Study Looks at How to Encourage Women to Cycle

By Charles Pekow

Cycling West - Cycling Utah Magazine logoA new twist on an old issue: what keeps women from cycling? It has been well documented that women don't cycle as much as men. But what are their attitudes? A research team surveyed 1,868 women who do cycle confidently in the United States and Canada and asked them what problems they saw, though many evidently overcame them. The team published its findings as Advancing Cycling among Women: An Exploratory Study of North American Cyclists, published in the Journal of Transport and Land Use (https://jtlu.org/index.php/jtlu/article/view/1461).

Most of the women surveyed cycled because they wanted to – few did because of a lack of other options, though presumably those most apprehensive to cycle wouldn't be included in the survey. Some did like the fact that it saved gas or bus/train fare, however. The report goes on to say that communities can encourage women to cycle in various ways. These include everything from building proper infrastructure (women said they preferred riding on bicycle-separated routes) to encouraging cycling culture in workplaces and schools. Planners also need to consider the different skill levels among cyclists and cater to all of them.

Most of the survey respondents had graduated college. They ranged in age from their 20s to 50s, with 87 percent white and only 23 percent with school-aged children. While some didn't mind riding on streets with traffic, one impediment for a lot of them was not wanting to. Even most of those feeling confident on street riding said they'd prefer cycle lanes – especially separated ones.

Even the most experienced and confident women cyclists expressed safety concerns about sharing roads with autos, but that concern probably doesn't vary by gender.

“This study found that most women cyclists were environmentally focused, given that sustainability was frequently reported as an important motivation for them to cycle. This could be a potential marketing message to encourage more women to cycle in the future,” the report suggests.

It also notes that making cycling fun and appear safer may encourage riders to bike for transportation: “Participation in recreational cycling may help to build the cycling skills and comfort needed to shift to utilitarian cycling,” it suggests. A good number of women ride on trails but don't bike when they need to go somewhere and trails or paths aren't available, and maybe many would if they found separated bike lanes along the route.

 

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