Take a look at these numbers on 2011 bike commuting rates by states released recently by the League of American Bicyclists: Oregon 37,747 bike commuters (25,054 men and 12,964 women) Pennsylvania 24,107 (16,965 men and 7,142 women) New Hampshire 1,904 (1,462 men and 442 women). The list goes on. Best case looks to be Montana with 6,138 commuters 63% percent of whom are men and 37% are women. But there is no state that gets anywhere near a 50/50 split and many have 70%-80% male ridership among bike commuters.
Ladies, this is appalling! We are 50% of the population, if not more in spots. And we have more reasons to be on bikes then men do!! We just aren’t on them as much as they are. Why not?
I puzzle over this quite a bit now that I live in a very bike friendly place. I could easily blame some of the weather, hills, bad pavement, and poorly lit parts of Pittsburgh when I lived there for putting up barriers to biking for women. Portland’s flat terrain, mild climate, smooth pavement, and ambient lighting offer none of those deterrents. The League didn’t provide city data on the gender of bike commuters. I suspect the ratio of men to women bike commuters in Portland is a bit closer, but still not 50/50.
But we’re out to change that.
June 29, 2013 will bring women in Portland together for a mini-bike summit at the Portland Museum of Art. The lineup of speakers is inspiring and the topics are compelling. Can’t wait to hear Janis McDonald talk about What Women Really Want and Carolyn Jen talk about the Ride Like a Girl program. I might even get to say a few words about gurlBIKE. This is such an important thing to do, just come together and find out what others are doing to put more women on bikes. It takes a lot of players and a lot of picking up different pieces of the puzzle to move the needle. But it can be done.
And what a great thing to work for. Like the tagline says on this site “Women on bikes represent the livability of a community.” More women on bikes means wherever you live is better for everyone who lives there. Livability is a key thing. In urban places where there are fewer women on bikes, you can assume there is more crime, more traffic, less attention to niceties such as aesthetics and design, and less acceptance and tolerance in general. In other places, perhaps it’s just a question of bad weather, lack of infrastructure and proximity. New Hampshire, a state I lived in for nearly two decades, is a very livable place even though its bike commuter numbers show a 3:1 ratio of men to women. It’s a largely rural state, has tough winters, very little bike infrastructure, and doesn’t have a density of services in any one locale. Residents often have to traverse longer distances to work, buy groceries, and everything else unless they live in one of the few small cities in the state. Proximity to services is another key to livability.
Every morning when I ride my bike to work, I pass lots of moms on cargo bikes toting their toddlers to the park, school, or somewhere else. Those moms wouldn’t be doing that if the risk of getting run over was larger or if the stress factor was high from traffic, noise, congestion, and urban decay. Because the streets are wide, the environment pleasant, the drivers respectful, and the bike routes designed to move through the space graciously with a decent flow, it’s a nice thing for kids, moms, and everyone else who is riding a bike. Is that not the definition of a livable place? It’s nice for everyone. Don’t we deserve to live in livable places? Think of how bizarre this is, that so many places have become unlivable due to crime, congestion, blight, and other ills. How are we letting this happen around us and why don’t we fight for our right to safe, clean, pleasant places to live in?
More women riding bikes is a sign that there are a lot of good things in place. It’s both a benchmark of livability and a bellweather of more good things to come. More women on bikes means more services and products will be geared towards women riders. More business opportunities for women creating those services and products will open up. That is a big win right there.
For more info see the CyclofemmePDX facebook page.