Why Are Fewer Women Cycling?

20090920_skyride_london_people_200sqI read on BikeBiz that British Cycling is asking the above question, polling people (presumably ladies) in an online survey here.

In Britain, so British Cycling says, there’s been a huge increase in people cycling – up 113,000 in the last 12 months – but that the vast majority of these must be blokes, because female ‘participation’ in cycling is actually falling.

I think that BC is talking about both participation in sport and everyday leisure riding and commuting. Its aim, if it gets to the bottom of the matter, is to invest money into the sorts of services and infrastructure that will make cycling more women-friendly, and attract more ladies to get on their bikes.

There are many contradictory statistics about women cycling. On the one hand, there’s research that suggests that drivers give female cyclists a wider berth than men (see here). And there’s also the idea (don’t ask me where I got this, but I’m sure I read it somewhere) that female cyclists make the roads better for everyone – that when a large number of women join the male roadies, hipsters and commuters, drivers dramatically improve their behaviour and a city’s bike-friendliness grows.

But then there’s the terrible story of the increasing numbers of female riders getting injured or killed in London, particularly by HGVs (large trucks). Are London’s streets safer for aggressive cyclists (who more are likely to be men)? Or are  female cyclists in London less savvy about the dangers? Buffalo Bill, who runs the courier zine Moving Target, is a sensitive and tireless campaigner on the subject of road safety, and he summarises the stats and the questions here.

It’s a knotty problem, one that I really can’t begin to answer. Any ideas would be  appreciated – and especially ideas and experiences from cycling-friendly cities in other parts of the world. And if you’re a British woman cyclist, or wannabe cyclist who’s being prevented for some reason, please let British cycling know your views.

Comments

Andreas - 02/21/10 - 7:01am

Good mention of the situation in the UK, thanks for reporting on it. I see a number of female cyclists around London usually on the classic female back with the step over frame which I think is fantastic. However of course I see far more males. People are hinting at all sorts of reasons for this. The aggressive (read: assertive) cycling that is required to stay safe is one of them. There is also a more male focus of the industry but I think this is definitely showing signs of changing. The readership of my blog is 80% male 20% female. A year ago it definitely would not have been that so I wouldn’t say the number of female cyclists is down.

[...] are fewer women cycling? asks BikeRumor. Well, er… are there actually fewer women riding? Most data in urban areas suggests [...]

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