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Let’s hope some of the thousands who just joined CaBi are women

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More than 5,000 new members signed up for Capital Bikeshare (CaBi) in the last few days thanks to a half-price deal from online coupon company LivingSocial. That’s a huge jump given that there were about 6,400 members prior to the promotion. On top of the LivingSocial rush, CaBi is poised for another big boost in membership as officials just began rolling out stations along the Orange Line in Northern Virginia.

One stat I’d like to see: the demographic breakdown of CaBi’s new members, particularly in regards to gender. The relatively small number of women willing to bicycle remains one of the biggest obstacles cycling faces to becoming a mainstream form of transportation in the United States.

Rutgers University researcher John Pucher recently released new data on this, and for American cycling advocates they should be concerning. Women make just 23 percent of bike trips nationwide. And while the number of male cyclists has grown over the last decade, ridership among women has remained stubbornly stagnant.

The good news for the District: we have one of the highest rates of female bicycle commuters in the country at 34 percent. In New York City, in contrast, just 20 percent of bike commuters are female. In many European cities, women make up about half of cyclists.

The problem: perceived safety. Numerous studies have shown that women are less willing to cycle in traffic with fast-moving traffic. (It's worth noting that caution among women isn’t unique to cycling -- men are more risk-prone in general and die at far higher rates for almost all types of accidents.)

I suspect that the combination of Capital Bikeshare and DC’s new network of cycle tracks is well on its way to making a noticeable dent in the gender imbalance, and I’ll check to see if I can find the stats to confirm this another day. It’s certainly worth sorting out what’s driving women’s cycling rates in DC up as getting more women into the saddle nationwide is critical.

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