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This could be Seattle's year of women bicycling

Madi Carlson chats with friends at the Bike-to-Work Rally.
Millie Magner

Is this Seattle's year of women bicycling? It just may be. Women’s events do appear to be increasing. As well, Cascade Bicycle Club with a woman leading the organization, is focusing on greater diversity including meeting the needs of women bicycling.

In February, at Gregg’s Cycles annual W.O.W. (Women on Wheels) event, one of the main attractions was a panel composed of 5 women executive directors of Seattle area street safety and bicycle advocacy organizations. This event was soon followed by Seattle Bike Expo with several presentations of particular interest to women. Specifically for women, “Cycling Wisdom by Women, for Women,” was a panel of women cycling experts giving tips and taking a myriad of questions from the predominately female audience. Following the success of the panel presentation, a repeat was held at REI last Tuesday evening. Again Gina Kavesh, local racing legend, facilitated the presentation to a nearly packed house.

At all of these events, the women attending represented diversity among themselves, such as age, race, and bicycling experience and interest, Seeing so many varied women, it’s hard to believe that according 2011 data, women comprise only a quarter of bicyclists in the country. Though the percentage has been higher in bike-friendly cities, women bicycling in the United States falls short of that of countries such as The Netherlands and Germany.

In 2010, The Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals, surveyed women via an online questionnaire to explore what would promote women cycling. The researchers were unprepared for the number of participants. Of the 13,000 respondents, 201 selected male as their gender. Most respondents to the 37 item questionnaire were between 20 and 40. In spite of community size (respondents lived in urban, rural, and suburban areas), the greatest prevalence of concerns regarded safety and infrastructure. Most women in urban areas identified the addition of bike lanes encouraged them to cycle. Concerns of motorized vehicle drivers, especially of distracted drivers were raised by respondents across all groups.

Seattle has seen an increase in bicycling over the last few years, especially among commuters. Bicycling in downtown increased 74% between 2000 and 2011. However, the increase from 1992 was nearly 200%. Meanwhile, according to a July, 2013 article in the Seattle Times By John Pucher, Rutgers professor, "30% of bicycle trips in Seattle were made by women.” This has to change, especially, in light of a Princeton Survey Research Associates national poll finding. According to the League of American Bicyclists that poll found, “More than 80 percent of American women have a positive view of bicyclists and two-thirds think their community would be a better place to live if riding a bike were safer and more comfortable.” Back in 2009, according to Scientific American, “An emerging body of research suggests that a superior strategy to increase pedal pushing could be had by asking the perennial question: What do women want?” With that data and women leading, Seattle and bicycling can only move forward.

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