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Is there a gender gap among commuting cyclists? The numbers are stark Add to ...

Is the bike lane a boy’s club?

Elizabeth Plank, senior editor at Mic, reveals a significant gender gap, with far fewer women cycling than men, for a number of reasons: “Women’s aversion to risk, women’s clothing, economic and time poverty, as well as sexual harassment,” she writes.

German, Danish and Dutch women cycle as often as men but the numbers are much different in North America. In Canada, just 29 per cent of daily bike commuters were women, according to 2006 census data, although that number did rise in Canadian cities: women made up 35 per cent of bicycle commuters in Toronto and Montreal and 37 per cent in Vancouver.

In New York, male cyclists outnumbered female cyclists 3 to 1 in 2011; that gender gap widened in neighbourhoods where car traffic is heavier. According to Women Bike, an organization that works to encourage more female bicyclists in the United States, women accounted for just 24 per cent of bicycle trips in 2009. And in London, 77 per cent of cycling commuters are men, with 75 per cent of women saying they find it too dangerous to cycle.

“The concern for riding in street traffic is No. 1,” Bike New York’s operations director Emilia Crotty told the New York Times in 2011. “Then it’s ‘I don’t want to be sweaty.’ ”

Beyond fashion and fear, biking also coincides with two “peak street harassment” seasons: spring and summer (the horror stories are plentiful).

There is also the way women commute home in general: They make more pit stops to pick up groceries or kids from school, for example, which can prove trickier by bike.

“Why don’t women bike to work more often?” asked researcher Jennifer Langston in 2012. “You hear many theories: We’re less willing to ride in traffic, we can’t arrive at a showerless office all sweaty, we never bothered to learn how to fix a flat, our schedules are overextended, we work longer hours to make the same money as men, those of us with kids spend twice as much time on average caring for them and many of us squeeze in shopping and errands on the way to and from work.”

In other words, inequities between men and women are the problem, Langston argued, and they still persist.

In the mean time, Plank has been asking women who do cycle to tweet their photos under the hashtag #IBikeBecause. Their reasons are as diverse as men’s: cost savings, exercise, environmentalism, reliability, speed, fresh air and, not least of all, sanity.

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Follow on Twitter: @ZosiaBielski

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