To Close the Gender Gap, Separate Cyclists From Cars

The gender gap in American cycling is a thorny and persistent issue, and New York City performs relatively poorly on the measure. The percentage of female bike commuters has wavered between 20 and 25 percent of the total over the last two decades, but with a marked rise in the most recent years.

Transportation Alternatives counted cyclists at three locations: one with no bike lane, one with a painted bike lane, and one with a protected bike lane. More cyclists used the safer lanes, which also had a narrower gender gap. The count at Sixth Avenue was taken from 8 - 10 a.m. and the counts on Seventh and Second Avenues were taken from 5 - 7 p.m.

One of the best ways to narrow that gap, many experts agree, is to create space to bike separated from motor vehicle traffic. New bike counts from Transportation Alternatives provide a bit more support for that theory in the New York City context.

T.A. tracked the number and gender of cyclists at three Manhattan locations over two-hour spans. On Seventh Avenue at Charles Street, cyclists had to ride in mixed traffic; on Sixth Avenue at 26th Street, cyclists could ride in a painted bike lane; and on Second Avenue at 9th Street, cyclists enjoyed a protected lane separated from traffic by parked cars.

As the roads offered more separation for bikes, T.A. counted dramatically more cyclists using them. The effect was particularly dramatic for women: Only 15 percent of the cyclists on Seventh were women, compared to 32 percent on Second.

Those aren’t apples-to-apples comparisons — the share of female cyclists might vary based on the neighborhood in addition to the street design. More telling, perhaps, is a comparison of T.A.’s counts on Second Avenue to older data from the Department of City Planning.

DCP tracked the gender gap of cyclists on Second Avenue two blocks further south, at 7th Street, from 2000 to 2008. During those years, Second Avenue had a buffered bike lane, but not the physically separated one implemented by NYC DOT in 2010. Over the DCP study period, there were an average of 3.74 men riding the lane for every woman. In 2008, the ratio was 3.26:1.

T.A.’s count, in contrast, showed 2.17 men riding the protected Second Avenue lane for every woman, just three years later. That’s a fast, though obviously incomplete, closure of the gender gap, and it points the way forward.

  • Mark J Trieber

    People, people, people. What you are talking about is sex, not gender. Sex is the physical characteristics that make someone male or female. Gender is what you feel inside. Agree with the classification or not, that’s what it is.

  • Mark J Trieber

    People, people, people. What you are talking about is sex, not gender. Sex is the physical characteristics that make someone male or female. Gender is what you feel inside. Agree with the classification or not, that’s what it is.

  • Mark J Trieber

    People, people, people. What you are talking about is sex, not gender. Sex is the physical characteristics that make someone male or female. Gender is what you feel inside. Agree with the classification or not, that’s what it is.

  • Anonymous

    Since they are doing cyclist counts by people who appear to be male or female, and not looking down their pants or doing a DNA test, by my reckoning “gender” is the correct word.

  • mjd

    Separate cycles from cars.  Would love to see that get political traction.  You’d see kids on bikes too, like I do now almost daily on the PPW bike lane.  Almost never see that on Vanderbilt (sharrows) or Flushing (painted lanes).

  • Timmy

    I was riding down Ninth and some guy in a DOT jacket tackled me, pulled my pants down, and was like, male, check! It was weird.

     

  • Timmy

    I was riding down Ninth and some guy in a DOT jacket tackled me, pulled my pants down, and was like, male, check! It was weird.

     

  • Brick

    During the school year I’ve been seeing a far-increased amount of kids biking around, both with (for the young tikes) and without (teens) parents.

    Predictably (and rightfully) I usually see them in the most protected lanes – 1st + 2nd avenues, and occasionally on the painted paths on cross-town streets.
    It’s no surprise either, during the hours that they’re likely pedaling to school is about an hour before rush-hour traffic swarms the avenues.

  • Anonymous

    The difference in percentages between Sixth and Second Avenues is not statistically significant. If you repeat the experiment, you have a pretty good change of getting the opposite result.

    The percentages for Seventh Avenue, on the other hand, are significantly different from those for either Sixth or Second Avenue.

  • Daphna

    The gender gap differences of who is riding at 7th Avenue at 26th Street versus 2nd Avenue at 9th Street might not be statistically significant, but the overall number of cyclists riding at those two locations is hugely different.  The projected bike lane drew 859 riders in a 2 hour period.  The road with a painted bike lane had only 370 riders in a 2 hour period, and the road with no bike lane had 207 riders.   Protected bike lanes draw 230% more riders than a painted lane, and 415% more riders than no lane.  Cycling increases in the city each year by about 13% (pathetic!), but if Bloomberg would encourage the DOT to continue to build out the network of protected bike lanes, that yearly increase in riders could be 400% instead of only 13%,.

  • Anonymous

    @88b32fb69e499718d95067da9d3d7b03:disqus great point.  It should also be noted that the protected lanes are less central and more out of the way.  so there should actually be higher usage of the 6th avenue lane based on demand.

  • Spokewench

    In my part of the cycling world bicycle riding is still a male activity from racing to recreational…I would think this stat is pretty universal across the US so maybe that is why there are less women? 

  • Matt BK

    The point is that there is no reason for bicycle riding to be only a “male activity.”  Women theoretically would receive the same benefits as men through cycling, so we’re all wondering a) why this is and b) what we can do to get more women cycling.  To just accept that “bicycle riding is still a male activity” doesn’t make sense.

  • Mike

    Most circular reasoning ever.  Bicycling is male-dominated because bicycling is male-dominated?

  • mjd

    It’s clear to me as a daily bike commuter that our numbers are growing fast.  I love the goal of separating cycles from cars.  It is the right way forward for the city, and for my city-kids.  How to translate our growing numbers into political action? How to change anti-biker perception?  I saw 12 (and was myself the 13th) bikers at the intersection of Vanderbilt and Fulton this am at around 8:15 am.  Fantastic!  Problem was we were all over the intersection and not necessarily paying attention to traffic laws—some running the light, some in the bike lane, some to the left of the motorist lane.  I was the only one who made a left on Fulton for three non bike demarcated blocks in order to take advantage of the calmer, more beautiful, and to me safer route of Carlton north (painted lane versus Vanderbilt sharrows from Fulton to Park) to Flushing.  I stop at all reds and wait for the green.  Most of us don’t.  I defer to pedestrians.  Most of us don’t.  Today I saw a ped curse out a biker who cut him off by running a red and cutting off the ped’s right of crosswalk way on Vanderbilt and Bergen.  The ped was right to be pissed off, and right to curse.  
    My suggestion:
    Goal: separate bikes from cars.
    1) vote as a block (Transportation Alternatives)
    2) behave.  Go out of your way to smile, grant pedestrians the right of way.  Remember that Peds are our beloveds, because they are.
    3) be law abiding
    4) know your lawful rights and insist to the police your side of the story in case of conflict.  In my firsthand experience, the police are not bikers’ friends in accident reports.  

    Smile and be law abiding because it’s so pleasant to be on a bike rather than car so what if your commute takes an extra 5 minutes because you do this.  Vote.

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