London is not alone in lacking gender parity in cycling. Sustainable transport consultant Alix Stredwick quotes 2008 research by the Department for Transport showing that UK-wide, women make 27% of cycle journeys, just ahead of the US at 25%, but below Canada at 30% – and in a different league entirely to Germany at 49%, and Denmark and the Netherlands, where women cyclists outnumber men at around 55%.
And this CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO STAND..! How can we have a gender imbalance in something so utterly vital?
What’s that? There’s also a gender imbalance in refuse collection and sewerage work? Oh.
Look, never mind, back to cycling!
Stredwick says the gender imbalance in London “reflects the hostile road environment for cycling”. “I’ve come to the conclusion that we get the cyclists we deserve. If we have a street environment that’s hostile, that has no facilities, that has fast traffic with heavy lorries thundering past, we will get low numbers of courageous people, mainly men, on racing bikes and pretty well no one else. But if you provide a street environment where it’s much more egalitarian, where your granny can cycle to the shops safely and have somewhere to park her Dutch-style bike – that’s when we’ll get those kind of cyclists. But you have to be able to provide for them.”
Maybe your granny wouldn’t want to cycle? Maybe she’d rather drive, or get the bus?
Where Stredwick lives, in the inner London borough of Hackney, 15% of commuters now cycle, double the inner London average, but the share of women cyclists is little improved, she says. She puts this partly down to the council’s resistance to segregate bike lanes on main roads, for fear that they will interfere with bus travel and car parking spaces.
“Maybe we need fewer buses, pumping out diesel particulates. People could get off the buses and cycle instead.”
Maybe Stredwick should cycle if she wants to, and worry less about what other people want to do…