According to a recent article from Bloomberg City Lab, women are much more likely to go to spin class than they are to ride a bike outdoors. Is America’s infrastructure failing to meet women’s needs?
America’s bike infrastructure isn’t meeting women’s needs. With a flood of government funding and surging e-bike popularity, now’s the time to invest.
In the late 1880s, Victorian women became early adopters of the contemporary bicycle, and began to shed their corsets for bloomers. In 1896, American suffragette Susan B. Anthony wrote:
“I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world. I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a bike. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammeled womanhood.”
These early women cyclists helped cultivate the image of the “New Woman” — able to ride away from her household chores and oppression. Bike culture spawned a whole sartorial movement, chronicled through attractive ads of women in slick cycling gear.
Why are US cities failing their female cyclists?
The answer is safety and social norms. After moving back to New York, I remember my first harrowing attempt to bike from Williamsburg to the Financial District, where I was working. I was berated by a driver who had parked in a bike lane, and had multiple near-death-by-car-door experiences. I was one of only a few women on the road as I dodged between cars and speeding men. When I finally arrived, I chained up my bike next to the Charging Bull, only to find it stolen by the evening.
Of course, safety concerns impact all genders, but research has found that women are more risk-averse in their decision of whether to bike. They have a right to be worried, according to Laura Fox, the former general manager of Citi Bike, the nation’s largest bike share program: One study showed that drivers are three times more likely to encroach on a female cyclist’s space than a male’s.
Basically, to change urban female cycling habits, we also need a campaign to convince American women that they can safely carry their kids, groceries and laptops by bike — and that they will still look put together at the end of their trip.
Read more about how eBikes, bike lanes and public image is changing in the full article at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-05-25/women-bikers-need-more-bike-lanes-and-culture-change.