Emma Pajarillaga only returned to cycling two and a half years ago when her friend, Sarah Javaid, invited her and a couple of other ladies on a cycle ride. Emma was completely hooked and their little group became Cycle Sisters, a Waltham Forest-based Muslim women’s cycle group.
Within a year, Emma had her first adult bike, had trained as a ride leader and was volunteering on weekly rides for both Cycle Sisters and the Hornbeam Joyriders, another fantastic local women’s cycle group.
Now, Emma’s whole life revolves around cycling. She cycles with her children to school; she supports Cycle Sisters’ rides as a volunteer ride leader most weeks and some weekends; and she uses her bike to commute to and for her part-time job.
In fact, it is that part-time job that is additionally impressive. Emma runs CGL-funded Good Deeds on Bikes - a cycling volunteering programme that gets people to use their cycle skills to help redistribute food in the local community.
Good Deeds on Bikes is part of the Walthamstow-based Hornbeam Café and Centre, and is an important part of their wider food rescue work. Its amazing team of cycling volunteers help tackle local food waste by picking up surplus food from local businesses on their bikes, thereby saving it from landfill.
The food is then redistributed - also often by volunteers on bikes - within the local community, as well as being used in the café itself.
I’m so passionate about enabling underrepresented groups to discover the benefits of cycling that have so enriched my life.
Emma said: “Good Deeds on Bikes gives me a great excuse to use my bike more and it is incredibly satisfying making such an immediate impact with cycling.
“Meanwhile, Cycle Sisters has been a hugely successful local initiative that aims to get more women from Muslim background on bikes by providing a culturally sensitive space for Muslim women to discover the joys of cycling.
“We are now a registered charity with big plans to become a national network of Muslim women’s cycle groups. I’m so passionate about enabling underrepresented groups to discover the benefits of cycling that have so enriched my life.
“Rediscovering cycling as been life changing. It’s helped me in difficult moments as a stay-at-home mum with two children. Getting out on the road was such an important stress buster and it has transformed my ability to get around my local area easily and quickly.
“I also love the family of amazing women cyclists I’ve met through Cycle Sisters and seeing how cycling can bring people from all different walks of life together in such a positive way.”
Emma was nominated for 100 Women in Cycling by Sarah Javaid, who said: “I was really inspired by the way that Emma’s Good Deeds on Bikes project challenges people to think about bikes and cycling in a different way, and to open their eyes to how bikes can be part of the solution for addressing local issues such as food waste and food poverty.
“I have been able to get involved in this project as a volunteer and collect food in my cargo bike with my two young children. It is an amazing opportunity to be able to show my children how cycling can benefit the community and to help them to feel more connected with issues around sustainability.
“Emma is a fantastic coordinator for this project making it's really easy for volunteers to literally just turn up on their bikes and get involved. She definitely deserves to be recognised!”
What is 100 Women in Cycling?
Cycling UK’s 100 Women in Cycling is an annual list celebrating inspirational women who are encouraging others to cycle.