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Cycling courses for cleaners

8 November 2006 – Ethnic minority women do not tend to ride bicycles, but they are eager to learn. Social welfare in de Baarsjes wants to offer courses for employees in collaboration with cleaning companies. In addition, more money is needed to deal with the waiting lists.

This week, the SCP and the Fietsberaad published studies showing that ethnic minority members are much less likely to ride bicycles than people of Dutch origin. The car is often too expensive for this group, which means that they depend on public transport. This applies especially to women.

Cycling courses are highly popular, and there are waiting lists everywhere. This applies also to the Akros social welfare organisation in de Baarsjes, despite the relatively high price they charge. Ten classes cost 35 euro, which is a substantial amount for people with low incomes. “During the courses, they laugh a lot. And the women are very proud when they get their certificate”, says Yasmien Kaddoer.

Many women have health problems, making it rather difficult for them to learn to ride a bicycle. “I really get a kick out of seeing them cycling through the neighbourhood going through their daily return, after completion of the course”, Kaddoer says.

Akros is thinking about offering cycling courses to employees in collaboration with companies. Those companies might benefit themselves: it is financially interesting, it is good for their employees’ health and it will make it easier for them to arrive at work in time.

Cleaning companies are an interesting group, thinks Kaddoer. Among the participants in the courses are regularly women who work as cleaners. They often have to start early in the morning, when there is no public transport yet. And they often have to work at different locations.

Last summer, Akros organised a cycling tour in the Kennemer dunes (photo). “This should be done more often. They learn to know the Netherlands in a completely different way, doing this makes them feel very Dutch”.

Recently, Akros also organised a pilot cycling course for men, which was filled within a day. “The men are always complain that we always do everything for the women and that there are no activities for men”, says Kaddoer. “In fact, they have a point”.

The men were different in that they could already cycle a little, even though they thought they were very good at it. “But in fact it was very dangerous how they moved through traffic. Only they refused to admit it”.

The Fietsersbond (Cyclists’ Union) has carried out a number of pilots to stimulate bicycle use during the past six months. For example, cycling and traffic classes have been given to school children. This approach was very labour intensive, but did yield results.

Further, a Bicycle Friends project has been initiated. After completing a bicycle course, the new cyclists get help from volunteers to learn how to ride a bicycle in a large city. This also includes practical issues such as finding your way and taking luggage on your bike.

In addition, a course for cycling teachers will be started, says Marieke de Lange, who is responsible for the bicycle use promotion projects at the Fietsersbond. The municipality and the districts can also do a lot more. More money is needed for bicycle courses, also at schools. And there is a need more coordination.

Researcher Lucas Harms of the SCP confirms that more bicycle courses are needed. More in general, the government should better take the different ways in which people travel into account.

“For ethnic minority members, public transportation has an important social role, because they have no alternative modes of transportation. This underlines the importance of good public transport services”, Harms says.

See also: Even Fatima Elatik rides a bicycle these days


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