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Old 06-20-11, 11:50 PM   #1
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What's going on? Why don't more U.S. women ride bikes?

Read the full article here:
http://www.grist.org/biking/2011-06-...economy-stupid

The two theories you hear bandied about the most are fear and fashion.

A widely cited 2009 study found that women are more likely to choose to ride on quiet residential streets, while men are more likely to choose direct routes even if they have heavier traffic. Women are an "indicator species" for cycling, this study concludes, and that cities can cajole greater women ridership by building safer-feeling bike infrastructure.

Much is also made of another concern women often express in surveys -- that cycling to work will impede our ability to conform to professional norms in clothing, makeup, and hairstyles. The response can be seen in the proliferation of the "Cycle Chic" brand, tweed rides, and the commingling of bicycling and high fashion in advertising.

There's plenty of truth in both the fear and fashion theories. But before we commit to blaming women's transportation practices on our timidity and vanity, I think it's worth looking at some other potential factors.

Like the economy.
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Old 06-21-11, 12:37 AM   #2
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Where is the original data for this study?
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Old 06-21-11, 12:44 AM   #3
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The average American adult female is 5'4", 175 lbs. She doesn't ride because she is too fat to be comfortable on a bike. Because she doesn't exercise, she gets fatter. It's a tough cycle to break.
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Old 06-21-11, 06:40 AM   #4
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The average American adult female is 5'4", 175 lbs. She doesn't ride because she is too fat to be comfortable on a bike. Because she doesn't exercise, she gets fatter. It's a tough cycle to break.

Being overweight is a tough cycle to break, but it's equally if not more true for the men, so that can't be the reason. Here you go, more american women are of a healthy weight than are men: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhanes/...dultweight.pdf

I suppose there could be more of an embarrassment factor for overwight women trying to get fit, since women are generally more self-conscious about their shape. I certainly have a few female friends who won't exercise publically until they reach an 'acceptable' weight. It's too bad, because exercising in your basement is typically a recipe for failure.

I agree about the fear factor. Also, women tend to take longer to get themselves put together, so messing up the hair and make-up isn't done lightly... a splash-off in the bathroom sink at work just doesn't restore the appearance.

Could it be a lack of role models? When we think of a cyclist, whether a racer, recreational, or a commuter, I imagine most of us picture a guy. Women maybe just don't see themselves on bikes.

Clubs can also have a big influence on whether they attract women. In one city I lived in, the local club had women's rides and a very supportive environment... and roughly half the regulars at rides were women. In the city I'm in now, it's just one group who rides regularly, and they're fast. Result; most men get discouraged after trying to hang on, and I'm one of only 2 girls who come out.

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Old 06-21-11, 07:00 AM   #5
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The boston marathon has a much higher percentage of women than most marathons and that is a mere 42%. It would appear as though women are not as drawn to endurance activities for one or many reasons.

Personally my wife rides to work on occasion, but she has already been scared off of one route because of aggressive drivers. She also has to bring a full change of clothes and related paraphernalia in order to get made up once she is there. She does enjoy it, but she puts in a lot more effort to do it than I do since I ride with work clothes and only splash some water if needed.
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Old 06-21-11, 07:02 AM   #6
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The average American adult female is 5'4", 175 lbs. She doesn't ride because she is too fat to be comfortable on a bike. Because she doesn't exercise, she gets fatter. It's a tough cycle to break.
You don't get thin riding a bike, you get thin watching your caloric intake. Riding a bike may help, but it is by no means a strong correlation.
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Old 06-21-11, 07:36 AM   #7
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The average American adult female is 5'4", 175 lbs. She doesn't ride because she is too fat to be comfortable on a bike. Because she doesn't exercise, she gets fatter. It's a tough cycle to break.
that's a grossly inaccurate statement. What did you do, just make those misogynistic averages thing up? Regardless of your depiction of the average american female being way, way off -people that are overweight can't exercise on a bike because they aren't comfortable as they are too large?

what the????? Obviously there's one person already out to lunch.

There are significant barriers to participation in bicycling in this country, for both men and women.

whatever combination of environment, culture, or vanity precludes people from riding bikes for fun and everyday transport, one thing is clear:

people worried about riding bikes don't ride bikes. I talk to people everyday about bicycling. It's not people's size that's keeping people off bikes, bcarfree.

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Old 06-21-11, 08:14 AM   #8
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Huh, for it to be the economy, women would have had to ride significantly more 5 years ago.
Also the women's equal pay argument does not hold for lower (sub $75k) income urban women, who in a number of studies make more than lower income urban men. I mention that since in her article she seems to be targeting them. And that has nothing to do with who keeps their jobs.

Across the board men make more, but in specific cases women do. So when you talk about urban lower income people heading to a service job, you can't say the men make more, or even get to keep their jobs. There are quite a few factors to take into account.

I think one of the only valid arguments is mothers may make more trips shuttling kids around, and therefore feel they need the car. Parents may be more likely to bike to work in urban areas, but less likely to let their kids bike and therefore drive them. Meanwhile in suburbs, parents may be too far and need to drive to work, but feel safer letting their kids bike.

I am not sure about the makeup argument. My S.O. bikes to work, she is an attorney, wears suits, yet makes it all work. Another woman I dated 2 years ago insisted on driving her huge SUV only 2 miles to work, and refused to take public transportation let alone bike. So, some people find a way to make things work, others don't.

I googled some of this just now, some of this is old. The first link of each section seems to be good.
Men being laid off more:
http://www.businessinsider.com/more-...ucation-2010-1
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/06/business/06women.html
Cases where women earn more:
http://news.change.org/stories/young...th-perspective
http://finance.yahoo.com/career-work...-more-than-men
http://money.cnn.com/2003/02/28/comm...hadi/index.htm

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Old 06-21-11, 08:50 AM   #9
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My wife works less than two miles from our house, but I can't get her to even consider riding her bike to work. Her reasoning? "I'd have to shower and get ready in order to leave the house, then I'd have to shower and get ready again once I'm at work. Then when I get home I'd have to shower and get ready again. I don't have hours of free time to go through that routine more than once a day."

As a man, I can logically argue this from several directions. But my wife is not me, and after 17 years of marriage I've realized that she is not going to change.

I suspect her thinking is fairly common among American women. If I were a gambling man, I would bet that this is a large reason why more women don't ride bikes for non-recreational purposes.
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Old 06-21-11, 08:57 AM   #10
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I recently heard a cycling advocate for TREK talk about this. She said the research showed it as a maternal instinct with women. Women's primary role is to protect children, if she is hurt, her children are hurt, so the large SUV represents a danger. As cycling infrastructure improves, the danger perception is gone, and she is more willing to ride. I assume this is mostly referring to mothers, and I didn't write down any of her references, but on the face of it, it sounds reasonable.
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Old 06-21-11, 09:19 AM   #11
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Or is could be something as simple as the bicycle seat. They hurt. I got my wife to test ride a recumbent trike, and she said yes if I bought one she would share it with me and ride with me on a trike. Im saving my pennies for a Terratrike right now!
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Old 06-21-11, 09:58 AM   #12
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I'm going to say fear, fashion, social issues and family. I was terrified to get on a bike at first. Going fast was hard. Traffic was scary. Hills were hard. 6 weeks later I'm looking at some high end performance bikes. Depending on your "fear factor" everything adds up. My fear factor is a bad back. The thought of falling off and putting my back out for a year leaves me on the timid side.

Fashion:

I had to get over it. There are some women's clothing out there but most of it made me look like I was pretending to be skinny when I wasn't. I'm going to say that a lot of women are insecure with their bodies. Look at women's magazines and even something on the men's side of Sports Illustrated or Maxim. We can't compete with super models and we know it. If the world considers those women as a standard of beauty, we fall short. The same with women who are into sports. If we don't think we are athletic, we don't want to be laughed at while trying to be.

I don't know what the "average" woman size is but the industries are doing much better at fitting clothing to all sizes and even bike sizes. Most retail stores just don't carry them and have to be special ordered. Unless the guy says something, I don't think most women know there are bikes out there for them. I didn't. Had I know there was a women's 29er, I would have bought that first instead of my Hardrock.

I'll be honest..women like pretty things. If the bike is ugly, chances are she won't buy it. It sounds superficial, but it's true. There are some pretty ugly bikes out there and no woman wants a pastel colored bike when they go into a women's style bike. We aren't 10.

Social Issues:

Women are extremely social and we've been raised that going out alone is potentially dangerous. I do worry about traveling 5+ miles out of town by myself. If there aren't other women around to cycle with, chances are a woman won't.

If we show up to work completely drenched from a 5 mile ride, it takes time to get a shower, put make-up on (depending on how much) and look professional.

Family:

You can't carry 300 dollars worth of groceries on a bike. You can't take your kids to all the places they need to be on a bike. If your significant other doesn't ride, then it goes back to social issues.

Depending on the age of your kids, you can't just leave for a couple of hours. If your significant other isn't supportive than it's harder to get out and ride if he isn't willing to help.

We are the primary caretakers and are taking care of the needs of our families. It's not demeaning by any means, it just takes a lot of our time. I like being a Mom. I like staying home with my kids. I've found that cycling relieves a lot of the stress and I can come back refreshed and ready to handle teenagers. I don't think women realize how empowering a bike really can be.

The price of a bike falls under family. I'm guessing a lot of women see that money as bill money, groceries, clothes, and all the other financial needs that are there. Spending that kind of money on herself makes it hard not to feel selfish when she knows the needs of her family.

Hope that helps out some.
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Old 06-21-11, 11:10 AM   #13
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My wife works less than two miles from our house, but I can't get her to even consider riding her bike to work. Her reasoning? "I'd have to shower and get ready in order to leave the house, then I'd have to shower and get ready again once I'm at work. Then when I get home I'd have to shower and get ready again. I don't have hours of free time to go through that routine more than once a day."

As a man, I can logically argue this from several directions. But my wife is not me, and after 17 years of marriage I've realized that she is not going to change.

I suspect her thinking is fairly common among American women. If I were a gambling man, I would bet that this is a large reason why more women don't ride bikes for non-recreational purposes.
Two miles is walkable... it might take 30 minutes either way, but then what is she doing for her health right now? Does she go to a gym? How much time is spent there? What is the cost of the gym.

If she isn't doing any exercise at all, then the health benefits of walking or cycling far far outweigh any time delay.
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Old 06-21-11, 11:15 AM   #14
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Family:

You can't carry 300 dollars worth of groceries on a bike. You can't take your kids to all the places they need to be on a bike. If your significant other doesn't ride, then it goes back to social issues.

Depending on the age of your kids, you can't just leave for a couple of hours. If your significant other isn't supportive than it's harder to get out and ride if he isn't willing to help.

We are the primary caretakers and are taking care of the needs of our families. It's not demeaning by any means, it just takes a lot of our time. I like being a Mom. I like staying home with my kids. I've found that cycling relieves a lot of the stress and I can come back refreshed and ready to handle teenagers. I don't think women realize how empowering a bike really can be.

The price of a bike falls under family. I'm guessing a lot of women see that money as bill money, groceries, clothes, and all the other financial needs that are there. Spending that kind of money on herself makes it hard not to feel selfish when she knows the needs of her family.

Hope that helps out some.

I suspect men share these problems but in different ways. Which is probably why the bike surge seems to be among older men (whose kids are grown -- adolescent or older) and younger men (who often don't have kids).

The women I see getting on bikes fall into the same groups typically. I'll admit that I see more family men on bikes, but often they're there one year and too busy to ride the next.


I think the social issues item you mentioned is probably the biggest. I think it goes unnoticed by social researchers because they can't control it. Not that they're wrong about risk averse or fashion. But this seems to be pretty big.

I see more women biking in my area, and I think it's primarily because a small group of female riders got together, organized, and went out and worked hard to get their female friends and acquaintances to ride.

I think this is the best formula to get women riding. And it's one that men don't have access to. Women have to do it. I think men like to say "fashion" and "safe routes" because they can work to change safe routes, and to a small extent, they can think they can change fashion -- or at least capitalize on any new fashion that isn't a problem for cycling (pixie cuts anyone?).
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Old 06-21-11, 11:21 AM   #15
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My wife works less than two miles from our house, but I can't get her to even consider riding her bike to work. Her reasoning? "I'd have to shower and get ready in order to leave the house, then I'd have to shower and get ready again once I'm at work. Then when I get home I'd have to shower and get ready again. I don't have hours of free time to go through that routine more than once a day."

As a man, I can logically argue this from several directions. But my wife is not me, and after 17 years of marriage I've realized that she is not going to change.

I suspect her thinking is fairly common among American women. If I were a gambling man, I would bet that this is a large reason why more women don't ride bikes for non-recreational purposes.
Really? Did the thought occur to you that she doesn't want to ride and she's giving you what sound like logical reasons to get you to shut up and talk about something else? I've heard rationalizing from every gender and age and bad excuses are a constant.


I would guess that the fact that prep time is far longer for most western women has a lot to do with why women don't ride for transportation. But women also ride a lot less for recreation/exercise.
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Old 06-21-11, 11:34 AM   #16
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Also, women tend to take longer to get themselves put together, so messing up the hair and make-up isn't done lightly... a splash-off in the bathroom sink at work just doesn't restore the appearance.
IMO a woman who's clearly been working out, hair tied back and has no makeup looks way better than one who's spent an hour getting ready. No woman has ever believed me when I say that though. I think women mainly dress up / makeup as a competition among themselves than anything else.
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Old 06-21-11, 11:38 AM   #17
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no woman wants a pastel colored bike when they go into a women's style bike.
That's an interesting point. What's a "woman's style bike" anyway? historically that's been a bike with a low step-over, but that's just ridiculous. There's no reason for it, unless you're wearing a full skirt on a bike, which I have rarely seen. All that style does is to make the frame weaker or heavier (pick one). I wish the whole design would go away.
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Old 06-21-11, 11:44 AM   #18
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That's an interesting point. What's a "woman's style bike" anyway? historically that's been a bike with a low step-over, but that's just ridiculous. There's no reason for it, unless you're wearing a full skirt on a bike, which I have rarely seen. All that style does is to make the frame weaker or heavier (pick one). I wish the whole design would go away.
The low bar is also popular with the commuting bike in europe, why we have to stereotype them here is another discussion.
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Old 06-21-11, 11:47 AM   #19
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You can't carry 300 dollars worth of groceries on a bike.
Bike trailers typically have a capacity of about 180 pounds. I'd guess that's easily $300 worth. If not, then go more often, especially if it's on the way home from work (or only a mile or two out of the way).
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Old 06-21-11, 11:58 AM   #20
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IMO a woman who's clearly been working out, hair tied back and has no makeup looks way better than one who's spent an hour getting ready. No woman has ever believed me when I say that though. I think women mainly dress up / makeup as a competition among themselves than anything else.
It's always seemed that way to me.
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Old 06-21-11, 12:06 PM   #21
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My wife rides. The only thing she worries about is getting too much sun. Well living in Washington State most of the time, she has little to worry about
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Old 06-21-11, 12:30 PM   #22
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Really? Did the thought occur to you that she doesn't want to ride and she's giving you what sound like logical reasons to get you to shut up and talk about something else? I've heard rationalizing from every gender and age and bad excuses are a constant.


I would guess that the fact that prep time is far longer for most western women has a lot to do with why women don't ride for transportation. But women also ride a lot less for recreation/exercise.
Ummm... you completely took my quote out of context. I wasn't saying that a woman isn't capable of making a logical argument. I was saying I can easily argue my side from a man's perspective, but I can't fully appreciate my wife's perspective because I'm not her. She does things that I don't understand, and I do things that she doesn't understand. Neither are necessarily wrong, they're just different. So the things that logically make sense in my head doesn't always equate with the things that logically make sense in her head.

And thank you for assuming that I've been harping on her for all 17 years of my marriage. I think I've suggested it maybe twice, tops.
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Old 06-21-11, 12:42 PM   #23
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if women are concerned about how they look, they should know that chicks on bikes are hot
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Old 06-21-11, 12:42 PM   #24
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if women are concerned about how they look, they should know that chicks on bikes are hot
+100
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Old 06-21-11, 12:43 PM   #25
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Ummm... you completely took my quote out of context.
I'm married too; I understood your post perfectly.
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