Streetsblog NYC asks the age-old question: Why don't more women ride bikes? In New York City, for example, the percentage of female cyclists ranges between about 20 and 25 percent. Their (also age-old) response: Because they don't feel safe on the streets. By separating cyclists from car traffic, they argue, cities could convince more timid female cyclists to ride.

The problem with that conclusion is that, when researchers actually ask women themselves why they don't ride more often, safety barely register. The number one reason, in a recent survey by the Association of Bicycle and Pedestrian Professionals? Women say cycling is inconvenient. And the number one factor in determining convenience is the time it takes to get from place to place. And time is something women simply have less of than men.

Don't believe me? Check out the statistics. On average, women spend an hour more per day on housework than men. Unmarried women do 10 hours of chores (not counting child care) per week, on average, while married women do 17 hours of chores per week. (Men do an average of eight hours of housework a week before marriage and seven hours a week after.) In the US, 68 percent of women work outside the home.

Meanwhile, women with children spend twice as much time---13 hours a week, compared to 6.5 for men---taking care of their children. And the amount of housework women do goes up with every child they have---women with more than three children, for example, do 26 hours of housework a week. Add all that up, and cycling to work starts to look like a luxury compared to the convenience (and speed) of driving a car.

And there's more. Studies have demonstrated that women are far more likely than men to make stops in between home and work---ferrying kids to and from day care, school, and after-school activities, running household errands, grocery shopping, etc. One study, for example, found that 33 percent of women made stops on the way to work, compared to just 18.8 percent of men, and that 61.4 percent of women made stops on the way home from work, compared to 46.4 percent of men. Women make up two-thirds of trips to pick up and drop off kids. Overall, women drive between 60 and 70 percent more miles than men.

The upshot, unfortunately, is that until women achieve economic (and household) parity with men, cycling is going to be, practically speaking, off limits for many women. Segregated bike lanes would probably get more people of every age and gender on two wheels, but infrastructure alone isn't going to solve cycling's gender gap.
Show Comments