The way individuals travel within a city has significant impacts on their own well-being and the city at large. Cycling reduces air pollution, is climate-friendly, saves time and is good for overall health. As such, International Women’s Day is an important time to reflect on how to make cycling more inclusive to people who are under-represented in the activity.
A recent survey from cities across the globe shows that there are gendered differences in active travel use among men and women. ‘’On average, females are half as likely as males to cycle,’’ with lower rates of women cycling in cities with poor cycling infrastructure and lower rates of cycling overall.
In Ireland, only one in four people commuting by bike are female. Women often report harassment while cycling and are shown to be more affected by traffic risks and poor infrastructure.
Cultural norms discourage women and girls from cycling -- wherever cycling is seen as a ‘’dangerous’’ activity, it is also perceived to be in the male domain. Household roles also affect cycling rates – many women are concerned not only for their own safety but for children they are travelling with.
Along with improving cycling infrastructure, bike sharing can lead to higher rates of women cycling. Bike sharing allows users to get comfortable on a bike before having to invest in a bicycle.
Stationless bike services like Bleeper can expand the options of travel for women. Studies have shown that men are more likely to use active travel for commuting while women use active travel for a variety of tasks including caretaking. Stationless bike shares are ideal for trips outside of major commuting areas.
A recent survey from CoMoUK found that 50% of bike share users were motivated to start cycling again by the opportunity to use bike sharing. Within this cohort ‘’a higher proportion of women compared to men (37% vs 25%) were more likely to have started cycling for the first time or after a 5+ year break.’’ This goes to show how bike sharing can make cycling an easier option for women.
Achieving gender parity in cycling has benefits for society at large—reducing air pollution and traffic congestion, which makes streets cleaner and safer for everyone. Furthermore, people who travel by bike achieve higher levels of physical activity overall. Research even shows that people who walk or cycle to work are happier and more productive at work.
Building safer cycling infrastructure and reducing the cost of cycling through affordable options like Bike Sharing makes cycling more appealing to a wider range of people. The more safe and accessible cycling is, the more women we will see out on the roads.