Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gender Gaps in the "Revolution"

I came across this letter to Slog today and wanted to share/remember it. The statistics she cite, about the "serve passenger" trips that women are far more likely to make than men has long troubled me when we talk about all sorts of movements that are embraced in progressive circles: bicycling, community gardening, permaculture, greening, and locavore-ism. I continue to believe that we have to talk more about where people go -- how, where, why, and with whom they travel -- and what they do within their households. If we don't, pleas to eat more fresh, local produce or ride your bike become unfunded mandates, the burden of which falls disporportionately to women -- the people who, in most multi-person households, still do the bulk of the shopping, food preparation, housework, and childcare.

So, here's the most relevant part of the letter:

"In the United States, about 23% of all cyclists are women (which is based on Census data about commutes). In fact, the number of women who commute by bicycle has decreased from from 33% of all bike trips in 2001 to 24% in 2009 (this is from the American Community Survey, which is conducted by the Census Bureau). For comparison, 55% of all bicycle trips in the Netherlands is by women, and 49% in Germany.

The above data about the US is especially striking if you consider that bike trips are up significantly during the same period of time (2001 to 2009), which indicates that many more men are taking to the streets by bike but women are not.

There's something different about the United States. And it's infrastructure. Studies across all sorts of disciplines show that women are more risk-averse, and indeed, concerns about riding in traffic are overwhelmingly the reason women cite for not riding their bikes. Women also have different travel patterns: they perform the vast majority (77%) of all "serve passenger" trips (hauling people, usually children, around), engage in more "trip chaining," and run more errands, like grocery shopping. They also drive fewer miles to their commutes (this is all based on the 2009 National Household Transportation Survey).

And where have we invested in segregated bicycle lanes? Along recreational corridors, that don't lead to schools, daycare centers, grocery stores, or major employment centers. In other words, the safest bicycle facilities have been installed where few women really want or need to go."

1 comment:

Chris said...

You make some good points. I live outside the city, and I do drive, but when I'm in the city, I ride. I have a folding bike, so it's easy for me to combine riding with other forms of transportation. I do have to do the grocery store/daycare thing, but since those aren't right in the city for me, I don't normally ride there anyway, so I guess I never noticed.