Muslim women helped back onto bike with special cycling lessons

'The second I felt the wind on my face the memories all came rushing back'

Monday, 31st January — By Isabelle Stanley

january20 Image 2022-01-20 at 21.10.45 (11)

Mother-of-three Yasmine Lahreche

A GROUP of Muslim mothers have hit the bike paths after a special course of cycling lessons.

The scheme was designed to overcome the barriers to cycling Muslim women face.

Mariam Draaijer, director of cycling group JoyRiders and co-ordinator of the course, said: “For women from very conservative backgrounds, they just don’t think it’s for them – some male family members might think it’s inappropriate.”

She added: “But it’s mostly because they don’t have role models, [and] they don’t see people like them doing it. There are lots of barriers. People don’t learn when they’re young or they don’t think they have the right clothes.”

Thirteen women took part in the pilot scheme at Rhyl Primary School in Kentish Town. They met for an hour once a week before school and were given a bike each to keep.

Mother-of-three Yasmine Lahreche cycled in Algeria as a child, but hadn’t been on a bike since.

She said: “The second I felt the wind on my face the memories all came rushing back.

“It changed my life, cycling again.”

She said learning to cycle has even given her the confidence to go and get a job as a dinner lady. “People think of Muslim women, and we think of ourselves, as having so many boundaries because we wear so many clothes, but we can do it,” she said.

“Now, people are happily astonished when they see me in my head scarf cycling – they always ­double-take and smile.”

The lessons ran over six weeks in December and were sponsored by Camden Council.

Now the women are keen to be role models to others who want to get into cycling, and JoyRiders are setting up a special group in Camden which will be advertised on their website.

The Town Hall’s environment chief, Councillor Adam Harrison, said: “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.”

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