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Want to Know if an Urban Environment Supports Cycling? Measure the Proportion of Women on Bikes

According to Jan Garrard, a senior lecturer at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, the best way to determine how favorable a given city is...


According to Jan Garrard, a senior lecturer at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, the best way to determine how favorable a given city is for cycling is to measure the number of women bike-riders. From Scientific American:

Women are considered an "indicator species" for bike-friendly cities for several reasons. First, studies across disciplines as disparate as criminology and child ­rearing have shown that women are more averse to risk than men. In the cycling arena, that risk aversion translates into increased demand for safe bike infrastructure as a prerequisite for riding. Women also do most of the child care and household shopping, which means these bike routes need to be organized around practical urban destinations to make a difference.

Clearly, there are many exceptions to these generalizations, and many women are neither risk-averse nor taking children in tow. But in American cities without safe, well-defined biking infrastructures, men tend to bike a lot more. In most of New York City, for example, the ratio of male to female cyclists is three to one (though it should be noted that along the car-free greenbelts of Central Park, women make up 44 percent of riders). In European cities, on the other hand, where the infrastructure exists, the split is more even-in the Netherlands, where a lot of cycling takes place, women actually make up 55 percent of the ridership.

The idea of women as indicators is fascinating, but the main takeaway seems to be this: The safer, easier, and more functional that biking seems, the more people will do it.

Via Yglesias.

Photo (cc) by Flickr user Herval.









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