How Bike-Share Programs Can Help Close the Biking Gender Gap

As a female and a long-time bicycle lover, I was surprised to learn there's a pretty sizable biking gender gap in the U.S.

As a female and a long-time bicycle lover, I was surprised to learn there's a pretty sizable biking gender gap in the U.S. In 2009, only 24 percent of all bike trips were made by women, according to the League of American Bicyclists.

With that in mind, the League launched a new program last month called Women Bike, which is dedicated to getting more females cycling. The group released a study last month called "Women on a Roll" that found, among other interesting insights, that bike-share programs help close the gap.

How exactly? Well, it boils down to do with what the report calls the "five Cs" that are key to getting more women on wheels: comfort, convenience, confidence, consumer products, and community.

Bike-share bikes are made for cruising short distances, not speed or long trips. Yes, they're clunky, heavy and slow, but that makes them far more comfortable and easy to ride than a thin, aerodynamic road bike. You don't need any special gear, and can wear casual clothing.

Like the bikes themselves, bike-share culture is also more laid-back for non-hardcore bikers, the study found. Whereas bike shops or cycling clubs can be male-dominated and give off an off-putting "machismo" vibe, bike-share programs bring on a welcoming sense of community.

And finally, where bike sharing goes, bike-friendly infrastructure usually follows. That means more bike racks—which make it more convenient to make frequent stops, say for running errands—plus designated bike lanes and cars that are more used to sharing the road, both of which make biking around town safer.

Two-thirds of women in the U.S. agreed. “My community would be a better place to live if biking were safer and more comfortable," said a participant in the study.

You may be thinking, all this wreaks of gender stereotypes. But the truth is, past studies have come to similar conclusions. In fact, women are often considered an "indicator species" for bike-friendly cities. In other words, by looking at the percentage of female cyclists in a city, you can predict how well-equipped the area is to support a biking culture. The numbers also back up the theory that bike-sharing boost the number of female riders: In 2012, 43 percent of bike-share users were women, according to the report.

The great news is that bike-share programs are a rising trend in cities around the country. Chicago kicked off its program this summer, and San Francisco is on track to launch this month. "The number of cities planning to add bicycles as public transportation on the continent is expected to jump by 50 percent this year," WNYC recently reported. (There's a map, too). "Existing bike-share programs in America are also hitting milestone after milestone this season. Washington, D.C.'s Capital Bikeshare broke ridership records last weekend with more than 11,000 trips in one day for the first time."

And in New York, where I live, the CitiBike program has been hugely popular so far. You can sense the transportation culture starting to shift—even if just slightly—away from the car-dominated society we've had for decades, as people get more used to sharing the road. Residents are also opting to commute by bike instead of the subway, which is also great for personal health.

This bodes well for a future of female riders. From the report:

Already, more than 250 cities large and small have been designated Bicycle Friendly Communities by the League—and many of these cities have among the highest rates of women cycling according to local counts and surveys, including Boston (Silver BFC—32 percent women’s ridership), San Francisco (Gold BFC—33 percent women’s ridership), and Philadelphia (Silver BFC—32 percent women’s ridership).

Another positive sign of the changing times? The younger generation of girls are way more psyched on cycling. According to the study, 60 percent of bike owners between 17 and 28 years old are women. It goes to show, the momentum is there—and cities can help keep it moving forward.

Image via (cc) flickr user eco_bicycle_albania

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less