The ‘Bicycle Gender Gap’ Means Less Women Are Saddling Up

by Laurel Walsh

What has two wheels and no boobs? Most cyclists, apparently. Here in the U.S.A., women ride bikes two to three times less often than men do.

Some call this the “bicycling gender gap,” and just like huge-ass soft drinks, it’s strictly an American phenomenon. Our European sisters cycle way more than us.

So what’s the deal? New research on the subject says unsafe traffic conditions, or “perceived traffic danger” is to blame.

study published in the International Journal of Sustainable Transportation concluded that women are less likely to feel safe on bikes than men, particularly in traffic-heavy areas. 43 percent of women cited that concern as a reason they don’t ride, compared to only 28 percent of men.

Unsurprisingly, most research before this point has shown that men and women don’t have radically different views on bike riding. We all want safe roads, better infrastructure, and convenient paths and trails. But this study found that the safety aspect is the key difference.

How can we, as smart women who know all about the many benefits of cycling, close this gap? Is it up to us?

Researchers and journalists agree that it takes a whole community to address these issues. We need better riding conditions, and it’s not like we can paint our own bike lanes onto roads and call it a day (maybe). We need to work together and make cycling more accessible to all kinds of people! Bikes rule that way.

Yeah baby.

If you’re kinda into bikes but you’re nervous about hitting the road, there are loads of folks who can help you out – your local bike coop, for example. If you’re bike isn’t primed for safe summer riding and you find bike shops intimidating, your bike coop probably has a women and trans* night set aside for those who feel more comfortable in space less dominated by your average mechanic’s machismo. And if you want proof that a bike-friendlier world is possible, get yourself out to a Critical Mass community bike ride, or start your own.

Better yet: get your girlfriends together for a Clitoral Mass and cruise it out.


Do you feel safe riding on the road? How can we make roads safer for everybody? Share your ideas in the comment section below.


Thanks to The Atlantic and Portland Urbanista. Photos via Jen Gillen and Hark! A Vagrant!

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