10/10/2019California Study Examines Why Women Avoid Bicycling
University of California study finds women do not feel safe commuting by bicycle.
US Census Bureau data show bicycle commuters tend to be overwhelmingly white, male and privileged. Throughout the country, street real estate is being taken away from automobiles to serve the less than one percent who pedal their way to work. The federal government diverts an estimated $100 million per year from gas tax dollars to subsidize construction of these lanes and other pedestrian projects. A research brief from the University of California, Berkeley's transportation research center asked why bicyclists tend to be male.
"Safety is much more likely to affect women's travel decisions than men's," researcher Dorry Funaki wrote. "Women of color are more likely to take safety into account when making travel decisions than white non-Hispanic women."
The paper looked at commuting patterns in San Francisco, using surveys and focus groups to identify the top concerns for women using bicycle lanes in the South of Market area. Road condition, construction and the layout of the lanes all raised concern.
"There's a lot of scary potholes," one study participant explained. "If you're biking on Folsom, there are so many cracks, at the same time you need to go pretty fast if you want to make the lights."
The study found only 30 percent of bicyclists using the South of Market lanes were women, a figure that matches the national trend. Census figures also indicate riders are disproportionately white males with high incomes and graduate or professional degrees.
"Households with income between $150,000 and $199,000 had a slightly higher bicycle commuting rate than the previous income category, as did the highest income category of $200,000 or more," a Census report on bicycling explained. "At 0.9 percent, the most educated workers, those with a graduate or professional degree, had the highest rate of bicycle commuting, followed by the least educated workers, those who did not graduate from high school at 0.7 percent."
Lower income workers were eight times more likely to walk to work than bicycle, something the Census Bureau attributed to "financial necessity."
Only 0.3 percent of black workers commuted by bicycle, according to Census figures. A copy of the research brief is available in a 4mb PDF file at the source link below.