Almost three quarters of women living in seven UK cities never ride a bike for local journeys, despite having a positive attitude towards cycling, according to a new report.
The Sustrans report – based on a survey of 7,700 people living in Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Greater Manchester – details women’s travel habits, views and attitudes towards cycling.
The report finds that while 73% of women living in these cities never ride a bike for local journeys, 68% say their city would be a better place to live and work if more people cycled.
24% of men ride a bike at least once a week, compared to just 12% of women.
Sustrans says the gap in cycling participation levels between men and women is smaller in cities with higher overall cycling uptake – such as Bristol where 18% of women ride a bike at least once a week, compared to 32% of men.
77% of the women surveyed feel that cycling safety needs to be improved, while 59% view cycling as dangerous or unsafe.
However, 30% of those who currently do not cycle say they would like to start, recognising cycling as good for their health – as well as its positive impact on reducing traffic and air pollution.
76% of women who already cycle, or want to start, say that cycle lanes which are physically separated from traffic would encourage them to cycle more.
Based on these findings, the report sets out three recommendations to help local authorities ‘create a more diverse and inclusive culture of cycling’:
- Plan and deliver protected cycling routes on main roads and orbital routes reflecting local journeys
- Introduce training and engagement programmes to enable more women to travel by bike
- Integrate gender into different stages of consultation, design, delivery and monitoring of new schemes
Xavier Brice, CEO of Sustrans, said: “A city that has a diverse and inclusive population of people riding a bike is a city for everyone.
“Cycling can play a vital role in improving health, whilst ensuring that jobs, services and communities are accessible. 51% of the UK population is female, yet most of our cities are failing to design roads and streets for women to cycle.
“Evidence from the UK and beyond shows that when dedicated space for riding a bike is provided, alongside engagement programmes, the gender gap in cycling can be eliminated.
“Governments at all levels need to listen to women’s voices and invest in a network of dedicated cycling routes and training so that everyone feels comfortable and confident to ride a bicycle, regardless of gender, age and disability.”
Dr Rachel Aldred, reader in transport, Westminster University, said: “We know there is substantial demand for cycling infrastructure among women and other currently under-represented groups.
“In the Netherlands, women cycle a higher proportion of journeys than men do, showing that a good cycling environment works for both women’s and men’s trips.”