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What Will Make More Women Cycle?24th February 2016 Personal Injury
Part one: improving cycling infrastructure
In the on-going debate surrounding (the lack) of women cycling in the UK, we constantly try to answer the question: what will make more women cycle?
Unfortunately there is no quick solution at hand. If there was we wouldn't still be asking the same question year after year. In our earlier blog, why don't more women cycle? we looked at three key areas that discourage women from getting around by bike. These were:
1. Safety concerns
2. Concerns about practicality and appearance
3. Feeling intimidated
In this post, we want to take a more positive approach to the topic of women and cycling by looking at what can be done to improve the situation. We start by considering how improving safety could encourage more women to cycle.
(Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/anmarton/4909138551)
Improving cycling safety to get more women cycling
A major Canadian study conducted by the BMJ (British Medical Journal) found that women were far less likely than men to be hospitalised as a result of bike-related incidents. But, why?
The researchers pointed to other studies that have attributed lower injury rates in women to less risk-taking behaviour. In short, this supports the existing and, arguably, out of date gender stereotypes which tag men as the risk takers and women as the gentler and more sensible sex.
While I am hesitant to support the validity of these gender stereotypes, I have to concede that there is wide support for the view that women are less daring (or is it more level-headed?) on two wheels.
So, the question remains: what can we do about this?
The BMJ researchers found that women were less likely to cycle on roads without specific bike facilities and infrastructure. In other words, they were less willing to cycle on roads that were not sufficiently safe.
This is certainly not the first time that safety has been identified as a key concern for female cyclists, but it does bring home the importance for women specifically - of improving cycling infrastructure.
In countries like the Netherlands and Denmark we actually see women cyclists outnumbering male cyclists. And in these countries, there is far safer infrastructure in place for people choosing to travel by bike. These two facts are not coincidental, but are indelibly linked.
A glut of blogs and research studies shows that safety is one of the top concerns of women who either cycle or are considering cycling, so when so much UK infrastructure is not fit for purpose (see our infrastructure survey), is it any wonder that only a quarter of bike journeys are made by women?
What seems clear is that improving our country's cycling infrastructure must be seen not only as a vital task for safer roads, but also as a key strategy for increasing the number of women cycling on our roads.
And for those who may ask why the focus should be on women, it should be pointed out that female cycling populations are generally seen as an 'indicator species.' That is to say, the more women cycling in a country, the better that country's cycling infrastructure tends to be. Therefore, if we can achieve a far better rate of female cyclists, we should also see a far better environment for all cyclists.
Look out for part 2 of this women and cycling blog; we'll be looking at how we can improve the way women feel about their appearance whilst cycling.
As always, we'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Please get in touch on Twitter - @twisted_spokes, Facebook or respond in the comments section below.
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