Women and bicycling
This July, six women are bicycling the entire Tour de France route in a historic effort called the Rêve Tour. Their goal?—to inspire more women to ride bikes more often. Riding one day ahead of the pro men’s race, the women will cover more than 2,000 miles in just 21 days. We will be following them closely as they tackle the world’s biggest bike race. In addition to inspiring growth in women's participation in bicycling, they are raising $60,000 for PFB’s parent foundation, Bikes Belong—donate here!
In case that leaves you wondering why it is important to encourage more women to bicycle, we've shared a blog post from bicycle research expert and Rutgers University professor John Pucher. In his upcoming book, “City Cycling”, Pucher explains why fewer women than men ride in the U.S., and why women are the key to growing bicycling. (Adapted with permission from the European Cyclists’ Federation blog.)
Read Pucher and his co-authors' thoughts below, and follow the Rêve Tour women as they ride the Tour de France next month.
“Even today, women tend to bicycle a lot less than men in most countries. For example, women’s bicycling levels are only about a third as high as for men in North America and Australia,” explains Pucher.
In cities where a high percentage of bike trips are by women, overall rates of bicycling are high, and bicycling conditions are safe, convenient, and comfortable. Where few women bicycle, overall rates of bicycling are low, and bicycling conditions are unsafe, inconvenient, uncomfortable, and sometimes outright impossible. Thus, researchers suggest that the percentage of women bicyclists is a key indicator of the success of bicycling.
“In short, the best way to raise overall bicycling levels is to get more women bicycling,” says Pucher.
As it turns out, the biggest obstacle to more women bicycling is traffic danger, and that is also the main factor discouraging children and seniors from bicycling as well. Thus, improving bicycling safety is the key to increasing bicycling by women, children, and seniors, and all persons who are risk-averse or especially vulnerable to traffic dangers.
The Netherlands, with the world’s safest bicycling, is portrayed as the model of what needs to be done to get everyone on bikes for all trip purposes. With 56% of all bike trips by women, the Dutch certainly pass the ‘indicator species’ test of successful bicycling policies.
By providing a fully integrated, complementary package of infrastructure, policies, and programs to promote bicycling, the Dutch make bicycling so safe, convenient, and comfortable so that virtually everyone in the Netherlands rides a bike
Pucher highlights two aspects of the Dutch pro-bike package:
• Superbly designed bicycling infrastructure physically separates bicyclists from motor vehicle traffic on arterial roads and provides priority crossing at intersections, while traffic-calming of residential neighborhoods (30km/h speed limits), in effect, turns local streets into bikeways.
• Rigorous training and testing is required of both bicyclists and motorists, and traffic regulations are strictly enforced for everyone. In addition, motorists are legally responsible for any crash with a bicyclist, thus putting motorists on the defensive and forcing them to pay special attention to avoiding the endangerment of bicyclists.
“It is the combination of superb bicycling facilities and responsible, considerate motorist behavior toward bicyclists that explains why bicycling is safer in the Netherlands than in any other country in the world,” explains Pucher.
“And that, in turn, helps explain why so many Dutch women, children, and seniors get around by bike.”
Pucher’s message is clear: if you want to get a city cycling, you’ve got to focus on women.
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