More Reasons Women Don't Bike (It's the "C" Word, Not the "E" Word)


Women ride the new Cully Street separated-from-traffic cycle track in Portland. Photo A. Streeter via flickr and Creative Commons.

Grist columnist Elly Blue stirred some healthy debate this week in a story on why women really don't bike. Blue's well-reasoned argument it is that is the economy that makes women reluctant to get on their bicycles - in other words, women's lower workplace earning power ($.77 to mens' $1.00) also translates to a higher proportion of home duties, making it much harder for them to bike.

Some people didn't buy this line of reasoning. So it is interesting that the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycling Professionals yesterday released some timely further data from their monster 13,000-women survey on cycling habits.When the APBP study asked women what would make them bike more, one quarter of the responses were around themes that APBP grouped together as "convenience."

And the top convenience that 22% of those women respondents wanted more of was time, supporting Blue's assertion that women aren't cycling because they are "busy and broke."

Following that, the top inconveniences women experienced were weather, distance, terrain (i.e. too many hills!), clothing, mapping tools, and helmets.

Of course, the paradox here is with that top concern, time, it's true that biking takes longer, but also that cycling is far cheaper than driving a car (now estimated by the AAA to be $.58 per mile).If you don't have a bike or the means to haul yourself, your kids, and your stuff, however, you don't even have the option to bike.

One of the ways to make biking more convenient for women is the e-bike. It solves some of the main barriers to bicycling - it tackles the hills, increases riders' range, helps with the hauling, and nearly solves the sweat issue. But e-bikes are far more expensive than a simple commuter bike, a situation that will likely only change when more people buy them.

In addition, there's another factor at work here. Men 25 to 64 are the main ones driving the cycling increase. Across the gender divide, the 25 to 64 age group covers women who are just getting into the work force to grandmas that might be about to get out. We need the health and happiness benefits of biking just as much as men, but have got a very diverse range of needs of what our bikes must do for us.

After convenience, better infrastructure was womens' top need in order to bicycle more. While some cities are far away from having an intergrated network of bike paths, in others this is happening - Portland has opened a cycle track in its previously less bike-friendly northeastern section of the inner city, Chicago is said to be "aggressively" pursuing physically-separated cycle paths, and Denver joins San Francisco, New York and Cambridge in all having cycle tracks.

Read more on women and cycling:
6 Reasons The World Needs More Girls On Bikes
Why Bikes for Girls is a Lifechanging Concept in Africa (Video)
Why Women Bike, and Why They Don't
The Crusade Against Female Cyclists
5 States Where Women Barely Dare to Ride
Cycling Make Teens Smarter (But Just The Girls)

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