To Fight Climate Change, We Need to Get More Women on Bikes

CC BY 2.0. Women biking in Copenhagen/ Lloyd Alter

On International Women's Day, a look at why far fewer women than men ride bikes, and how we can fix this.

In some countries like Denmark, you see lots of women on bikes. In other countries, not so much. As part of their International Women's day coverage, Tiffany Lam wrote in the Guardian about How to get more women cycling in cities, because "To cut greenhouse gas emissions we need to increase cyclist numbers and that means getting more women on their bikes."

Transportation accounts for up to one-third of greenhouse gas emissions from the world’s biggest cities and traffic is the largest source of toxic air pollution. To create sustainable, healthy and liveable cities, we need to increase the number of cyclists on our streets, and that means getting more women on their bikes. In San Francisco, only 29% of cyclists are women; in Barcelona, there are three male cyclists for every female cyclist; in London, 37% of cyclists are female.

She mentions the need for better infrastructure and secure parking, prioritizing women's safety, and looking at the data more carefully; women have different riding patterns- in one example from San Francisco, men dominated in peak commuting times, but "when the city looked at the gender-disaggregated data, they discovered that far more women were using the routes for their commute than previously thought, but were choosing to travel outside peak hours when the roads and cycle lanes were quieter."

Yvonne bambrick

© Yvonne bambrick / Photo credit Tammy Thorne,

I frankly didn't think I should even be writing this article, but we are short of women cyclists on staff right now. So I asked Yvonne Bambrick, author of The Urban Cycling Survival Guide (ECW Press) for her thoughts about the subject, particularly in Toronto where we both live:

A connected, well-maintained network of separated cycle tracks that include a barrier between motor vehicles and bicycles is vital to improving safety and inviting more women to choose cycling transportation. Implementing protected intersections, and consistent enforcement of existing rules of the road for things like speeding and distracted driving are equally important.

Toronto has seen an increase in the number of women cycling in recent years as we've finally begun to build out our network of separated cycling facilities. As ever, we're moving too slowly getting the Bike Plan from paper to pavement - there's a clear demand for safer cycling infrastructure across the city and these improvements, that benefit all Torontonians, can't come soon enough.

Cycling in the city should be safe and comfortable for everyone of every age and ability. But apparently, in this city the only people who merit investment are a few suburban drivers. Women or anyone who needs decent bike or pedestrian infrastructure can just forget about it, it's Crazytown.