The State of Women on Bicycles

Elly Blue of Bike Portland recently wrote an succinct and powerful exploration of “My year as a woman in a city of bikes“, an examination of the gender imbalance in the biking community.

Elly has been an dedicated bicycle and transportation activist for years, working with Shift to Bikes, Carfree Portland, organizing the Towards Carfree Cities Conference (the first held in the U.S.) and for the last year has acted as the managing editor of the popular and influential Bike Portland blog.

In this capacity, Elly examined some of the experiences she has had as a rider, a customer, a journalist, and an advocate in the male-dominated cycling world. It’s a touchy subject, certainly: her article generated 194 comments, many positive and affirming, some less so.

Elly notes a recent study by Scientific American which confirms what is obvious to any cyclist, that women are outnumbered in bicycle trips in the U.S. 2:1, or 3:1, in the case of New York City. Women are not just underrepresented on the road, but also in bicycle shops, and advocacy leadership positions. Scientific American suggests that “women are considered an “indicator species” for bike-friendly cities”, so what do we need to get more women on bikes? Here are a few possibilities off the top of my head.

Thirteen Ways to Get More Women on Bicycles

  1. Off street infrastructure such as separated bike lanes?
  2. Women in transportation leadership positions such as Jannete Sadik-Khan, who is changing the face of New York City streets?
  3. Municipal programs such as Portland’s “Women on Bikes” which offers classes on “Riding with hurdles” and maintenance?
  4. Community-based programs like the women and trans night at Pittsburgh’s bike collective Free Ride?
  5. More women in advocacy positions?
  6. More women writing about bicycles as transportation, such as Amy Walker, Mia Kohout, and Tania Lo of the superb magazine Momentum?
  7. More tax breaks?
  8. More subsidies from employers?
  9. Showers in the workplace?
  10. Bicycle safety information required in driver education program?
  11. Bicycle education in elementary school as is standard in many countries in Europe that have much higher rates of women riders?
  12. Education for police officers?
  13. Grocery bikes?
  14. Other ideas?

In order to improve our the health of our communities, it is essential that we move away from single passenger car usage by funding transit and bicycle infrastructure, as well as doing whatever possible to get more people riding bicycles.

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2 Comments

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  1. In your article you observe that women are under-represented in bicycle-retail. Can you expand on this, or perhaps support this assertion? What does this indicate to you, and do you feel those indications are actionable? By the way, I found Ms. Blue’s article relied heavily upon sweeping generalizations, subjective anecdotal evidence, and was entirely misandrist. My reason for inquiring as to actionable-policy is a fishing expedition. Hopefully to assess the impact of these possibly actionable-policies trickling down to my own world.

  2. Hey Vance, if you can’t be bothered googling up some statistics, open up your eyeballs and do a count on the street. Not many women on bikes, loads of blokes.

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