Last week, the venerable League of American Bicyclists released their Women On A Roll report with lots of great data about female cyclists’ needs and challenges. It’s great to see a report that backs up what many womens’ cycling blogs have been saying for the past five years with numbers. While there are many other bicycle blogs covering this story in great depth – notably Lady Fleur‘s and Bike Portland‘s – I thought I’d share my thoughts. I can’t speak for younger female riders – like the 60% of bicycling Millennials mentioned in the report – but I can reflect on what those bicyclists will be looking for as they transition into the next phase of their life.
Suburban and urban moms like me want to ride more with our kids, and feel safe doing it; if we can’t, we end up having to make car trips instead. This is a no-brainer, right?
So, we’re not only looking for bicycles that let us ride to work in our normal clothes, and clothes that fit us properly even if we haven’t gotten back our pre-baby figures yet (ahem, a plus size line of commuter-style clothes would be an instant hit, justsayin’). We’re looking for racks and panniers and baskets to make it easy to haul all our stuff. We’re looking for secure seats and trailers that fit kids who are no longer babies but aren’t quite ready to ride on their own. We’re looking for midtails and bakfiets and mamachari. We’d rather not have to import them from abroad ourselves. We have young families, so we need them to affordable, too.
We’re looking for shops that make it easy for us to find these things, instead of hiding them in the back, and salespeople who don’t assume they know more about what we need than we do, and don’t assume that every woman who walks in the shop is a new cyclist. We’re looking for mechanics who don’t talk down to us if we bring them in for routine maintenance because we’d rather delegate that job than do it ourselves while juggling our kids and work. If we go to our local bike kitchen to do the maintenance ourselves, we’re looking for helpful volunteers who are cool with us bringing our kids along. (I count myself lucky that all those resources exist in my city, and that I was able to find them without too much effort, because I know my experience in that regard is far from universal.)
We’re looking for separated infrastructure that actually will get us from home to the local school, grocery, public transit hubs, daycares, shops, and workplaces, and that we will feel safe riding with our kids. Here in Edmonton, that means not only working on introducing separated infrastructure in key parts of the city, but making sure that the multi-use paths being built in residential neighborhoods actually are making it possible and convenient to run local errands by bike, even in winter.
I read the report and I see a lot to feel optimistic about. There are more women on bicycles than there have been in years, and great resources that are teaching riding and repair skills, and an explosion of interest in women’s rides and riding groups (like Edmonton’s Critical Lass ride, which is happening on Saturday this month).
For me, it’s not just about closing the cycling gender gap. If we make it easy and comfortable for women to ride with their families, then the numbers of kids and teens using active transport rise too. It’s healthier, and better for the planet, and way more fun to be on a bike than stuck in a car. Everyone will benefit from being comfortable riding their bicycle!
What do you think? Any surprises for you in the Women On A Roll report?