Published: 20th SEPTEMBER 2022

Breaking down barriers to cycling with bespoke women's training in Camden

Not everyone has equal access to cycling and not everyone feels safe on London's streets. So we helped to bring specialist cycle training and free bike loans to a group of Muslim mothers in Camden.

A woman wearing a headscarf under a cycle helmet stands in a school playground holding a bicycle. She is smiling, the autumn sun is shining, the mood is happy.

One of the women who took part in cycle training at Rhyl Street Primary School. Photo © Micky Lee/Sustrans

“Belonging to this fantastic group of women has made a massive difference to me”, said cycle training participant Yasmine Lahreche.

“My children are proud of their mother for learning how to cycle, it makes me feel free and young again.

“I wear traditional Islamic dress and I think many women think they can’t cycle wearing these clothes.

“But we had tailored sessions to show us that traditional clothing is no barrier to cycling.” 

As part of Transport for London's Healthy Streets Officers programme, we worked with Camden Council's Transport Planning Team to open up the opportunities which cycling offers to transport and health.

The London-wide Healthy Streets Officers programme ran from August 2019 to June 2022 and aimed to make cycling something which everyone feels they can do. 


Cycle training for Muslim women 

The Healthy Streets Officers programme provided ten Muslim women in Camden with bespoke cycle training, along with a cycle, helmet and hi-vis jacket to equip them to carry on cycling into the future.

The ten-strong group are all parents of children at Rhyl Primary School, Camden.

They took part in the weekly cycle sessions in the playground, before meeting their children after school.

Over six weeks, the women met with a trainer to learn about cycling techniques and increase their confidence on the road.

The women are now able to cycle the school run with their children, something which they all wanted to do. 

Training was specially designed to address concerns from the women about cycling in traditional Muslim dress.

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We had tailored sessions to show us that traditional Islamic clothing is no barrier to cycling. Blockquote quotation marks
Yasmine Lahreche, training participant

The lasting impact of bespoke training

Before starting the cycle training, the women completed a survey in which all ten confirmed that they didn't cycle at all.

Three months after the training had been completed, a follow-up survey was sent.

Six women completed this, revealing that:

  • four now cycle a few times a month
  • one cycles at least once a week
  • one cycles numerous times a week.

All participants said their confidence increased post training.

The project’s success shows the importance of adapting training sessions to meet the needs of the participants.

It also evidences the need to replicate or scale-up similar projects.

Moreover, members of staff at the school who witnessed the training, have been inspired to ask for their own cycle confidence lessons.

A group of women listen to an instructor giving a cycle training lesson. They are wearing coats, it is autumn. The group is in the grounds of a school.

A group of women receive cycle training tailored to their cultural needs, by a female instructor at their request. Photo © Micky Lee/Sustrans

Equality on our streets

Camden Council Cabinet Member for Sustainable Camden, Cllr Adam Harrison said:

“It should be available for everybody to travel in a way that is healthy for people and our wider environment.

“This includes cycling, where we want to have more women and people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds cycling.

“We need to look on our streets as a public service, and just as with any public service, we want equality in terms of the people using it.

“Projects such as this are a great help towards achieving this important goal.”


Inspirational women

Camden Cabinet Member for Safer Communities and Deputy Leader of the Council, Patricia Callaghan said:

“We’re delighted to see the benefits of the Healthy Streets Officers programme and how people choose to get around.

These projects really bring to life how cycling is good for people's confidence and their mental and physical health.”

Wellbeing and Family Support Lead at Rhyl Community Primary School, Alison David said:

“It’s been fantastic to see these amazing mums, some of whom had never cycled before and never thought they would, build their confidence, have fun and develop and improve their cycling skills over the six weeks.

I am so proud of them.

They all want to continue to cycle on their own and with their children, so it has been a huge success.

The course has even inspired nine members of staff to sign up for a beginner's course which we hope to be able to run at the school in 2022.

We are very grateful to have been given the support and opportunity to do this as it is great for health, wellbeing and the environment.”

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We need to look on our streets as a public service, and just as with any public service, we want equality in terms of the people using it. Blockquote quotation marks
Cllr Adam Harrison, Camden Council Cabinet Member for Sustainable Camden

Tailor-made programmes

Sustrans London Director, James Cleeton said:

“It’s fantastic to be working with Transport for London, Camden Council, Joyriders and Peddle My Wheels to deliver exactly what the community wants and needs.

“Our huge experience in working with partners like this means we design programmes which are tailor-made exactly to what people want.”

Healthy Streets Officer, Liz Hellier said:

“It’s been great to hear from people about how cycling has helped them.

“It has such a positive impact on people’s lives.

“As we’ve seen here, that can be cycling to and from school with your children and feeling comfortable riding in the traffic.

“It can also massively benefit our mental and physical health too.

“When I see people smiling and feeling good when they’re in the saddle, I think how great it is to know that the Healthy Streets Officers programme is positively helping so many people.”

The Healthy Streets Officers programme was funded by Transport for London and delivered by Sustrans.

Camden Council's Transport Planning Team worked closely with the Healthy Streets Officer to develop the cycle training which people are benefitting from in the borough.


To find out how your borough can continue the Healthy Streets work with Sustrans, email


Watch Camden's cycling Muslim mothers in action:

Credits: photojB (video), Soundroll (music)

Watch more stories about people benefitting from the Healthy Streets Officers programme:

Credits: photojB (video), Soundroll (music)

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