Bicycling has no gender

July 17, 2017

I am a utilitarian cyclist. When I ride my bicycle I wear street clothes. I do this to promote cycling for what it is, transport. I use my bicycle to go grocery shopping, to make quick errands, to meet with clients, and to go get coffee.

Bicycling isn’t my hobby, unless you also view driving a car as a hobby.

Policy on bicycles in regards to Complete Streets can’t be based solely on the purview of what an aerobically fit middle class guy who cycles on the weekend thinks is sufficient.

According to Dill & McNeil (2012) women feel more comfortable riding in “Bike-only lanes and boulevards.”

Though great strides in policy in regards to bicycles have taken place between 2000-2010 and more than 40% of the staff at bicycle advocacy organizations are women, relative rates of women cycling has declined and not kept pace with men participation in cycling.

Complete Street policies are not set up for woman. Many bicycle advocates are women, but that fact is not translating into Complete Streets policy.

Your average woman does not feel comfortable riding on a major boulevard, because of some paint on the ground that says “bike lane.”

I want the roads around New York City to be more accessible for all genders, ability levels, and ages. I have been riding my bicycle in an urban setting for over 10 years. When I ride on the roads of New York City I don’t feel as if I am always about to be hit by a person driving a car.

I am not scared when I ride my bicycle around Brooklyn, Harlem or Montclair, but rather I am annoyed.

I am annoyed that cycling policy in general seems to only take men with no caretaking responsibilities of children or seniors as the authority on where we can cycle and how roads should be designed to cycle, walk, and drive on.

I am annoyed that there aren’t cycle tracks on all roads where motorists are driving on, I am annoyed that the roads encourage speeding. Yes, the signs say one thing, the laws claim to say the same thing, but an open road says “Drive as fast as you can get away with.”

The police are the least effective tool against speeders.

As teachers cannot fix bad education policies, the police are not the final answer for poorly designed roads. 

Mom’s city bike taxi. Photo by Patrick Barber.
Mom’s city bike taxi. Photo by Patrick Barber. Courtesy Sightline

I have little interest in racing my bicycle on a Tour de France style track or riding up the side of a mountain, but I do want my friends of all genders and ages to feel comfortable riding with me to Brooklyn Roasting Company for a cup of coffee.

I want to see more women with children riding their bicycles in Brooklyn for everyday tasks. I want to see more children riding their bicycles to school. I want transportation policy that takes into consideration women’s concerns and understands that women (and children) having the option to ride their bicycles exclusively should be part of Complete Streets policy.

by Teka-Lark Lo