Rukaiya Moola is a Ride Leader for Cycle Sisters, a Muslim women's cycling group based in east London. They regularly meet in or pass through parks on their scheduled rides (usually Wednesdays and Saturdays), exploring Walthamstow's parks network.
For them, parks are safe, neutral and attractive places for learning, socialising and developing confidence; both on and off two wheels, as Rukaiya explains:
I never thought I would ever get into cycling. I used to see people cycling and wondered “that must be fun”, especially as a Muslim woman. This is where Cycle Sisters group comes in. A group where cycling brings you confidence, encouragement, support, motivation and friends.
The motivation behind Cycle Sisters came about when Sarah Javaid, after not cycling since teenage years, and a few friends got together and started the group with the help of offering supportive, accessible and easy going rides for women.
Sarah set up the Walthamstow cycling group for Muslim women in 2016 called Cycle Sisters. The women who come and join this group find a comfortable space to develop their cycling skills, exploring the local area of Walthamstow and the neighbouring areas. It is a great initiative that has bought many Muslim women cycling in the local community together. The aim is to help make cycling a part of the daily lives for Muslim women by providing the opportunity to experience all the amazing benefits that cycling brings for Muslim women and their families.
We developed a partnership with Waltham Forest council to have access to loan bikes. Riding with the group gives the women confidence in cycling and getting a feel for what type of bike they would like to buy in the future. A number of the women who come on the group rides have bought their own bikes purely from getting the encouragement and support from this group, which has given them confidence in cycling.
A few women from the group have become cycling instructors and a few of us have trained up to become ride leaders, ‘the role models of Cycle Sisters’. This is how I got more into cycling.
I cycled when I was around 8 years old practising on my sisters BMX bike. That was over 30 years ago. I was eager to get out on a bike. How could I encourage my children to get on a bike if I did not cycle? I contacted a friend who told me about Sarah, the founder of Cycle Sisters. I took a few free lessons with Cycle Confident, borrowed my son’s mountain bike and pushed myself to ride to the meeting point and cycled with the group to the Olympic Park, my first ride. I am now a confident cyclist, both on road and off road. I am glad I pushed myself to achieve something that I enjoy.
I have been involved with Cycle Sisters for 3 years, first as a participant and now as a Ride Leader, which I thoroughly enjoy. Being a ride leader you get to learn new routes and it builds up your confidence in taking groups out. It makes the women feel safer cycling in a group, they gain confidence in cycling on roads, which for some can be quite nerve racking.
Being a Ride Leader is an achievement for me, I never thought I would ever ride a bike. I have met a lot of amazing, inspiring women that are part of this amazing group.