There's been a lot of head scratching lately on the question of why women don't bike as much as men. Recently, the discussion got another little bump when the New York Times weighed in.
But what adds to the puzzle is that's not really true in Minneapolis compared to the rest of the country and even other bike friendly cities like Portland. Here, depending on the data, between 31 and 45 percent of bicyclists are women, compared to a national average of 26.4 percent. The only thing the biking pundits find more puzzling is that people here also bike in the winter.
Star Tribune photo
No one knows for sure why women bike less, really. But there is no shortage of theories. Some say women just don't like to sweat. Then there is the whole skirt and high heels thing. Elly Blue, a bike blogger and advocate in Portland says on Grist:
"There's plenty of truth in both the fear and fashion theories. But before we commit to blaming women's transportation practices on our timidity and vanity, I think it's worth looking at some other potential factors.
Like the economy."
Women earn less, she says, which means they have a bigger chunk of their income tied up in cars and gasoline. That means they are more likely to live in dicey neighborhoods. And she adds:
"Another barrier: Bicycling takes time. And this is something that, by the numbers, women have less of than men. In 2004, employed women reported an average of one more hour of housework per day than their employed male counterparts. These same employed women reported twice the time spent caring for young children. Employment status being equal, we have more household duties and are far more likely than men to be caregivers for aging relatives."
But then......what about Minneapolis? Are women here likely to be all that different from women elsewhere?
The reason that seems to get greatest number of nods is safety. Women just are not as comfortable in traffic. And that also fits with what's going on here. Compared to other metro areas Minneapolis and St. Paul have by far the greatest number of commuting bike routes that are separate from roads. John Pucher, a professor of Urban Planning at Rutgers University and longtime bike scholar said in a recent study that compared biking in nine cities:
"Minneapolis has an extensive system of offstreet bike paths, the most bike parking per capita of any city, and offers an impressive adaptation of cycling to cold, snowy winters."
And in another paper he pointed out other reasons why Minneapolis is far more bike friendly than other places.
"Most bike parking per capita in North America. Annual dedicated cost sharing fund for bike racks for private businesses. Metro area received $25 million from federally funded Non-motorized Transportation Pilot Program (NTPP). Extensive network of off-street bike paths serves as backbone of the city’s bikeway network The city plows multi-use paths within 24 h of the end of a snowfall."
For more than you may ever want to know about this discussion check out these sites: