Only three out of 10 people cycling in Ireland are women and about one in 10 teenagers cycling to school are girls, according to a recent study.

A new campaigning group, Women on Wheels is keen to increase these numbers in Dublin and started by asking why more women aren’t cycling on the streets of our capital city.

“It’s not that women, or teenage girls, don’t want to cycle but young women in particular feel judged to be on a bike,” says Caitriona Buggle from An Taisce Green Schools initiative and a member of Women on Wheels. “They are subjected to intimidating behaviour from boys and men and they think it’s uncool to cycle.”

The group, which is part of the Dublin Cycling Campaign, says that there is a huge drop off in teenage girls doing sport and cycling is considered a sport rather than a leisure activity or means of transport.

Young women tell us that they are honked at and verbally harassed on their bikes

Safety issues with the Luas lines and the lack of joined up cycling lanes – particularly in residential areas between people’s homes and local shops and schools – are other deterrents for many female cyclists. And some public parks don’t even allow bicycles, which puts off families bringing younger children on their bikes into the park to learn how to cycle.

Louise Williams from Women on Wheels says “young women tell us that they are honked at and verbally harassed on their bikes – particularly if they have their hair loose and they aren’t wearing helmets”. Williams, who lived in the Netherlands for many years says that proper segregated cycling routes are the only way to encourage “inclusive cycling”.

“Fifty-five per cent of cyclists in the Netherlands are women and everyone there cycles – including older people, young children – and many of them don’t wear helmets either,” she says.