women biking and city safety

A good indicator of bicycle safety in a city is if you see a mother riding a bicycle with her kids. In fact, women riding bicycles in general point to the overall bicycle safety in a city. “It is understood women are catalysts for safe pedestrian and bicycle friendly design, thus bicycling women help progress the livability of a place,” says the Association for Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP).

Why does it matter to the overall bicycling scene in a city that women ride bicycles? Here are 5 reasons why.

1. Women ride bicycles primarily for utility, ease of use and efficiency and sometimes for empowerment, but not as often for the sporty thrill of it. So women riding bicycles promotes the idea of bicycling other than for recreation.

2. Seeing women on bicycles makes bicycling seem more culturally acceptable. And as bicycling becomes more mainstream and accepted, there is more political will for bicycle infrastructure in a city. According to the APBP, “The growing population of female cyclists has been a valuable contribution to developing the American Streetscape to accommodate the needs of cyclists.”

3. Women tend to be more risk averse than men. In Portland, women were less likely than men to try on-street bike lanes and more likely to go out of their way to use bike boulevards, quiet residential streets with special traffic calming features for bicycles. In New York City, men are three times as likely to be cyclists as women, yet a bicycle count found that an off-street bike path in Central Park had 44 percent female riders. Women’s tendency to go for safer bike routes increases demand for serious and safe bicycle infrastructure as a prerequisite for riding.

4. Developing bicycle infrastructure around the needs of women as well as the needs of men helps create a more equitable and holistic infrastructure that will be appealing to a larger segment of the population and promote cycling for everyone.

5. According to the Women’s Cycling Project, adequate bike lanes, separated off-road cycling paths, wider lanes on roads, good connectivity and more direct routes encourage greater numbers of women bicyclists.

As you can see, a lot of this is subject to the chicken and the egg syndrome. Which comes first, safer bicycling infrastructure or more women on bicycles? As with a lot of things, it’s probably a combination. As more women take to the roads on their bicycles, the more they will help get better bicycle infrastructure in their cities. And as cities install more safe bicycle infrastructure, more women will ride their bicycles and hence there will be a positive spiral effect. At any rate, cities need to build their bicycle plans with women in mind because when bicycling is safe and appealing for women in a city, than bicycling is safe and appealing to everyone.

[Source: The Role of the American Bicycle Girl: An Indicator of Healthy U.S. Cities towards Sustainable Mobility by Association for Pedestrian and Bicycling Professionals]

Photo Credit: Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedrosimoes7/ [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons