Why Women Don’t Bike

Graduate student's research suggests less than half of cyclists in city are women

Many students and faculty bike to Langara each day. Photo by Palak Klaire
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Reported by Palak Klaire

Women make up just 38 per cent of cyclists in Vancouver, says a graduate student who is conducting research into the reasons behind the gender disparity.

Researching a divide

Anjela Godber, a graduate student from Athabasca University and an avid cyclist, said her research suggests that men make up most of the cyclists who are on the road.

“About 25 per cent of the cyclists were women, then it jumped to 38 per cent,” Godber said about Vancouver’s efforts to build more separated cycling lanes.

“That’s a jump but still isn’t half of the male cyclists.”

Issues on the road

Stephanie Sersli, a Ph.D. student at Simon Fraser University who studies on the gender difference in cycling, suggested that many women are not prepared to travel along car-shared roads and have unique mobility habits.

“We live in a car-dominated environment, and our cities are literally designed around cars,” she said.

“Many people associate biking with being assertive, you need to pick your space and being assertive are things that women are told not to do.”

Godber herself said she has encountered odd male behaviour on her bike routes.

“I’ve differently had odd experiences, and it all unfortunately involved men, it could be male drivers, it could be male cyclists, they are very odd experiences,” Godber said.

Staying positive for the future

Godber encouraged women to not be deterred by the challenges they might face.

“I think the more you bike, the more confidence you end up getting,” Godber said, suggesting they remind themselves that, “I belong here, the road belongs to everybody. It’s a public space.”

With Bike to Work week starting on the 21st, Sersli says it’s a great time to start supporting everyone’s right to bike in Vancouver.

“Bike to Work Week is a great way to show support and celebrate people who bike to work,” Sersli said.

“As a society, we really need to start thinking about how we can change our physical and social environment so that women continue biking.”

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