In Britain, so British Cycling says, there’s been a huge increase in people cycling – up 113,000 in the last 12 months – but that the vast majority of these must be blokes, because female ‘participation’ in cycling is actually falling.
I think that BC is talking about both participation in sport and everyday leisure riding and commuting. Its aim, if it gets to the bottom of the matter, is to invest money into the sorts of services and infrastructure that will make cycling more women-friendly, and attract more ladies to get on their bikes.
There are many contradictory statistics about women cycling. On the one hand, there’s research that suggests that drivers give female cyclists a wider berth than men (see here). And there’s also the idea (don’t ask me where I got this, but I’m sure I read it somewhere) that female cyclists make the roads better for everyone – that when a large number of women join theÃ‚Â male roadies, hipsters and commuters, drivers dramatically improve their behaviour and a city’s bike-friendliness grows.
But then there’s the terrible story of the increasing numbers of female riders getting injured or killed in London, particularly by HGVs (large trucks).Ã‚Â Are London’s streets safer for aggressive cyclists (who more are likely to be men)? Or are Ã‚Â female cyclists in London less savvy about the dangers?Ã‚Â Buffalo Bill, who runs the courier zine Moving Target, is a sensitive and tireless campaigner on the subject of road safety, and he summarises the stats and the questionsÃ‚Â here.
It’s a knotty problem, one that I really can’t begin to answer. Any ideas would be Ã‚Â appreciated – and especially ideas and experiences from cycling-friendly cities in other parts of the world. And if you’re a British woman cyclist, or wannabe cyclistÃ‚Â who’s being prevented for some reason, please let British cycling know your views.