Many women (and men) are put off cycling because of fear of riding on the roads due to heavy traffic, aggressive drivers, attitudes and poor infrastructure:
- “Cycle paths not joined up, not going where I want to go”
- “Poor space for cycling in our cities. Low recognition by government of the difference to health and pollution cycling can make”
- “Cycling is seen in the UK as white, middle class, male and macho. It is also seen as dangerous. This puts many women off cycling in the first place – even though many would like to.”
- “Traffic, fear of the roads, aggressive drivers, paths with poor lighting, roads not suitable for cycling with children“
- “Not knowing which streets are safer for bikes, not knowing the “bike route” to get to places.”
- “A secure but easy to access place to store a bike.”
- “There’s too much intimidation from drivers – especially female drivers weirdly, it’s an awful feeling being punishment passed, let alone car doored or hit. (I’ve had all of these).”
Join a community of design thinkers to create solutions to the problems of cycling in urban areas. have a look at Cycle Hack
Help a friend
If you’ve overcome this fear and cycle on the roads, and know someone who’s scared, you could offer to take them out on quieter roads, on routes that better suit cycling or at less scary times of the day. If they enjoy it you could venture out to slightly more challenging routes. If they don’t like the more challenging routes then encourage just sticking to the better routes/times of day. Some cycling is better than none. That person doing a bit of cycling could help to inspire their children, other family members, friends or colleagues. The more people cycling, the more cycling friendly roads will become. At the very least, if more people know someone they care about who cycles then it should help more people to empathise with cyclists which would be a good start.
If some people really can’t be convinced about cycling because of the issues with roads, then whilst people work to make things better on the roads, we could suggest off-road routes, so we still end up with more women cycling. For example, I’ve heard that its possible to commute into Manchester for large parts of the journey by cycling down canal paths and other off-road paths. What’s the best way to find those routes? Is there a useful site/app we could add here? If not, could one of us create one, for our local area at least?
Attitude To Drivers
Try not to demonise drivers and cars, even if there are a lot of ****s out there, as it tends to be obstructive. A common recommendation is to recognise that we must all share the roads and whilst there are many instances of bad driving, there are many instances of bad cycling too. Drivers aren’t evil, just like cyclists aren’t evil. Change is more likely to happen if we empathise with each other, remain positive and constructive rather than aggressive, and work together towards a solution that works well for everyone. It’s hard sometimes when we feel so passionate but being negative often stops people engaging in the debate.
Image of Cycling
To address the problem of people seeing cycling as something that’s only for middle-aged men, we need more exposure of images, stories, articles, news, sports results etc that include both genders, of all ages. The mass media is slowly catching up but there’s lots that individual cyclists and cycling clubs can do to help by sharing pictures of themselves and friends on social media, blogging, sharing articles that do contain images and stories of women and girls cycling, praising the media organisations that *do* show a better representation of the cycling community in their content, and making their voice heard when they’re frustrated with content that doesn’t. There are more women cyclists than there are media organisations and whilst our influence isn’t as great, the volume of content can be greater. Within in our twitter community we use the hash tag #womenscycling a lot but maybe we need to flood the #cycling feed with images and stories of women and girls cycling instead / as well?
Campaign to get better infrastructure and attitude towards cycling. One problem someone raised was that we have a “male dominated old-fashioned stuck campaigning landscape” so (as with a lot of things) we need more women to get involved. There are lots of campaigns you could join. Or consider starting your own. Here are some we know about:
There’s lots if info on their websites about how to get involved. If you’ve not got much time maybe you could follow them on twitter (e.g. Sustrans, GB Cycle Embassy, POP Scotland) and help to spread awareness by talking about the issues on social media, or even in the pub.
There’s also a twitter list of women campaigners here. Follow them if you’d like to find out more about existing campaigns, events and debates.