Bike lane

Slow female cyclists should be able to "pootle along" in slow lanes while on their bikes, says a former Labour minister. Meg Hillier says that Britain's rat-run roads should be overhauled with the introduction of slow and fast lanes to allow women to cruise along at their own pace – and to give space for "lycra-clad" commuters, reports the Telegraph.

The former Home Office minister's comments follow a survey which has found that men are three times more likely to cycle than women – with men making 21 bicycle journeys every year, compared with just seven for women.

The results from the annual Department for Transport survey show that men also cycle further than women – covering an average of 80 miles a year compared with just 20 miles for women. Women, however, do walk further than men, clocking up 208 miles – 15 miles more than men.

Hillier, who is the vice-chair of the all-parliamentary cycling group, has said that these statistics should influence road planners, who she claimed force women to cycle along rat runs, rather than letting them cycle casually along at their own speed. The MP for Hackney added that having to juggle children, clothes which are unsuitable for cycling and busy roads meant that cycling was not an appealing option for many women.

She said: "One of the big things is also that women don't want the "muck sweat" of cycling. Men arrive at work in flat shoes and a suit if you are going to an office job and so it is easier to turn up on a bike – for a woman there is the worry of wearing a skirt, or a dress, maybe high heels, then you have to think about something else to wear on your bike, how to carry your work clothes."

Hillier continued: "I think the cycle planners have something to answer for – we need to think about cycling being just a normal thing, and I think Hackney has tried to pioneer that where you can cycle down a normal road, and you are not forced down rat runs and with the lycra-clad mad cyclists.