The Mayor of Brighton and Hove, Cllr Alex Phillips, joined a group of girls from Blatchington Mill School as they headed off on bikes for an overnight adventure in to the South Downs National Park.
The Bike-it Wild ride was a celebration of a year-long project run by cycling and walking charity Sustrans, which aimed to improve levels of cycling amongst teenage girls.
Eight girls enjoyed a guided bike ride out into the National Park, where they set up camp and prepared an al-fresco meal, before getting involved in outdoors activities organised by the Sussex Wildlife Trust, including a bat walk and setting up a wildlife camera.
Helen Kellar, delivery coordinator at Sustrans, said: “Research has shown that girls’ involvement in physical activity and sports tends to drops off as they reach their teenage years, and that impacts on their physical and mental health. We wanted to work with a group of girls to help increase their confidence on bikes, teach them skills in bike maintenance and encourage more physical activity.
“We’ve run weekly sessions at the school thoroughout the year to do that, promoting team-building and collaboration. Improved wellbeing and self-efficacy have been at the heart of the project”.
A 2018 report by Sustrans that explored the gender gap in cycling showed that in England, men make three times as many cycle trips as women per year. It also found that 73 per cent of the women surveyed never use a bike, compared to 55 per cent of men.
Mischa, Year 9 pupil at Blatchington Mill, said: “A year ago I would never have thought I’d be able to do this. Being with my friends, as part of this adventure has given me the encouragement and confidence I needed. I absolutely loved it!”
Another participant, Amber said: “I feel so proud that I cycled all the hills! It’s the best trip I’ve ever done”
Cllr Phillips said: “It was brilliant to be able to join this group of young women as they set off on their adventure. The sense of excitement of camaraderie amongst the group was clear to see.
"Sustrans is one the charities I chose to support this year, and I loved seeing one of their projects in action.
"Getting more women and girls feeling more confident on bikes can only be a positive thing, both for them as individuals and for the city as a whole, due to the economic and environmental benefits of active travel.”