Urban Cycling: It’s a Guy Thing, Apparently

| 12/30/2011 10:38:04 AM

Tags: biking, demographics, infographic, mind and body, Visual.ly, Will Wlizlo,


Urban bicycling is generally becoming more popular in American cities, but there are a few smaller trends that complicate the larger narrative. A new infographic designed by Bike League for the website Visual.ly breaks down the demographics of bicycle use across the country—and there are a few surprises. (Click through for large version.)

I was most surprised to see that overall only about a quarter of commuting cyclists are women. The gender imbalance comes closer to evening out in bigger, “biking cities,” such as Portland, Oregon, and Utne Reader hometown Minneapolis. (Represent!) I can only speculate on the causes of the imbalance—that’s the thing with infographics: The related research is boiled down to make the data more interesting. It may have something to do with bike-related infrastructure spending; I’m drawing on a few stereotypes here, but I imagine that men would be more likely to tough out unsafe, bike-unfriendly road conditions than women.

According to the infographic, it’s unclear whether bicycle infrastructure spending encouraged more people to pedal in to work. As shown on the total bicycle commuters graph (bottom, second from left), ridership peaked in 2008, which followed, according to the spending graph (bottom, second from right), only a slight increase in pedestrian infrastructure enhancement. Unfortunately the former graph doesn’t extend past 2009, a year that coincided with more than a billion dollars of pedestrian infrastructure spending. If cities are to continue to invest in bike paths, local governments will likely demand data showing an increase in ridership.

(Thanks, Atlantic Cities.)

Source: Visual.ly 

Lisa Jorgensen
1/21/2012 4:29:39 PM

I suggested that my two young teenage daughters bike to school. Four major problems: 1) school arrival is before 7:15 am - in deep darkness most of the year; 2) 30 to 50 pounds of books that would be difficult to properly balance within a reasonable amount of time to arrive safely; 3) a lack of safe roads to get to their schools; and 4) the lack of safe, secure locking areas for their bicycles. I bicycled all through college, but, I also bicycled to grade school for years. The school climate and expectations need to be changed!

Bob Crochelt
1/11/2012 4:56:34 PM

On a recent trip to San Francisco I noted cyclists on Market Street travelling in groups of 5 to 20. Seems like they might have come together for protection and to even the playing field competing for lane space, etc.

Caitlin Ahern
1/11/2012 8:19:24 AM

I agree with Gary. I think a large part of the uneven gender distribution may be due to the fact that these biking hot spots are all cities - cities have a higher crime rate and women may feel less safe than men when navigating the city via bike.

stephanie towns
1/9/2012 2:34:06 PM

Speaking for myself, childcare demands make it very difficult to commute by cycle during the work week.

Bruce Martin
1/4/2012 5:09:08 PM

In Houston, it's just not a thing. Little infrastructure, excessively hot summers, and a governor who vetoed a cycling-safety bill -- it will be a while before / if it catches on.

John Self
1/4/2012 4:51:29 PM

Here in Milwaukee I see just as many if not more females than males riding bikes. I am not speaking of fair weather riders, but i see them riding all year round in all types of weather. Anyone who's ever participated in the Riverwest 24 Hr bike race here in Milwaukee can tell you that there are at least as many female riders as males. More people male and female need to think about biking as an alternative form of transportation.

Charlie O'Donnell
1/4/2012 3:11:26 PM

Actually, I think it's more of an attire thing. I can wear jeans and a button down shirt and bike around with ease. I even see people biking in pants and dress shirts. Try biking around in a business suit skirt or heels. Women's attire really isn't conducive to biking. I also notice that men are more likely to head to a gym closer to work, but women are more likely to need a hairdryer, makeup, etc to they go to gyms near their house and leave from there--eliminating the possibility of biking to a gym near work and getting ready there.

1/4/2012 2:14:37 PM

I hate to say it, but this world is unsafe enough for a woman as is, the added risk of getting on two wheels, ALONE no less, and the risk factors are to great for most sane women to take on. We have to reach a tipping point where there are eough cyclists on the road or trail that the safety in numbers factor kicks in. Bad men just like other predators seek victims of opportunity where they can cull one from the herd.

12/31/2011 1:45:40 AM

They did not ask me whether I commuted by bike - which I do, in Philadelphia. Perhaps they've missed other women as well in their data-gathering.