Why Aren't More Women Into Bicycling? [innovationforendurance]

In 2009, just 24 percent of all bicycle trips in the U.S. were taken by women, and that number has grown only incrementally since.So why don't more women ride? The answers are actually fairly straightforward. According to  variety of studies, such as one done by the Journal of Public Health Policyand another by researchers at Rutgers University (PDF), women are typically  more concerned for their personal safety on a bike than men are. "Women are especially worried about having a safe place to ride," agrees Kate Powlison, research analyst and communications coordinator for the advocacy organization Bikes Belong. "For instance, the 1 percent of the population who [say they] will ride a bike anywhere, no matter the conditions, is overwhelmingly male — about 80 percent."

Other factors have more to do with women's often usual role and responsibilities in American society, says Carolyn Szczepanski, director of communications for the League of American Bicyclists. "Generally speaking, women are more responsible for child care in the U.S. And they are more responsible for getting their kids from place to place," explains Szczepanski, specifically addressing the smaller number of women bike commuters. "That means they have to deal with more 'trip chaining,' where they go from one place to another to another, running errands. In turn they have to consider how they are going to carry whatever shopping items they may have picked up, or transport their children." That's often not possible on a bike.

Szczepanski adds that there is also often a potentially off-putting stereotype of who a cyclist is — typically someone who races around in spandex. "Fortunately, that is starting to change, so now we see more people getting interested in cycling across the board." To keep this momentum rolling — and encourage more women to ride bikes — organizations such as Bikes Belong and the League of American Bicyclists are taking a proactive approach, launching programs such as the Green Lane Project, which helps build protected bike lanes in U.S. communities. "These types of facilities are proven to attract more women to bicycling," explains Powlison, herself a passionate cyclist who was part of a group of women that rode all 21 stages of last year's Tour de France. "The Green Lane Project launched this past May in Austin, Chicago, Memphis, San Francisco, Portland, and Washington, D.C. We were inspired by bike-friendly countries like the Netherlands, and are bringing their lessons and designs over to the U.S."