The XX Factor

Today in Gender Gaps: Biking

A woman and her bike.  

Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Elizabeth Plank at Mic took to the bike paths of New York City to investigate the “huge and under-reported” gender gap in, of all things, bicycle-riding. Turns out way more men ride bikes than women: “In the U.S., 1 woman for every 3 men gets around on a bicycle,” Plank writes. “In London, 77% of bike trips are taken by men and only 5% of women identify as frequent cyclists.”

This is a gender gap that actually surprised me. After all, if you stick your head into any given spin class, 80-100 percent of the people huffing through sprints are women, guaranteed. So why isn’t that the case out on the street? Plank dug in and found that women face a number of obstacles: “Women’s aversion to risk, women’s clothing, economic and time poverty, as well as sexual harassment.” Some of the problems really are insurmountable—it’s hard to grocery shop for a family and drop your kids off at soccer and school on a bicycle—but as someone who is both a lady and a major fan of using a bicycle for transportation whenever I can, I would like to encourage more women to bike. Here are some reasons to hop on:

Skirts.  True, you may not look as good when you get off a bike as you did when you got on. Bike helmets make your hair sticky and flat (pack a brush) and you are bound to get a little sweaty, especially in the summer. But where women really have an advantage over men is in our ability to wear skirts. Just wear a skirt or a dress and catch a nice, cooling breeze on your legs the entire ride. Female privilege! And if you’re really worried about flashing people, try this easy trick with a penny and a rubber band to turn your skirt into temporary shorts.

Catcalling. It’s true, as many of the women Plank interviewed pointed out, that guys sexually harass you on bikes. However, they also sexually harass you in parking lots, on the sidewalk, and on subway platforms. The difference is that it’s far easier on a bike than on foot to throw them the finger and then zoom away. Cackle and whistle the Wicked Witch of the West’s theme song, if you’d like. 

It’s easier than you think/drinking. With bike shares and the exploding number of bike lanes in major cities, bicycling is not nearly the hassle it used to be. One of the glorious benefits of a bike share that is you can bike to where you’re going, hand off the bike, and not have to worry about it again. If you’re drinking or if you just want to go home another way, that’s fine. You’re free.

It’s not as dangerous as you think. Speaking of bike share, the rapid expansion of bike share programs has created a lot of concern over bike safety. But there have been 23 million bike rides on bike share programs since 2007, and zero fatalities. 

Female empowerment. Don’t let men hog all the pleasure of blowing past people stuck in traffic. Zooming past frustrated drivers is a power trip I’d hate anyone to miss. Bonus: You’re saving the environment while they sit there puffing out carbon into the atmosphere. You deserve to enjoy yourself. 

So get on it, ladies! The bike lane is not a boys’ club.