by A.K. Streeter, Portland, Oregon on 05.30.11
Photo courtesy Richard Grassick and Beatrice Wupperman via Beauty and the Bike.
While in the U.S. the bike revolution is happening, women of all ages and children under 18 aren't equal participants. In fact in the U.S. (aside from pockets like Portland, San Francisco, New York, etc.) the number of women riders is barely holding steady, while the number of kids riding bikes is dropping. In the U.K. however, in 2010 women made up a decent 40% of of all journeys on the country's national cycling network. That's a 13% increase in women riding on the network from 2009's figures. How did they do it?
Well, the National Cycle Network (NCN) reckons that high petrol (that's gas to you and me) prices had something to do with the exodus of drivers from their cars and on to the bike path. A "whopping" 420 million journeys were made on the country's network of cycle paths in 2010, and of those, approximately one quarter are estimated to be work commute trips.
The NCN carefully totted up the cost savings of all this cycling - stating that the walking and biking commuters saved £46 million in at the pump, and with a potential greenhouse gas savings of 657,000 tons.
However, while ridership and bike commuting among women is increasing, the overall gap between men who cycle and women who cycle is still wide. Overall, British male cyclists outnumber British female cyclists 3 to 1 (similar to U.S. figures).
And UK research suggests there are a million British women that would like to bike more often. Last week British Cycling launched a national network of rides called Breeze, and intends to introduce 80,000 additional women to the joys of cycling. The effort is funded by the National Lottery.
Breeze rides will be short, traffic-free, and casual rides aimed at working mothers and women who haven't been on their bikes in a while.
British Cycling's survey of 1,000 women showed that safety concerns (sound familiar?), unfamiliarity of cycle routes, and having no one to cycle with were the three reasons they didn't do so.
British Cycling intends to train a network of female cyclists who will lead Breeze rides. Via the rides and support, the Breeze program hopes to convert 20,000 of the 80,000 women estimated to participate in rides this summer to "regular cyclists."
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