Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Women and cycling

A recent article in Scientific American about increasing cycling quotes Jan Garrard, a senior lecturer at Deakin University in Melbourne, as saying

“If you want to know if an urban environment supports cycling, you can forget about all the detailed ‘bikeability indexes’—just measure the proportion of cyclists who are female,”

Research shows that women are more risk averse than men (in most aspects of life, not just cycling). Measuring the proportion of male to female cyclists thus is a good measure of the degree to which a city's cycle network adequately caters for more risk averse cyclists.

The article cites recent research in the USA shows that women are more likely to deviate from the shortest path to their destination to use off road pathways, bicycle boulevards and traffic calmed streets instead of cycle lanes on busy roads.

Queensland Transport and Main Roads' analysis of journey to work data in Bribane and the rollout of the city's bikeways illustrates the impact high quality cycle routes on off-road pathways and quiet streets can have on cycling activity levels. It would be interesting to look at the gender balance of cyclists using these corridors.

If we want more cyclists it is essential that we accommodate more risk averse cyclists - since most new cyclists are risk averse. There is a common misconception that commuter cyclists prefer on-road cycle lanes to off road pathways. The truth is that commuter cyclists prefer high speed routes with minimal delay AND minimal conflict with general traffic. The first two needs are delivered by on-road cycle lanes along main roads but not the last need.
For as long as our cycle networks are predominantly on-road the levels of cycling will remain low with a predominance of male cyclists.

No comments: