An Indicator Species?

A recent article over at Scientific American makes the claim that women are an “indicator species” for bike-friendly cities. From the article:

Women are considered an “indicator species” for bike-friendly cities for several reasons. First, studies across disciplines as disparate as criminology and child­rearing have shown that women are more averse to risk than men. In the cycling arena, that risk aversion translates into increased demand for safe bike infrastructure as a prerequisite for riding. Women also do most of the child care and household shopping, which means these bike routes need to be organized around practical urban destinations to make a difference.

I have to think children, the elderly, or anyone else who is uncomfortable riding in or near traffic might also have an “increased demand for safe bike infrastructure”. It’s common knowledge that the availability of safe routes and high-quality separated facilities increases bicycle use among all groups, regardless of gender, age, or skill level.

Read the article

8 Responses to “An Indicator Species?”

  • David says:

    We had a Dutch woman come into the shop to have us unpack and set up her bike.
    She and her American husband had moved from Holland to Martha’s Vineyard.

    This is a woman who grew up in a civilized country with a great bicycling infrastructure with motorists who know their place in the order of things.

    A few week later I hear from my boss that she is quite uncomfortable riding around American motorists as they are so rude and aggressive.

    Personally I am not all that comfortable riding around traffic so that is why I use a mirror, extremely bright lights and reflective gear day and night for my self and my children on our tandem and or triplet.

    I assume all motorists to be idiots and take it as a pleasant surprise when they rarely prove me wrong.

  • s0fa says:

    I wrote a paper on this in college. There’s a pretty strong correlation with some pretty small p-values between the number of miles of bicycle lanes and paths and the number of miles women ride. Gender inequality in ridership was measured in the difference in the number of miles biked for a given activity. In cities with poor infrastructure women rode far fewer miles than men, but the interesting thing is that past a critical point women bike significantly more miles than men to doing errands and commuting to work. One of the reasons it increases so much with increased infrastructure is that women bike farther out of their way to use bike lanes rather than taking the “shortcut” on un-laned streets. Before anyone jumps down my throat, they separated mileage based on use. Miles ridden to work, miles ridden for errands, and miles ridden for recreation. Men super-overcame women on recreation because there are significantly more men suiting up and peletoning their asses all over creation, and for my paper which was bicycles-as-transportation oriented avoided that topic, although articles I read for it had all kinds of exploration of the gender gap in cycling as sport.

  • Lovely Bicycle! says:

    David – She was uncomfortable cycling on Martha’s Vinyard? Wow, I guess she would not have done too well living in Boston. I also know several Dutch and Danish women who cycled as a matter of course at home, but do not cycle in the US after having given it a try. Drivers’ behaviour really is different here, and urban planning consultants like Mikael Colville Andersen need to listen to this sort of feedback.

  • David says:

    Lovely Bicycle!

    August of 2005 my then 12 year old daughter and I rode from Woods Hole to Provence Town at the tip of Cape Cod and back. 5 days and 234 meandering miles. Perhaps 60 miles on bike paths all told but around 174 some odd miles on roads with traffic. Not once were we honked at, cursed, yelled, gestured or had anyone purposely swerve at us with their car.

    Once back on the Island, just in the 5 miles to ride home from the ferry, we were yelled at to get the F*** off the road twice.

    I’ve lived here since 83 and I don’t know what makes drivers so different from the mainland but I would have to say it’s not all that of a friendly place to ride.

    We have a long way to go, laws that need to be enforced and a lot of people to educate before we get anywhere close to what it’s like in Europe

  • Lovely Bicycle! says:

    David, that is an impressive trip for a 12-year old girl! We have been cycling on the Cape for the past two weeks, and I agree that it is incredibly bike-friendly. I have been to Martha’s Vinyard, but never on a bike. Had no idea the vibe there was so different.

  • Erik Sandblom says:

    Alan, one difference between children and women is that women can have a driver’s license, so they have more freedom to choose how they travel. Another difference might be that children are less averse to risk, especially at certain ages.

    This suggests that women might be a better indicator species than children.

  • Kristin says:

    I can definitely attest to this. I lived in Manhattan, and while I knew guys who biked in the city, there was no way I was ever getting on a bike. (a couple of those guys also go into wrecks with cars – no good).

    But, now I live in Sacramento and I LOVE to bike around the city. I can’t imagine it any other way. The streets are all tree-lined and the city calms down and there are even few cars to have to fend with (depending on which street you’re on).

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