What can we do to encourage more women to cycle?

Cycling UK Publicity
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What can we do to encourage more women to cycle?

Postby Cycling UK Publicity » 19 Sep 2008, 11:12am

Despite the outstanding performance in Beijing by the British female cycling team, 64% of women said they never cycle.

According to an online survey commissioned by Cycling England which was published today women are three times less likely to cycle than men because they are put off by "helmet hair" and getting sweaty.

Men are still three times more likely to cycle than women. Today’s poll suggests that the perceived effect of cycling on appearance, together with a lack of confidence in cycling on the road, is behind this gender imbalance. Two thirds (64%) of women say they never cycle and just 2% cycle every day.

Women are three times more likely to cycle indoors on an exercise bike (14%) than to work (4%). When it comes to cycling to work, it seems that fear of being anything less than well groomed in front of colleagues is an off-putting factor. Among 18-34 year old women:

· 58% wouldn’t want to arrive at work sweaty

· 50% would be worried about getting wet in the rain

· 38% wouldn’t want to have to carry a change of clothes

· 38% say there is nowhere to shower at work

· 27% would be concerned about ‘helmet hair’

· 19% wouldn’t want colleagues to see them without make-up or stepping out of the office shower

Safety concerns are also a factor: 53% of women say that safety is an issue and 42% say they lack the confidence and skills to cycle on the road. When asked what would make them feel more reassured about cycling on the roads, a quarter (26%) would consider cycling if there were shower facilities to freshen up at work and 16% would be more likely to cycle if they had received proper cycle training to equip them with skills and confidence.

More details http://www.cyclingengland.co.uk/2008/09 ... he-saddle/

So what can we do to encourage more women to cycle?

Victoria

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Si
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Postby Si » 19 Sep 2008, 11:35am

My uneducated 2p worth...

The thing about indoor cycling is interesting as they are going to get just as sweaty, in fact more so if it is an excercise class, as out on the road.

I guess (and I appologise now if this sounds like I'm sterio-typing women) that one thing that attracts them to indoor cycling is the social side of it. The ones that used to go to the spinning classes (more than hlf the group was always female) at my old gym not only used it as exercise but as a chance to meet up with friends, have a natter, and look trendy in all their new, fashionable gym wear (sorry again if this sounds condescending - it's not meant to).

So perhaps this is one avenue to persue? Put across the social side of cycling rather than the sweaty exercise side? Put on rides for women only (our Section used to do this once a year and did get a good turn out of newbies, some of who then progressed to the general rides) where the ride is not long or hard but allows a bit of a get together and chin wag.

Likewise, put images of cycling women wearing nice clothes and not looking like they are putting effort in, in the CTC publicity stuff. Anyone remember the Bikefix(?) add? Dunno if you have to go that far but just show that women with 'normal' views and lifestyles can join in too.

-

Not sure that the Olympics would help that much - does seeing Nicole Cooke fighting her way up that hill, through the rain and cold, totally wrecking herself, really attact those who are worried about messing up their hair to cycling?

I now that this is a bit of a blanket statement and I know that there are many examples to the contrary, but men do tend to be a little more sportingly competative than women, thus men are more likely to be attracted to a physical activity by watching Brits do well in sport.

--

Oh, and most importantly have a chat with Russell 'the bike stud' Eden (Stourbug) as he seems to attract female cyclists like flies :wink:

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essexman
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Postby essexman » 19 Sep 2008, 11:37am

I'm not a lady but i have persuaded a couple of ladies to do it (cycling that is). A few things:
-Anti sweat. Well pedelecs and ebikes are the only real answer to this. Works damn well though.
-Not cool\trendy. Well it is and it can be. Check out sites like cyclechic, riding pretty etc, and any womans magazine from the summer (bikes in every shot). There are even some hidden helmets (YAKKAY )around now.
-Lack of confidence on the road: Mentoring and buddying works well and is the thing that actually makes people have a go.

Less use:
-Its healthy, but most women who'd be interested in cycling are already gym bunnies , so they dont have that need to satisfy
-De stressing and cheap. I think this appeals to blokes more than women, but ....
I hate snow.

dan_b
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Re: What can we do to encourage more women to cycle?

Postby dan_b » 19 Sep 2008, 11:54am

I have little personal experience from which to comment, and I'm male, so I should probably stay out of this one. But I did notice this point:
CTC Press Office wrote:women are three times less likely to cycle to work than men because they are put off by "helmet hair" and getting sweaty.


My insertion, my italics. I'm not saying these are good reasons or bad reasons, but in the context of commuting they do make more sense than if they were said about cycling in general.

Perhaps the emphasis on "reaching" these women should then be to promote cycling as a leisure or fitness activity first ("better scenery than at the gym, and no getting changed in front of strangers, and nobody's watching you and passing comment"), and let them acquire them the confidence on roads etc that way before they make the jump to commuting (next time the car breaks down or the tube goes on strike or ...)

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Postby eileithyia » 19 Sep 2008, 12:53pm

Hmm interesting and complex.
I always said if helmets ever became compulsory more people would stop cycling than take it up, why?
Go down to the shops and see who cycles to the shops; mostly women on their old shopper bike with basket, now imagine they have just been to the hairdressers for their traditional shampoo and set, then call in at the shops. Do we seriously think these ladies will wear a helmet?

I work with a wide range of women all of child bearing age. As a child of the 60's brought up to be independant, to work for my living and make my way in the world, and lived thru the fight for equality etc., it never ceases to amaze just how girlie todays teens and twenty year olds are.

We only have to see the accessories so many cars are adorned with, pink fluffly bits over the steering wheel etc., to see where so many young women are heading these days.
Maybe it is a kick back against feminism, but so many are dependant, girlie and totally uninterested in any form of exercise.

Some years ago I was asked did I not get sweaty when cycling!!!!!!!!!
It would certainly back up the the argument that cycling = sweaty = not for girlies. Yet the same person would sweat buckets at the night club or at the gym (but then there are shower at the gym).

Thankfully the clothing range is improving fantasically since 70s when I started and all we could get was shapeless small versions of mens clothing.
But it is not marketed well.
CTC is as bad, the latest range of cycle clothing is awful and I would not wear it, there are much better ranges of womens clothes out there.
When at York a member of the CTC staff was wearing a lovely styled fleece with CTC logo on (similar fleeces were also being worn by TOB staff but all that was on sale was some really horrid merchandise), I asked her about it and was told it was staff issue only, now if they were on sale I certainly would be queueing up to buy it. So CTC sort your own depts out first please.

Campaigns for employers to have showers could be a very good incentive, perhaps some tax incentives from government for showers to be installed alongside bike to work schemes?????
I stand and rejoice everytime I see a woman ride by on a wheel the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood. HG Wells

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Postby Bananaman » 19 Sep 2008, 1:03pm

I had an idea the other week while cycling to work along a dedicated off road bike path (I normally go by road).

Now it may well have been statistically meaningless, but I did seem to be struck by how many female (and older) cyclists there seemed to be (compared to my usual route).

This made me think some sort of demographical survey of commuters using off road dedicated paths versus on road might be interesting/useful in informing the debate on provision of biking facilities.

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Postby JQ666 » 19 Sep 2008, 1:07pm

I saw a very attractive lady on a 'shopper' yesterday in the centre of Bristol, riding through the 5.30pm rush hour traffic. She was a very sophisticated-looking type, with shortish skirt, legs to die for, and long blonde hair. Love at first sight - then I remembered I'm married :oops: .

Anyway, I appreciated the fine sight and it put a smile on my face!

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Postby fatboy » 19 Sep 2008, 1:20pm

JQ666 wrote:I saw a very attractive lady on a 'shopper' yesterday in the centre of Bristol, riding through the 5.30pm rush hour traffic. She was a very sophisticated-looking type, with shortish skirt, legs to die for, and long blonde hair. Love at first sight - then I remembered I'm married :oops: .

Anyway, I appreciated the fine sight and it put a smile on my face!


How long does it take to get to Bristol from Harlow? Can I make it before 5:30?
"Marriage is a wonderful invention; but then again so is the bicycle puncture repair kit." - Billy Connolly

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CJ
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Postby CJ » 19 Sep 2008, 1:32pm

Cycling England have totally missed their own point.

Worthy though the endeavours of Romero, Pendleton et al undoubtedly are, it’s easy to see how that will do nothing to sell the idea of cycling to sceptical women. We've seen that a sweaty cyclist can also look good in no clothes, so what?

Most women, who are unwilling to get all sweaty and their hair in a mess when going about their everyday activities, surely would not be any happier to appear in public stark naked!

What it needs, for women to see cycling as something for them, is for well-known female role models (celebrities if you like) to be seen riding practical city-style bicycles in normal, fashionable clothes – with make-up and without helmets. It’s something that can be seen everyday on the streets of Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, Zurich, Vienna … in London however they see a load of lycra-clad helmetted road-warriors.

Pictures from the Olympics and of women cyclists in the nude, merely help existing cyclists feel good about what they’re already doing. Unfortunately most cyclists cannot see beyond the reflection of these images on the inside of British cycling's little goldfish bowl. The rest of society is also somewhat excited and intrigued by these images, but sees them from the other side - laterally inverted. To them these images serve to reinforce the idea that cycling is an extremely demanding sport with no relevance to most people's everyday lives.

IMHO the best thing that existing cyclists can do is forsake the lycra and helmet in favour of normal street clothes whenever they’re using a bike for transport themselves. Demonstrate by our own example that cycling can be normal, like it is in Holland, Germany, Denmark …

But if Victoria Pendleton could get onto Strictly Come Dancing as a late subsitute, and win it ... then we'd be cooking with gas!
Chris Juden
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Postby glueman » 19 Sep 2008, 1:42pm

Other women to cycle with would be a start. Men inevitably get stuck in macho bike talk, lamp post sprints and the rest of the stuff only the most determined female would be prepared to take on.
Bikes don't have to mean sport with a capital S, they can also be about companionship, getting out in the fresh air, modest challenges and safety in numbers.

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Postby jan19 » 19 Sep 2008, 2:05pm

Ok, time for a female perspective on this one....I'm afraid I'm getting myself worked up into a bit of a rant here!

If you look at women as a whole, and don't just focus on the 18-34s I would wager the overwhelming concern for all would be SAFETY! Most of my colleagues (most of whom like myself sadly are not in that age group) would say "its too dangerous". I know this is the case, because most of them have said it to me! Women don't cycle beacuse they regard the inadequate road system and the standard of many drivers means its just too hazardous.

Being a bit upset because your hair might be messy is just the worst sort of stereotyping about women. Why on earth do they headline this when only a small (58%) majority of one age group are concerned about it?

I fought for a shower at work, keep a make-up bag in my locker, carry a change of clothes in my rack bag, wear sports clothes from M&S when cycling (and I wear a helmet!). No considerations about appearance ever stopped me - and I do take a pride in my appearance. But I will stop cycling when the clocks change because it will be too dangerous for me to consider using the A21 in the dark.

If this sort of report wants to take itself seriously, they should look at real issues, not pander to Daily Mail style headlines.

Sorry, rant over. Back to work now....

Jan

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Postby Peyote » 19 Sep 2008, 2:24pm

In my experience of selling cycling as a means of transport I have to agree with Jan, the overwhelming reason people don't cycle is because of this weird perception that cycling is too dangerous.

I should also say that the majority of people I speak to face-to-face about cycling are women (not sure why, they just tend to be more open and communicative at the roadshows I work on), and they come from a wide range of ages and social groups. Yet it always boils down to fear of other traffic.

Tackle that one major (perceived) obstacle and the majority of the battle is over...

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Postby thirdcrank » 19 Sep 2008, 2:25pm

I've not seen the survey, probably wouldn't trust it if I did and having heard a few minutes of the 'Woman's Hour' discussion on this I'd pay even less attention to the typical hack's reinterpretation of the survey.

Having said all that it seems that everybody is agreed that women are substantially less likely to cycle than men possibly by a ratio of 3:1.

It seems crystal clear to me, therefore, that if you improve conditions for all cyclists, to the extent that say, twice as many men ride bikes as before, then twice as many women will also ride bikes. I've heard something like that before, I think it was called the Notional Cycling Strategy, or something along those lines. Unfortunately it was handed over to somebody who thought if somebody very important said it would be done, then it was as good as done so no need to do it (Sorry 3rd Mikado reference in two days :oops: ). Anyway the NCS was dropped and the CTC just rolled over to be tickled.

I really would have hoped that the CTC was above all the silly tittle tattle and would make the simple point that despite all the fine words, this government has done next to nothing to encourage cycling.

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Postby fatboy » 19 Sep 2008, 2:31pm

Peyote wrote:In my experience of selling cycling as a means of transport I have to agree with Jan, the overwhelming reason people don't cycle is because of this weird perception that cycling is too dangerous.


And it's not just women it's men. A barber was amazed that I drove down a particular road "becasue I know how badly my mates drive down it" (a statement so ridiculous that I was literally speechless - which is unusaul for me!). Plus this morning on a deserted road just before 7am I saw a middle aged man riding on the pavement (I guess because the road is too dangerous).

But I think that we need to be careful because the danger is a perception rather than a reality. It needs to be better but if the answer is make it safer a lot of paint will get wasted and some new entries to "facility of the month" will be created.

Back to the OP view I still suspect that there is something in the sweaty, bad hair etc. The reasons why this is a problem are way too complex to debate here but pressures on women to conform to a perfect stereotype start when they are children. Perhaps introducing utility cycling to young girls is the answer?
"Marriage is a wonderful invention; but then again so is the bicycle puncture repair kit." - Billy Connolly

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Postby JQ666 » 19 Sep 2008, 2:36pm

fatboy wrote:
JQ666 wrote:I saw a very attractive lady on a 'shopper' yesterday in the centre of Bristol, riding through the 5.30pm rush hour traffic. She was a very sophisticated-looking type, with shortish skirt, legs to die for, and long blonde hair. Love at first sight - then I remembered I'm married :oops: .

Anyway, I appreciated the fine sight and it put a smile on my face!


How long does it take to get to Bristol from Harlow? Can I make it before 5:30?


depends how fast you pedal. But it will be worth it, I promise.