It isn’t news that there are gender disparities among people who bike. Reports estimate that women make up between 25-30% of bike commuters, and there’s even less data on trans, femme, and non-binary riders. Data from local advocacy organizations indicates that gender and race disparities persist in bike activism as well.

Research points to a wide variety of factors, from a lack of comfortable infrastructure, to harassment on the street, to poorly designed gear, clothing and accessories. Women often agree there are less measurable deterrents that make biking feel exclusive.  

Back in March, Cascade Bicycle Club hosted a thought forum with several dozen women connected to the bike community to discuss these intangibles. The list that came forward ran the gamut:

  • Geography or facilities available to different abilities
  • Lack of access to good places to ride
  • Lack of kid friendly rides
  • Judgement based on what you wear, or how how you look on a bike
  • Cat calls/ harassment
  • Cars and people being rude
  • Loading bike on a bus
  • Getting passed based on how you look
  • Not having the “right” gear
  • Bike shops can be intimidating
  • Lack of knowledge (such as, riding speeds, trends, lingo)
  • Perceptions and realities of cost (gear, “nice stuff”)
  • Vehicles in bike lanes
  • Shock and disbelief by others that you rode a bike

The women also developed ideas about what makes biking inclusive:

  • Being a part of bike culture and a community
  • Bridging races
  • Bridging ages (especially kids)
  • Riding can overcome identity at times
  • E-bikes
  • Seeing more women (leadership, advocacy, riding in public)
  • All ages and abilities networks
  • Being able to ride in regular clothes (and seeing others in regular clothes)

Finally, the group developed a set of ideas to address these lists throughout bike month. Recognizing the need to change the culture around bicycling, and the idea of “who bikes,” a whole slough of organizations came together to organize these events focused on women/trans/femme-identified people that are interested in biking.

Throughout the month women/trans/femme leaders have led family-friendly rides, meet-ups, bike share events and more. It’s a small but important step in changing the perception of what using a bike is all about.

The Urbanist has teamed up with Cascade Bicycle Club and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways to host a final celebration of women and biking to conclude bike month. Join the Womxn’s Downtown Seattle Happy Hour–there’s an advocate in all of us! On Thursday, May 31, from 5 to 7pm at Elephant & Castle (1415 5th Ave.). This event was designed as a space for women, trans, femme and non-binary-identified people. Cis-gendered male friends, we’ll catch you at the next event!

While this event concludes another year of Bike Month activities, efforts for making biking a more inclusive and accessible option for women must continue. If you have ideas or want to get involved, check out resources below:

Women-Focused Groups and Events

Swift Industries WTF Quarterly Happy Hour

Moxie Monday

Friends on Bikes

Black Girls do Bike

She Bikes by Cascade

WTF Bikexplorers Summit

Advocacy Organizations

Cascade Bicycle Club

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways

Note of acknowledgement: The late SJ Brooks, founder of Friends on Bikes Seattle chapter, participated in the visioning of Womxn’s Bike Month events. We want to acknowledge their leadership and contributions to making biking more inclusive to women, trans, and non-binary folx.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for the article! Speaking of gender disparity, I often wish there were more female perspectives on this blog (and in the whole Lid I5 thing….). The whole urbanist movement doesn’t feel very inclusive sometimes.

    Great discussion topics…. getting passed based on how you look (I always at least try to speed back up to them… too competitive), loading a bike onto a bus (really heavy for a small woman, and pulling that darn tire grabber thing out…. clearly they were designed and tested by men)

    I will have to check out those resources you mention – thanks again!

  2. You should also mention the growing advocacy and support for family biking. The support from groups like the Facebook page Family Bike Seattle, the Familybike Seattle organization and it’s rental fleet, and G&O Family Cyclery are a huge support to getting more families onto bikes and out of cars. This also helps women keep riding or start riding with their kids. Getting a cargobike has been a game changer in terms of getting me back on my bike!

  3. Why does bicycling have to be such a “thing”, with so many people all concerned about superficialities, their gear and so forth? We should all just look at cycling as a reasonable and efficient means of transportation for short trips, and some medium-length trips. That’s how most riders do it in European cities.

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