Why Don't More Women Ride Bikes?
I came across this great article in the Scientific American that calls women the "indicator species" of bicycling. That's one of the best things I've ever read.
It's true though: if you want to measure how bike-friendly a nation really is, check out how many of their riders are female. According to the article, countries like the Netherlands actually have more women riding bikes than men. That's astounding. I didn't even know that was possible until I read it.
Then I got to thinking... Where are all my ladies, anyway?
Factors that discourage female riders include lack of infrastructure and safety while on the road. If there isn't a bike lane, it's hard to feel like you belong in traffic. Another factor is that ladies are under a bit of pressure (just a bit) to look like they just stepped out of Vogue magazine at any given moment. When I arrive at work all sweaty and soggy from a 3 mile ride through the drizzle, I don't think my female coworkers are necessarily jealous. (But they should be. I've got a fit body and pay zero gym membership.)
But probably the biggest factor, and I do hate admitting this, is that ladies feel vulnerable out there on bikes. When we're in a car alone, we get to lock the doors, lean back against the leather, and feel the serenity of our own metal-and-vinyl bubble that keeps us safe in a public parking lot. On a bike, there's nowhere to hide. If some creep comes up and starts harassing you, you can't just roll the windows up.
Bicycling is a vulnerable sport. It forces us to be at the mercy of the elements, traffic, and each other. That's one of the reasons why I like it so much: bicycling feels real. There's wind on my skin, sun in my eyes, water splashing on my toes, and the sound of the world in my ears. Driving a car can feel like being trapped in a sensory deprivation chamber. I get sleepy in them. I never, ever, feel sleepy while riding my bike.
For this very reason, some women have chosen to see the world by bicycle. Check out the amazing stories of women all over the world (waaay more than you'd think!) who are adventuring by bicycle at this very moment: Solofemalecyclist.com
My advice to women who want to ride more: ride with your fellow ladies. Do some group rides to warm up to the idea of riding on your own. It's a scary world out there. But it's also a fun one: full of mud puddles and rainbows and sights to see. Take it slow. Enjoy your workout. Ride your bike.