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August 12, 2013

Women and Biking: Achieving Gender Equality

 

640px-Karen_Hanlen_mtb_olympic_2012
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Biking is becoming more mainstream nationwide with more and more bike lanes being built, more bike racks being installed, and more cyclists hitting the streets and the trails across the States. Even celebrities are catching onto this trend. For example, Beyonce biked to her concert in Brooklyn. It’s a welcome change, because choosing a bike helps to address many social challenges like improving community health and fitness, protecting the environment by taking one more car off the road, relieving congestion, and growing and strengthening neighborhoods.  

Although biking has become popular in the United States, the sport hasn’t caught on with all demographics. In 2009, women only accounted for 24 percent of all bike trips in the U.S.

Is there a way to decrease the gender gap in biking?

In other parts of the world, a greater percentage of women ride bikes. For example, in Germany, women account for 49 percent of bike trips, and in the Netherlands, 55 percent.

The good news is that there are a lot of people doing a lot of work to get more women on bikes. In fact, the League of American Bicyclists has formed the Woman Bike Program, which recently released a new report on the issue, Women on a Roll. Carolyn Szczepanski, the program's Director of Communications explained the reasoning for putting together this report:

"Increasingly, advocacy groups and industry leaders are recognizing the gender gap as a clear -- and critical -- limitation to growing the bike movement and the market.” She continued, "This report puts hard data behind that imperative -- and reveals what's working in getting more women on bikes and where there is clear opportunity to increase female leadership and participation.”

According to the report, the program’s goal is “to unite efforts nationwide and act as a hub of best practices and information on women’s bicycling.”

But just how will they go about accomplishing this goal?

 

In the report, they’ve identified what they call the five Cs to get more women biking:

1. Comfort: making biking safe and inviting

2. Convenience: addressing practical realities for women and families

3. Confidence: tools to ensure women feel secure in their skills

4. Consumer products: fashion and function in bikes and gear

5. Community: building connection and cultivating diverse bicycling interests

The movement to get women on bikes has already had some remarkable achievements. In fact, from 2003 to 2012, the number of women and girls who ride bikes rose 20 percent compared to a 0.5-percent decline among men. Women are the new majority: 60 percent of bicycle owners aged 17-28 years old are women. In 2011, women accounted for 37 percent of the bicycle market, spending $2.3 billion on bikes. Forty-five percent of local and state bicycle advocacy organization staff are female. However, women are still underrepresented in leadership positions, including the boards of national industry and advocacy organizations -- and their membership.

Let’s keep the momentum going to get more women on bikes, while helping to move America beyond oil and improving overall health.

--Lindsay Garten, Sierra Club Media Team Intern

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