Why focus on women and families? There are many women and families who bicycle now (including me). However, if municipalities support women and family transportation cycling, most people in the community will be able to use bikes for everyday travel. In ignoring the needs of family commuters, municipalities are overlooking a huge percentage of potential riders who would like to ride but cannot. Here are a few points for consideration and discussion: 1. In Greater Victoria, as in many other places in North America, the gender share of women bicyclists drops from 50% to 25% after they turn 25. In Amsterdam, women comprise up to 65% (of the cycling population throughout their lives, including their childbearing years. In Sweden, Finland, Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands, the percentage of women cyclists range from about 47% to 55% and the percentage of trips by bicycle for Netherlands and Denmark is between 18% and 27% (Garrard, Handy et al. 2012). Anecdotally, through discussion with other women, many remark that ‘they used to ride’ but don’t now, because they need to get their kids to school and themselves to work. Many struggle with choosing appropriate gear to carry smaller kids, route selection, and poor cycling infrastructure. When children become independent riders (ages 10-15 for example) when they can physically ride their bikes with their parents, they are impeded by poorly designed roads and traffic conditions. 2. Women and children are ‘indicators’ for well-designed cycling environments – when women and kids, especially older kids who are independent riders – can cycle comfortably to work and school, the cycling environment can support most of the community of all ages. 3. It is critical for municipalities to recognize the needs of family commuters in their efforts to increase bicycle ridership. Often only one adult family member is able to commute by bicycle even if the others are willing to do so – the other adult (in a two parent family) often must use a motor vehicle to carry children to school and continue to work – current cycling infrastructure and traffic conditions may make it impossible to consider riding with your kids to their school or daycare. 4. Many women may prefer different riding conditions than men, and in general may be more risk-averse. 5. Women often do not have much leisure time for active athletic sport activities and using active transportation to get where they need to go offers the benefit of better physical and mental health without having to schedule gym or fitness time in the evenings or early mornings. 6. The style of riding that appeals to potential bike riders (both men and women) may differ from the dedicated commuters, or the sports or fitness-oriented people who currently ride regularly. The cycling cultures of Denmark or the Netherlands are obvious examples of a type of riding that may appeal to a wider group of people. In these places, high percentages of men, women, and children using bikes for everyday trips in urban areas, is simply an accepted and unremarkable aspect of their daily lives. They dress for their destination, ride slower than our typical commuters, and use comfortable, practical bikes. Some of the puzzle pieces needed to nurture this approach to riding here include better cycling skills education, a shift in the way we think about cycling, and different cycling infrastructure. 7. Efforts of Other Jurisdictions. A growing number of groups are focusing on women’s cycling. For example, the American League of Bicyclists formed Women Bike in 2009 to encourage an increase in women cyclists and to foster women cycling leaders. National Forums on Women Cycling have been held in the USA since 2012 and a report, Women on a Roll was released August 16, 2013. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association's (WABA) Women & Bicycles initiative is focusing on women to increase overall ridership and women’s riding share. WABA has produced a tool kit for growing women’s cycling in your local area. The City of Boston is developing cycling program focused on women. Through the Women's Cycling Initiative, Boston Bikes offers programming and resources specific to the needs of women who bike to help increase the overall use of cycling as transportation, and increase the overall number of cyclists in our cities.” Explicit consideration of women and family transportation cycling as part of our diverse community of cyclists will work towards improving conditions for all cyclists and help regions reach their cycling ridership goals.
Workshop or Seminar on Women and Family Transportation Cycling
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