Oregonian opines on “Cycling’s Gender Gap”

Posted by on June 19th, 2007 at 10:21 am

Today’s editorial features a
photo of a female cyclist.

Less than one week ago, the Oregonian surprised local bike advocates when they published a forceful editorial in support of stiffer penalties for motor vehicle operators who hit bicyclists.

Today, they continue to show their support for two-wheeled transportation with an editorial that reads like it could have been written by PDOT themselves.

With the headline “Cycling’s Gender Gap,” this time the subject is the importance of getting more women on bikes.

For more information on Portland’s biking gender gap, take a look at the poster below (I snapped this photo at one of the Bicycle Master Plan open houses) :

The editorial cites the city’s data on the split between male and female ridership numbers and how that correlates to the quality and perceived safety of the bikeway network. The O draws a line between the city’s many cycling “danger zones” and says the “majority of women” think riding is these areas is worth the risk.

PDOT planners have long gawked at numbers from cities like Amsterdam and the Netherlands where the ridership split between males and females is an even 50/50.

Getting more women on bikes is a major part of PDOT’s Platinum Bicycle Master Plan update effort and they’ve created a Women on Bikes program to encourage more ridership.

I’m all for improving danger zones. We all know that it’s not just women who want want safe places to ride, they just might be more willing to admit it.

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Logan 5
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Logan 5

Ok, first The Oregonian, then Lars Larson and now the Vatican??? Is anybody else getting suspicious?

Jessica Roberts
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Jessica Roberts

This editorial was excellent. Often newspapers get some fact or quote wrong, but they got everything spot on. I was impressed.

West Cougar
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West Cougar

I hope they don\’t use Title IX to fix the gap and take my bike away.

bArbaroo
Guest
bArbaroo

For anyone wanting to be a part of the solution, check out Women For Bikes – a new group forming with the mission of trying to get more women cycling. We have a gathering this Wed at Kennedy School\’s community room from 6:00-8:00 pm. For more information, check out the BP.org forums, link to Women on Bikes and read the postings for: Women For Bikes, Womens gathering, Womens forum

Cecil
Guest
Cecil

West Cougar (post #3) – nope, they\’ll just use Title IX to give me a better bike.

But seriously, as someone who came of age pre-Title IX, I am all for any program designed to create gender parity in athletics and in our short-sighted political world of zero-sum games, that sometimes does mean taking money away from one program to fund another. And until my ox is the one that gets gored, so be it. Maybe if we gore enough oxes, people will start being more willing to pay more to get more . . .

As for the \”Women on Bikes\” program, I think it\’s great, but all the rides I have gone on in the past that were geared for women went slow and stopped a lot. That\’s not generally the way I ride, so I gave up. But I\’d much rather ride with women then men, so I\’d love to see some organized \”women only\” rides that go fast and far . . .

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

Logan
Al Gore is wrong, it\’s not warming. Somewhere below it\’s freezing over.

mommy
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mommy

Yes, it IS scary to be out on the streets. And women (in general) lack the no-fear gene that allows men to engage in crazy risk-taking behavior. I know there are some girls who do, but they are not the average. After close observation of my own kids growing up, I really think that boys have a crazy gene and girls don\’t. And of course, I don\’t mean crazy in a bad way, just that boys don\’t think about getting hurt before they do something, they just go and then when they do get hurt, they are surprised and start running around on their broken foot. Whereas a girl looks at a situation and can see that she might get hurt so will not do it and then when she does get hurt and her doctor says, don\’t walk on that broken foot, she listens to the dr.

so yeah, I think that\’s why women don\’t bike as much. =)

mommy
Guest
mommy

Cecil – that is how women do things. That is why you can\’t stand to shop with us. We were the berry pickers, you guys were the hunters. We like to meander and see the sights and take time to chat while we go. Very few women want to ride until it hurts and almost none are willing to forgo lunch.

Janis
Guest
Janis

Cecil,

Yep, the Women on Bikes rides do go slow and stop when needed. They are designed for newbies and to teach riding skills, routes, riding with traffic, and other barriers women have mentioned.

There are other women only rides that you should check out: Bike Gallery, River City and Sorella Forte. They are for more experienced riders that just want to ride. And they are tons of fun.

As for the editorial, I am glad the subject is being talked about here in Portland. I would love to see more women riding bikes.

Janis

Cecil
Guest
Cecil

Janis, thanks.

Carlo
Guest

In case anyone is wondering, the woman in the photo is none other than Dr. Ellen Michaelson, East Side physician and Portland Velo member! At last, an article that made me smile! 🙂

ME
Guest
ME

Is it that we need more women on bikes… what\’s that? riding, touring,commuting- whatever. A lot of men I know don\’t feel safe either. Let\’s get on board with newby rides and direction. Must we always seperate boys from girls relating to skill and strength…like kick-ball? come on we all know better than that. Like Freddie Mercury says… \”Get on your bike and ride.\”

Phil Hanson (a.k.a. Pedalphile)
Guest

Last time I checked women were people, too; I assume nothing\’s changed. What this city–and the whole world–needs is fewer people in cars and more people on bikes. It\’s great that The Oregonian, the state legislature, et al, are lending their support to Portland\’s bicycling community. This bodes well for safer streets and a cleaner environment, and it\’s 100% certain to improve the scenery.

Lynne
Guest
Lynne

ROTFL! Cecil is female!

I\’m one of her (female) riding buddies that does like to ride for hours and hours and hours and miles and miles and miles.

We don\’t skip lunch, either.

mommy
Guest
mommy

LOL Lynne. Well I admire you guys then. But come on, cecil could be a boys name.=) You have to admit that you are kind of special women, I don\’t think most of us are that way.

Todd B
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Todd B

I agree…one of the nicest things I saw during the Velocity conference in Paris was this issue…more women than men were riding bikes in Paris once wholesale bike friendly changes were made to the local arterials. This fact was discussed a lot by that year\’s partipants (over cafe avec pain de beurre)…it was more apparent in Paris than in other bike friendly cities like Amsterdam (IMnHO).

As for Portland/ Vancouver…I tell my girlfriend the best thing I can do for bike planning and design is to support her in any way to bike to work play and school (kids) while dressing normal and looking hot (more skirts and boots) riding a single speed! ;-O

Portland Platinum Game Plan (for the next mayor to impliment):
[Add Congestion Pricing/ Local Fuel Tax and shake]
1) Bikelane network complete
2) Bike Parking everywhere
3) More Women Bike than Men
4) Ban most school buses (neighborhood based schools/ public transit/ bikes/ walking)

More women on bikes in the streets
or parking bakfiets, sweet!

ME
Guest
ME

Shorts, skirts, lycra, boots, thongs…it all works…and all looks great because it\’s on a bike. Todd B, let\’s not get carried away with the support for the gf and the women vs men in the ridership numbers argument. Get on board for more bike riders period!

Kristen
Guest
Kristen

Cecil, you\’re not the only gal who likes to ride far and as fast as these legs\’ll pedal! 🙂

I think I prefer riding with the guys because a)I\’ve got 3 brothers and no sisters, so I\’m used to playing with the boys, and b)I have to push myself harder to keep up, which makes me a stronger rider.

Although it\’s nice to ride with a group of like-minded women, too. Heck, as long as the group is like-minded individuals, I don\’t care what the gender make-up is.

Janis
Guest
Janis

A note about tonight\’s Women for Bikes gathering…we meet at 6:30pm at Kennedy School in the Community Room.

We have actually decided to change our topic to dig deeper into the purpose and structure of this group.

We look forward to seeing people tonight. Enjoy the weather and have fun biking.

Janis

ME
Guest
ME

Janis… would be interested to get the scoop on the views of your group. Hope JMaus picks it up here.

Janis
Guest
Janis

We post notes in the forums – look for Women on Bikes.

I understand why some people believe that we shouldn\’t separate genders to address cycling concerns. However, I believe that there are some concerns that women have that men may not – or maybe we are just more vocal. It is my hope that by making cycling safer and building the cycling community for women that the results will benefit everyone. More cyclists on the roads is a great thing.

bArbaroo
Guest
bArbaroo

ME –
I\’d make clear that the goal of the Women For Bikes group is ultimately to get more PEOPLE (of both genders) bicylcing. As a tomboy-oriented gal, it\’s unusual for me to want to separate men and women but, as a 19 – year veteren of the bike industry my observations (no, not scientific, but…) have convinced me that there is a gender gap. I believe that women serve as a great barometer for those that don\’t ride (or ride very little) and by addressing the concerns they articulate we can better address the barriers to cycling that affect us all.

By the way – men are welcome at our meetings.

Elly
Guest
Elly

It might help to think of women as a major untapped emerging market in the business of getting more folks out on bikes. The Women for Bikes founders have identified that market and are now doing a great job figuring out how best to reach it.

Not that there aren\’t other, non-gendered markets out there waiting to be identified. The athletic men category seems like the best-covered one at this point, but I bet there\’s work to be done there, too.

aec
Guest
aec

I\’d be happy if bike clothing companies starting producing clothing that doesn\’t look like bike gear but is hearty enough for bikes. I want to be able to get off my bike and go to work without changing and look somewhat stylish.

Cecil
Guest
Cecil

Mommy, Lynne beat me to it – I am most definitely a woman. But don\’t worry, my name has caused more than one person (and certain branches of the federal government – I am talking about you, Draft Board) to assume I am a man. And, frankly, I have the crazy gene. I HAVE walked on that broken foot. But I still prefer to ride with women, because I am not that crazy. It\’s just a matter of finding the right mix.

mommy
Guest
mommy

Cecil, I really and truly do admire that. Women like you are my heroes! Unfortunately I have a very strong self-preservation gene which, in essence, makes me a scaredy cat. Couple that with not much natural athleticism and I am downright skittish. Don\’t get me wrong, I love my bike and I get a big smile on my face on a sunny day and a flat path. But, if it feels dangerous or risky, I probably won\’t do it. I am a fair-weather, bike path kind of rider which is why for me, it is still a recreation more than a form of transportation. I know a lot of women who are like me.

You sound more like my younger sister and I think that more of the under 30 crowd are a little more adventurous. I see the gender gap narrowing in all areas of modern life.

Now, why should any attempts be made to increase female ridership? I think it is very hard for the no-fear crowd to get how intimidating it really is. I know guys get upset that women have women only gyms for instance. But those same guys will turn around and make fun of the overweight women working out at Gold\’s. Uh, guys… Well, it\’s the same with biking. I guess that I would like more than increased safety measures and bike lanes. Could I please have the slightly awkward, non-hipster, middle aged only bike lane please? LOL. Okay, I know it\’s my own issue, but I think mine is not a perspective heard often on this forum and just trying to give you all some insight as to why it is intimidating to some women.

Cecil
Guest
Cecil

No worries, Mommy (post #26) – but FYI, I\’m 46 – it\’s just biking that keeps me young

Anyway, I understand how you feel. I know that for many people, not just women (my husband being a prime example), biking in many parts of Portland is a terrifying proposition. I also agree that there is a certain amount of prejudice on the part of hard-core bikers against more casual riders – I\’ve seen it and heard it, and it pisses me off. But I also think that you are exactly the type of rider that we need to encourage to get out there ride with that big smile on your face – whether for recreation or transportation. Who knows, maybe you\’ve got that crazy gene buried deep down inside you itching to get out.

Mommy
Guest
Mommy

\”Who knows, maybe you\’ve got that crazy gene buried deep down inside you itching to get out.\”

Well I learned a long time ago to never say never. And I would love to be that example for my kids. Thanks for understanding. It is baby steps for me right now. I used to ride my bike all the time as a kid but it was much less politically charged and had nothing to do with being cool in those days – If I wanted to see my friends across town, that\’s what we did. Also, it was a small town with little traffic and we never thought twice about riding on sidewalks and I never felt stupid to get off and push up a hill. Now it\’s great that Portland is such a bikey town, but with that comes some very serious bikers who WILL look at me funny if I get off to push. At least in my neurotic little head they do. lol. Maybe I should stop reading this forum where they post all their nasty comments. Honestly, I don\’t even feel all that comfortable taking my bike in for a tune-up because of the looks I fear I\’ll get from the hipsters who work at the bike shops. I mean, I\’ll do it, but man, it is more uncomfortable than being the girl with glasses at a middle school dance!

Lynne
Guest
Lynne

Well, I\’ll add to Cecil\’s comment. I\’m 51, and decidedly a non-hipster. Heck, I live on the outskirts of Beaverton and when I drive, it is a minivan. If you get rude treatment at a bike store, find another one. My LBS (Beaverton Bike Gallery) is staffed with the nicest group of folks you would ever want to hang out with.
Ride if you want to ride, and don\’t worry about what anyone else might be thinking!

Cecil
Guest
Cecil

Mommy, I don\’t know what part of town you live in, but if you are in SE, go see my man Corey at 7 Corners Cycles on 21st at Powell – he is nice, knowledgeable and definitely not snooty.