Does More Cycling Mean More Diversity in Cycling?

New research paper, just out in Transport Reviews, Open Access. Read the full paper here.

Does More Cycling Mean More Diversity in Cycling?

Rachel Aldred, James Woodcock & Anna Goodman

In low-cycling countries, cycling is not evenly distributed across genders and age groups. In the UK, men are twice as likely as women to cycle to work and cycling tends to be dominated by younger adults. By contrast, in higher cycling countries and cities, gender differences are low, absent, or in the opposite direction. Such places also lack the UK’s steady decline in cycling among those aged over 35 years. Over the past fifteen years some UK local areas have seen increases in cycling. This paper analyses data from the English and Welsh Census 2001 and 2011 to examine whether such increases are associated with greater diversity among cyclists. We find that in areas where cycling has increased, there has been no increase in the representation of females, and a decrease in the representation of older adults. We discuss potential causes and policy implications. Importantly, simply increasing cycling modal share has not proved sufficient to create an inclusive cycling culture. The UK’s culturally specific factors limiting female take-up of cycling seem to remain in place, even where cycling has gone up. Creating a mass cycling culture may require deliberately targeting infrastructure and policies towards currently under-represented groups.

You can also download the dataset (Census 2001 and 2011 data, licensed under the terms of the Open Government Licence) that we used for the analysis here.

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8 Responses to Does More Cycling Mean More Diversity in Cycling?

  1. Childbacktandem says:

    It sounds frivolous, but clothing does really matter.
    The local school uniform is a tight skirt -the short slit up the back tears if you try to ride a bike (frankly, it’s even a problem going upstairs). You have to show your knickers (or end up putting on a pair of PE shorts underneath for the journey)
    It is compulsory to wear a helmet -that doesn’t just mean ‘helmet hair’ it means no fashionable buns, high ponytails or fancy hairclips.
    For a teenage girl, even wearing a coat can mark you out as a bit of a weirdo (and cycling means no umbrella so you have to carry your wet clothes around with you all day because modern schools don’t have coat pegs). Wearing hi-viz is beyond imagining for all but the most self-confident or unselfaware few.
    Over a period of five years there were consistently between 1 and 3 girls out of a total of 1500 who cycled to school each day .
    Men wear dark trousers and the dirt doesn’t show, but flesh-coloured tights look awful with mud spatters.
    Men wear roomy jackets and shirts that fall well below the waist; women wear shorter, tighter fitting clothes so leaning forward to reach low handlebars strains the fabric and makes clothes ride up creating a chilly and or embarrassing gap.
    Women’s lighter coloured clothing shows rain and bike grease so much more easily. Light-coloured skirts or trousers are easily and embarrassingly marked by the saddle.
    Men wear comfortable shoes with thick non-slip soles; women wear delicate and slippery thin-soled shoes with pointed toes that are easily damaged by toe clips, rat cage pedals, rain and mud.
    Handbags are not designed to be elegantly worn or carried on a bike and men’s trousers have pockets so keys to bike locks are easy to reach.
    I remember ‘scooting’ all the way to a job interview because I had forgotten that I only had my crossbar bike and I couldn’t get onto it in an interview skirt.
    Men wear ‘ordinary’ clothes to cycle -whether business suits, jeans or sporty but ‘normal’ lycra. Women need to think very carefully about what to wear.
    For women, cycling clothes are a fashion statement and often that statement ends up being ‘I’ve decided that I will try to ignore all the nasty things everyone else is thinking about me’

    • Di Elliffe says:

      Some solutions to these life dilemmas involve pushing back against “male” opinion. If you like wearing skirts, don’t get a straight crossbar bike. Look for clothes with give, with pockets. Handbags with shoulder straps. Etc. It’s not that hard. But the issues around school uniforms and end of trip facilities at schools need addressing.

      • Childbacktandem says:

        The point is that, for most people, it IS that hard!
        I did buy a ladies’ bike because I HAD to wear a skirt ( a crossbar bike would have worked better for touring and heavy shopping though). ‘Normal’ women don’t do that, they simply choose not to cycle. It’s harder to find the right women’s bike. If you are ‘short’ (ie if you are not taller than most woman), it’s harder still (Chris Juden did some good write-ups on the problem of bikes for ‘small’ women). Yes, it’s getting easier (Islabikes, 650B wheels and WSD frames etc), but it’s still more effort and, if a woman doesn’t spend extra to get a ‘specialist’ bike, the end result is likely to be a heavy, BSO that doesn’t fit properly.
        I have spent decades deliberately choosing clothes that work on a bike -‘normal’ women don’t do that. Teenage girls are particularly unlikely to have the confidence or finance to do that.
        The point is that blokes just don’t have to think about it; women do -and they have to be prepared to take the consequences of going against the norm.
        All this is before you get to the technical challenges (and societal disapproval) of carrying kids on ‘normal’ UK bikes….

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  3. gar says:

    The one thing everybody needs to wear on a bike is leather between the legs. Cycling comfort for any distance depends on it.
    Brightly coloured clothes are essential for a push bike. the one thing you don’t need on the motorised two wheeler is bright colours; it encourages other motorists to chase you and knock you down. (I know) Curiously enough, public “attitude” is quite different to the push-bike user. Bright colours and hopefully the now-standard yellow luminous too. Orangey luminous is not a good local transport dept colour to follow. Always carry yellow luminous of some sort with you.

    One of the most worrying things about the huge increase in push-bike use is the parallel increase in interest in the Motor bike. Motorbikes are a hard sell at the best of times. They are having marvellous increased sales too, thanks to push bike competition successes. Puts you off two wheels all together, especially if you consider the downturn after 35 yrs old mentioned above.

  4. gar says:

    The problem for young women is that unless they have had some cycle repair training, some bright spark bike thief at school/college will remove a part of the bike every day or every few days, (unscrewing in not stealing; you shouldnt leave things lying around; but the frame is locked! thats only the frame).

    So then she is spending half her time walking home, because somebody has removed a brake block.

    No school/coll would think or afford a CCTv system to pre empt three bike brake block thefts out of three.

    Its only a brake block!! I didnt know she wanted to keep it, Sir/Miss.

    Ha!Blutty HaHa!

  5. gar says:

    Its not so much the cycling kit, part from the groin leather, that matters, in wet weather as knowing how to keep dry inside and wet outside. If you sweat inside and it rains outside you are wet through.
    If you are warm and dry inside, through keeping cool, then the outside gets dry quickly, even though it is raining.

    That aspect of daily cycling is something I never did/have done since I had no daily work away from home. WCF (Wind Chill Factor) is almost more important to a cyclist than the ambient temperature itself.

    If you arrive wet through, you are not going to enjoy the day that much. some days you need to wear less although it is colder….. but when!!?

    Scientific study of your own body temperatures re WCF and ambient temperatures, might help you to decide. I wonder whether there is even a watch to help in the decision making, but at what cost?!!

    I may say that i took the advice of an 88 year old cyclist, who rode every day of his possible cycling life, and who wore his busines suit
    underneath his galoshes. “Its only a suit!” he opined!
    Up in town I do the same.

    If you then have to unrobe your galoshes, in the street, it is rather undignified, but that does not bother me! No easy answers except to do your own thing in your own way with minimum fuss and visibility, except when you are on a road….. that’s Maximum!

  6. Pingback: Interview with Dr Rachel Aldred on increasing everyday cycling – the write-up | Unofficial Unsanctioned Women's UCI Cycling Blog

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