24 May 2022

Pedal power! Loreto Kilkenny students hailed as cycling ambassadors

#AndSheCycles: Students made schools more cycling-friendly, encouraged peers to consider cycling


Pictured at the Green-Schools #AndSheCycles Ambassador Programme Awards in Dublin were Loreto Kilkenny students Mae Liwanag, Jayne Farrell, Orlaith Kirwan and Emily Murphy

Four Kilkenny students have been honoured as national cycling ambassadors.

Loreto Secondary School students Mae Liwanag, Jayne Farrell, Orlaith Kirwan and Emily Murphy were among the 41 students hailed as new #AndSheCycles Ambassadors by the Green-Schools Programme.
The students claimed the award for their efforts in making their school more cycling-friendly and encouraging their peers to consider cycling to school.

The #AndSheCycles Ambassador Programme focuses on addressing the teenage cycling gender gap through supporting student leaders to take action to enable and empower their peers and friends to cycle to school.

The Ambassadors conducted surveys to better identify the main barriers to a stronger cycling culture in their school; they lobbied for better infrastructure and applied for funding for bike parking at their school. Some created large art installations using old bike parts to draw attention to their campaign, while others contacted local representatives to ask for funding for initiatives like a bike to school or local bike rental scheme.

Working as individuals or in teams they benefitted from online training sessions in communications, leadership and advocacy from Green-Schools and completed action plans and reports as part of their training.

This is the second year of the ambassador programme following a successful pilot which saw 25 students trained as Ambassadors during the 2020/2021 academic year. At the ceremony on May 5, storyteller Elaine Gallagher performed her Freedom Machine show, which explores the parallels between cycling and feminism using a mix of stand up comedy and audio-visual inserts.

The most recent (2016) CSO data shows that cycling among teenage girls in Ireland is at incredibly low levels. Just one in every 250 teenage girls cycle to school every day.

The #AndSheCycles campaign was developed to explore, understand and address barriers to cycling for teenage girls. The programme’s research found that cycling in Ireland is ‘a boy’s thing’ from the perspective of young women and that intersectoral policies and programmes are required to undo this during adolescence, a move which would benefit all genders.

“We are incredibly proud of our #AndSheCycles Ambassadors and humbled by the great work they’ve undertaken to promote cycling to their friends and schoolmates,” said Jane Hackett, senior programme manager of the Green-Schools Travel Programme.

“We know from our research that it is not easy being the only girl who cycles to school. This ceremony is about celebrating those girls and those here who are taking on the challenge of making their schools cycling-friendly for all genders.”

The #AndSheCycles research shows that making cycling compatible with femininity is one avenue towards increasing uptake: actions such as promoting Dutch-style bikes which are more compatible with uniform skirts and increasing the number of safe segregated cycle lanes are two examples.

The other avenue towards increasing uptake is to promote a rejection and subversion of the practices which keep girls from cycling, by all genders and none. Programmes like #AndSheCycles can form part of this.

The programme will continue in the 2022/2023 academic year and applications will open soon via the Green-Schools Programme.

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