What biking’s gender gap really says about America

by  October 1, 2014

"In recent years there’s been overall major support for biking among Americans, but women make up only a quarter of all bike trips in the United States.
Earlier this year, major bike share programs released data showing a glaring gender disparity among bike renters in New York, Chicago, and Boston. Women riders accounted for an average of 23.5 percent of overall rentals across these cities.
The raw data in these studies points pretty blatantly to the existence of the gap. As with any study however, the numbers themselves aren’t as important as where they come from, or as what we choose to do with them.
So let’s take a closer look.
For starters, the reasons behind many women’s reluctance to biking has been well documented. Elizabeth Plank at Mic writes the gender gap can largely explained by a mix of “women’s aversion to risk, women’s clothing, economic and time poverty, as well as sexual harassment.”
Women frequently cite safety as a major concern for cycling on the road. Lacking infrastructure and aggressive drivers are among several major risk factors that many women weigh in deciding whether to bike or not.
Beyond traffic safety, personal safety is on the line as well. Grooming and getting “office ready” post-ride keeps many women off bikes. And whether they’re wearing work fashions, cozy weekend gear or “cycling chic” clothing, many women are subjected to sexual harassment while biking.
Beyond those issues, and a long list of traffic concerns, we land on the issues of time and money—the two categories into which seemingly all other factors fall. We know that on average American women make less money than American men, so women need to spend more time working to make even close to an equal wage. They also frequently have more increased responsibilities at home compared to their male counterparts, hence, less time.
For many women, using a bike as a major mode of transportation just isn’t efficient for their lifestyle. For plenty of others, biking is just the right fit. Whether the majority of women want to bike or not isn’t the issue. The issue is working to eliminate the frequent barriers to biking so that any woman who wants to do it can if she chooses.
That’s a long road. But the data, at least, serves as a reminder of the strides we still need to make, and at best, offers some opportunities for action."

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