Campaigns: Voluntary Sector - Sustrans' plan gets belles on their bikes

Campaign: Bike Belles
Client: Sustrans
PR team: In-house
Timescale: March 2009 - January 2010
Budget: £15,000

Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity, aims to get more people cycling, walking and using public transport. Recognising that women are much less likely than men to cycle, in 2009 the charity launched a campaign to raise awareness of the issues around cycling and provide a platform for debate, in the hope of encouraging more women to cycle.


- To engage with women to raise issues and provide a platform for discussion

- To promote debate with the bike trade to encourage it to help women cycle

- To promote cycling as an everyday activity that benefits everyone

- To provide practical information and help to women who wanted to take up cycling

- To raise awareness of Sustrans and its work.

Strategy and plan

The charity developed and promoted a website called Bike Belles, a one-stop informal resource for women who do not usually cycle or who might be considering getting on a bike. The PR team recruited a panel of Bike Belles - 12 women of all ages from across the UK who were willing to share their experiences of cycling on the website and with the media, and who tested products and acted as ambassadors for the campaign.

The campaign was integrated into Sustrans projects across the regions - such as fashion bike rides and female-focused bike maintenance sessions.

Sustrans commissioned an omnibus survey on women's cycling and attitudes towards cycling, to provide media hooks. A mystery shopper exercise of bike shops was also carried out, generating more than 660 completed surveys that were shared with the bike trade and media.

A petition, based on the safety concerns of women, was developed and presented to UK transport ministers at the end of the campaign.

The PR team engaged celebrities such as Dawn Porter and Alice Roberts to support the campaign and developed women-focused marketing tools such as leaflets and free gifts.

Sustrans also had a visible presence at female-focused events such as the Vitality Show, to further promote the campaign. Partnerships were formed with organisations such as the National Federation of Women's Institutes, Women in Rural Enterprise and Mind.

Measurement and evaluation

The campaign generated around 80 print articles in national and local press, and around 30 broadcast interviews at local and national level, as well as mentions online on cycling and women's websites such as London Cycle Chic and Mumsnet.


The petition, presented to the transport ministers, was signed by 9,000 people. The Bike Belles website attracted 72,776 unique users and Sustrans received 3,900 requests for an information pack. The campaign also generated 1,200 sign-ups to Sustrans' e-newsletter and a competition held at the Vitality Show had 1,030 entries.


Danny Lynch, Media and communications officer, Kick It Out

A crippling recession. A football-free summer. If you ask me, there was no better time than last year to dust the bike down. I'm an advocate of participation in sport across the social spectrum, so I liked this immediately. The campaign directly addressed the issue and approached it logically. Innovative, irreverent - it appeared to encourage participation at every juncture.

I was impressed at how Sustrans' existing pool of resources was cannily tapped into. It had the genuine feel of a 'passion project', with ideas such as women-specific products and the mystery shopper demonstrating an intrinsic understanding of the issues at its core.

A question mark would be over the use of celebrity cyclists. I'm not sure how much this added to the campaign. Instead, there could have been more focus on the safety aspect of cycling, with the campaign concentrating on addressing the lifestyle-related concerns. The petition underlines the concerns of women, but the campaign itself doesn't seem to suggest many ways in which safety can be improved.

The idea of the Bike Belles themselves, an army of women spreading the gospel of cycling nationwide, was brilliant, though each 'Belle' followed a similar demographic.

Clearly, though, the campaign had a real sense of engagement, and on a modest budget to boot. It spawned impressive partnerships that could provide the cornerstone to a whole new grassroots cycling movement.

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