle Friends
The project leader matched ten couples. The other volunteers and immigrant women had changed their plans in the meantime. After the training another six volunteers applied and they were asked to join training in 2005.
Support and sharing of experiences
Each couple of Cycle Friends could largely make their own
agreements, apart from a few joint arrangements:
- The guideline is one cycle tour per week
- One couple cycles together for one year. After that period both parties decide whether they want to keep on cycling together or not
- If there are any questions or difficulties, the project leader will be there to assist the Cycle Friends
- Some cycle friends joined a mailing list in order to keep each other informed and inspired
- The project leader contacts the volunteers every few months in order to keep an eye on the results, the successes and to resolve problems
- Once a year there will be an activity for all Cycle Friends, like a joint cycling tour.
In the autumn of 2004 there was a meeting with the volunteers for the evaluation of the pilot project. The results of this evaluation are described in the paragraph below on the factors of success and the lessons to be learned. On the basis of these results we decided that we wanted to continue the project. We will aim at building up a pool of volunteers that want to be a Cycle Friend, as we found out that finding the volunteers is easier than finding the beginner cyclists that want to join and have access to a bicycle. As soon as an immigrant woman finishes the cycle course she should be matched with a volunteer. This means that volunteers will have to be more patient than expected at first. If this is communicated well, this does not have to be a problem.
Saskia and Khadidja
Cycle Friends Saskia and Khadidja cycle every Saturday Morning.
Saskia is a Dutch 31-year-old, single, full time working woman with
many interests. Khadidja is a Moroccan 48-year-old, married
housewife that would like to go out of the house more often. They
have been matched because they live close to each other and because
Saskia was used to work with beginner cyclists that are still very
uncertain about themselves, which is the case for Khadidja. Also,
the energetic spirit of Saskia was expected to fit the wish of
Khadidja to become more active.
They met up in the Centre for Immigrant Women, where Khadidja learned cycling and currently learns the language and sewing. The images to the right show both of them on their cycling trip to the market.
Because of the Cycle Friends project Khadidja has the opportunity to cycle each week and to visit places that she doesn't dare to go to on her own yet. Saskia has the opportunity to get to know one of the many immigrant women in Tilburg in an informal way. They do not only cycle together; Saskia is also regularly invited for a Moroccan dinner.
The success factors
The following elements of the pilot project were very
- The title of the project gives many people a good feeling. The word 'Friend' is much more appealing as the word 'volunteer'.
- The choice for a professionally designed poster and flyer was very much appreciated.
- The recruitment campaign started in spring 2004. This was a good period, as people were eager to go out of the house again and undertake new things.
- The freedom, flexibility and diversity of the project made it attractive for busy working women to join in and become a volunteer. As a result, enough responses followed our request.
- The training was practical and well appreciated by the volunteers.
- The couples that managed to make good arrangements stated that their contact is worth while for both parties.
- After half a year the immigrant women actually took the bike for all kinds of trips.
- We learned that the concept of Cycle Friends has potential both for Dutch volunteers and immigrant women.
The lessons to be learned
- Many of the immigrant women that wanted to join the project did not have a bicycle. It took extra time to support them in finding and buying their bike.
- Matching the couples took much more time than expected. We decided that at a first meeting the project leader should introduce the volunteer to the immigrant woman. This meant that three women with busy schedules had to plan an appointment.
- As a consequence, fewer couples than planned were actually matched. Some of the volunteers and some of the immigrant women were disappointed because the process of matching and meeting took too long.
- We had planned each couple to cycle together for one year. After half a year most couples did not meet any more for various reasons. A half-year planning seemed to be more realistic and would give the volunteers the opportunity to become the Cycle Friend of another immigrant woman.
- At that time, we did not have enough finances for the continuation of the project. We were still in the process of getting funding, which means that it was a quiet period: there was not enough support for the existing couples, there were no new couples matched and some women were still waiting for the project to restart. Only in September 2005 our efforts were rewarded and we could restart the project.
Nationwide attention and the opportunity to inspire more local organisations
After attention for the local project from different local,
regional and national media, the local project group got the
opportunity to present the initiative on a national event in
september 2005, focussing on sustainability and social cohesion
("Duurzame Dinsdag" "Sustainable Tuesday"). The Minister for
Immigration Affairs promised to cycle with a multicultural group of
women through The Hague on International Womens Day 2006. This
promise offered the opportunity to find funding for a nationwide
project in which the local experience could be translated into a
workbook, a training and shared promotional materials. This
resulted in the website www.fietsvriendinnen.nl, posters, flyers
After this first national project, we found the opportunity to receive governmental funding to find 18 other local organisations to really set up the project. In this phase several local projects joined the "Leontien's Ladies Ride", thus putting the issue of cycling on the agenda for all women.
Currently local organisations can still order the workbook, promotional materials and training for setting up a local Cycle Friends project.
- sustainable mobility
- stimulating participation of all groups in society
- social cohesion
Running expenses: 73.300 Euro