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Listen to Freddie Mercury.

September 28, 2010

Are you gonna let it all hang out?

Still making good on my promise to report on my reading of Jeff Mapes
Pedaling Revolution, today I’m discussing another issue highlighted in the book: Women.

More specifically, the issue we’re highlighting is the relative paucity of women cyclists in the U.S.

As with most measurements of cycling populations, figures may be hard to come by for the precise breakdown of genders in cycling. But it’s fairly apparent that men are doing more cycling than women on U.S. streets.

My experience certainly confirms this. I learned about street cycling mostly from men. I talk about street cycling mostly with men. I cycle on the streets mostly with men.

Anyone with their eyes open will notice that the majority of the cyclists on U.S. roads are men—why is that?

In Mapes’ estimation (and likely that of others), “They’re (men) willing, on average to take more risks. … [Therefore], in the U.S. where [cycling] conditions are more dangerous, men predominate in most cities.”

This logic seems sound. A lot of times, people tell me they’d like to bike more, and they give me a reason why they don’t.

Men’s reasons usually include:

  • “I’d have to get up earlier.”
  • “I’m lazy.”
  • “I like driving my car.”

Women’s reasons usually include:

  • “I’m not a good rider.”
  • “I’m afraid of getting hit by a car.”
  • “I’m scared to death of [fill in street name].” 

What’s fascinating is that these disparities do not exist in places—like Copenhagen and Amsterdam—where work has been done to make cycling safer.

“The great biking cities of the world … have no gender gap when it comes to bicycling,” Mapes writes.

“Unlike in America, where far more men cycle than women,” he continues “in the Netherlands women average more trips by bike than men.”

How ‘bout that?!

“For cycling advocates,” Mapes concludes, “the number of women cyclists is not unimportant.”

For this reason, women and other more reluctant cyclists—like children and seniors—are the targets of many a cycling advocacy campaign. The thinking, I suppose, is that if the least comfortable cyclists among us finally feel comfortable, then the roads are officially bikeable. This theory also rests on the statistical findings that the more cyclists are on the roads, the safer those cyclists are.

The take-home message for all of you girls, fat bottomed or otherwise: Get on your bikes and ride!


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