Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Thanks to my friend Tracie Sanchez of BikeAthens and leader of our local women's cycling group "Westside ladies who ride...in skirts if they wanna" for alerting me to this blog post on Grist.org. An excerpt:
A widely cited 2009 study found that women are more likely to choose to ride on quiet residential streets, while men are more likely to choose direct routes even if they have heavier traffic. Women are an "indicator species" for cycling, this study concludes, and that cities can cajole greater women ridership by building safer-feeling bike infrastructure.
Much is also made of another concern women often express in surveys -- that cycling to work will impede our ability to conform to professional norms in clothing, makeup, and hairstyles. The response can be seen in the proliferation of the "Cycle Chic" brand, tweed rides, and the commingling of bicycling and high fashion in advertising.
There's plenty of truth in both the fear and fashion theories. But before we commit to blaming women's transportation practices on our timidity and vanity, I think it's worth looking at some other potential factors.
Like the economy.
Women are more likely than men to be poor. We still don't earn equal pay -- as recently as 2009, women made 77 cents for each dollar earned by men doing equivalent work. Other factors range from the kind of work available to women to hiring bias against pregnant women and mothers.
Despite the economy of bicycle transportation, households with lower incomes are less likely to have access to bikes. Barriers to bicycling include the cost of bicycle purchase when all one's transportation dollars are tied up in a car, cultural barriers such as perception and police profiling, and lack of access to safe infrastructure in neighborhoods with low housing costs.
On the days I don't cycle, it's more likely that I don't like the safety of the route I would need to take, or that I have to wear "lawyer clothes" on a 100 degree day, but I do believe that overall economic issues lead to a dearth of women riders. But bicycling is potentially economical, healthy transportation for folks in every economic bracket, so it's important to address all factors that keep folks who might want to cycle from doing so.
Jamie Baker Roskie