Monday, July 13, 2015

Why aren't women joining the bike revolution?

Nothing has changed on this issue since I blogged about it back in 2011. Men still dominate the great bike revolution. Actually, it's still mostly young white men. From the MTA's 2008 State of Cycling Report:

While people of all ages, races and genders bicycle in San Francisco, frequent bicyclists are more likely to be male, Caucasian and between the ages of 26 and 35 (Figure 7 and Table 3). This suggests that San Francisco should customize outreach efforts to address the bicycling needs of those who are less likely to be bicyclists, i.e., women, minority groups and older people. Specific findings from the survey include: Women make up 49 percent of San Franciscans, but only 23 percent of frequent cyclists. Asians make up 32 percent of San Franciscans, but only 12 percent of frequent cyclists (page 12).

Same story in the 2012 State of Cycling Report. Still mostly white guys:

The survey found the following underrepresented populations: Women: 74 percent of women do not ride a bicycle compared to 60 percent of men...Race/Ethnicity: 75 percent of Hispanic, 71 percent of Asian, and 83 percent of African-American populations do not bicycle compared to 61 percent of white respondents (page 25).

Last week the New York Times had another story on the issue:

“Women are early indicators of a successful bike system,” said Sarah M. Kaufman, the assistant director for technology programming at the Rudin Center for Transportation at New York University and an author of a new report on Citi Bike. “If you have more women riders, that means it’s convenient and safe"...The bike-sharing service is looking at more than just the safety concerns that seem to nag more at women than men, who insurance actuaries long ago concluded are more likely to engage in risky behavior, such as not wearing a bike helmet (emphasis added).

But bike-share systems don't provide helmets when you rent a bike.

In what surely is an act of desperation to sell bikes to women in New York, Citi Bike launched a condescending ad campaign:

To woo women, Citi Bike is...trying to make cycling seem stylish. The bikes appeare
d in the windows of Bloomingdale’s and in an episode of Comedy Central’s slacker millennial show “Broad City.” The company recently posted a photo on Twitter of the actor Leonardo DiCaprio and the model Kelly Rohrbach kissing on Citi Bikes, and Vogue’s website praised the model Karlie Kloss’s “practical chic” outfit while riding.

Since women are kind of dumb, the "stylish" campaign will surely win them over! (Many women responded with comments to this story about why they do or don't ride bikes in New York City.)

According to the Census Bureau, the shortage of women on bikes is both a national and, in part, an international phenomenon:

At 0.8 percent, the rate of bicycle commuting[in the U.S.] for men was more than double that of women at 0.3 percent. Such stark differences in the rates of bicycle commuting between men and women are also found in other countries with relatively low overall rates of bicycle usage, such as Canada and Australia.

The Chronicle is trying to help by running press releases from the Bicycle Coalition (S.F. Bicycle Coalition plans March events for women).

Some women may be worried about the impact riding a bike can have on their sex life, as explained in an earlier NY Times story (Can Bicycling Affect a Woman’s Sexual Health?).

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