Are Women Really Less Likely to Ride a Bike to Work?

An analysis of bike-sharing data found that ladies aren’t feeling two-wheel transportation.

(Photo: Rolfo Rolf Brenner/Getty Images)

Jun 16, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Warm summer weather is here, which means more Americans will be trading in their cars for some two-wheel transportation. But while the prospect of easily biking through nightmare rush-hour traffic sounds like an eco-friendly time saver, it turns out that men might be more likely to ride than women.

At least that’s what BuzzFeed writer Jeremy Singer-Vine found after analyzing data from bike sharing services in Boston (Hubway), Chicago (Divvy), and New York (Citi Bike). Singer-Vine looked at rider stats from July 1 to Nov. 30, 2013, and found that women make up only 24.7 percent of riders in the sharing programs.

That’s a pretty dismal percentage, so what gives? The fear of being a hot, sweaty mess when they arrive at work might not be the reason why ladies aren’t down to wheel around town. The data could reflect that women are less likely to use a sharing service simply because they’re ahead of the curve and actually purchase and ride their own bikes—so they have no need to share. All three cities also have substantial public transportation systems, so maybe women are more likely to take the A-train. Or perhaps driving a car feels like a safer option than riding.

Carolyn Szczepanski, director of communications for the League of American Bicyclists and founder of the League’s Women Bike program, chalks up the gender gap to a little something called “trip-chaining.” That’s a fancy way of saying that most women have too much to do to just have a straight-shot commute from home to work and back again. All the other responsibilities they have to take care of along the way can make bike riding seem impractical.

“Women trip-chain more than men do,” Szczepanski told BuzzFeed. “As they’re going to work, they’re dropping off a child. As they’re returning from work, they’re picking up groceries.”

Figuring out how to integrate cycling into a busy modern lifestyle is exactly why Sweden has taken the clever step of giving biking newbies free coaches. Over the next few months, the coaches are helping neophyte cyclers figure out how they can manage all the daily tasks they need to get done, all while staying out of their smog-creating cars.

The good news: Singer-Vine’s analysis did find an uptick in the number of women who use the services on weekends. You see—ladies do know how to put the pedal to the two-wheel metal.