Photo of a group of people on bikes. Mariam is in the foreground on the left and the group behind her are made up of women and children.

Enjoy Waltham Forest: Meet Mariam

Published: 20 March 2024
Filed under: Communications

Mariam Draaijer is the CEO of JoyRiders, a group dedicated to helping women gain confidence in cycling. They run weekly cycle rides where anyone is welcome - even those who don't have bikes, as there are some available to borrow. 

Mariam has been living - and cycling - in Waltham Forest for the past 10 years, the same time that our Enjoy Waltham Forest programme has been running. We caught up with her to reflect on a decade of getting around by cycle in the borough.

“I started cycling in Waltham Forest in 2014, just at the start of what was then called the ‘mini-Holland’ scheme.

My children were small at the time, and went to school in Walthamstow Village. We moved a bit further away, and I got them bikes so we could start cycling in. Over the years we were doing that we could see the improvements happening. At first there were just some planters, and then things like the one-way roads and cycle lanes. As the children got older it enabled my daughter to start cycling to school on her own. 

I joined JoyRiders in 2016. It was started as a way for a few friends to get out on cycle rides together – and now we run group rides every week and have a WhatsApp group of over 250 people. Our group has benefited from a Community Walking and Cycling Fund grant, which we used to run a ‘family summer of cycling’ – organised rides for families across the borough. We lent bikes to people who didn’t have them, and had people from ages 4 to 60 join us.

I’m passionate about helping people into cycling because it gives them more freedom and independence. Looking back over the 10 years of Enjoy Waltham Forest, it’s definitely a more common sight now to see people on bikes – and to see different kinds of people, using cycling for their everyday mode of transport. Hopefully this is true for more and more people as Enjoy Waltham Forest continues through 2024 and beyond!”

In 2024, we're celebrating 10 years of Enjoy Waltham Forest, our pioneering programme to help people walk and cycle more in their neighbourhoods. If you'd like to be kept up to date on all things walking and cycling, you can sign up to our Enjoy newsletter here.