Bicycling as a Woman…Do You Feel Safe?

International Women’s day has passed, but the amount of news, reports, and concerns facing women bike riders is still a hot topic.

There is a conversation that has been brewing regarding women and bicycles, and how to decrease mobility inequality. However, statistics are pouring-in showing an increase in the number of women that are beginning to ride. This is great news! Arguments have been made that this increase is the result of better infrastructure, protected bike lanes, women feeling safe, women coming out of their shells, women biking with their children, promoting better health, commuting, smart and practical transportation, cost savings, community support, better connected bike infrastructure, a decrease of sexism in the bicycle culture and industry, culture building, and seeing more women on bikes encourages others, etc.

This conversation was partially inspired by the video “National Bike Summit 2013: Women Are Biking More…How Do We Keep the Momentum Going?

After watching this video I began to reflect on how I became interested in bicycling. Now, I am NO marathon racer, I’m a simple utilitarian cyclist. My bicycling journey began in 2006 when I purchased my first “adult” bike from a thrift store in California. That poor bike was stored in my garage for 3 years waiting to feel the wind blow past its chipped paint and rusted chrome handlebars. The reason it sat in the garage is because I didn’t feel safe on my bike. It wasn’t that I lacked to confidence to ride my somewhat questionably “safe” thrift store bike. No, it was because I was terrified of the streets and the drivers. Let’s just say, at the time, I was NOT living in a bicycle friendly community. Simply put, my fear excluded me from having a fun and healthy lifestyle for 3 years all because of the lack of infrastructure. For me, Tucson has been great because it does offer some safe routes. Since moving to Tucson I’ve not only gotten over my fear, but I have become a smarter bicyclist and driver, and have gained more confidence and empowerment as a women bicyclist. Because of my personal growth as a utilitarian cyclist, I believe that these realizations are important to the fabric of encouraging women to ride.

I know there is always room for improvements. As can be seen in Tucson’s current bikeability standing. However, the fact that Tucson made it on the list a encouraging to our future growth.

America’s Most Bikeable Neighborhoods

Walk Score 

In America’s ‘Most Bikeable’ Cities, Bike Lanes Rule

So the question comes up, “Are women more adverse to risk than men?” I would say, in general, yes.  How can we combat this?

Tell us… what were, or are, your concerns when it comes to bicycling in Tucson or in other cities? What makes you feel comfortable and encourages your use of the bike?









2 Responses to Bicycling as a Woman…Do You Feel Safe?

  1. Julie says:

    Hi Mandia,
    Your article opened up perspectives I had never realized.
    My bicycling background is quite different than yours. I grew up in Chicago’s north side, not far from Wrigley Field, and biked in narrow, tree-lined, local streets as early as first or second grade. I bought my first bike in 7th grade from baby-sitting money. In high school I drove along major arterial roads with no bike lanes to the Lake, to work, and everywhere I needed to go.
    While I had two incidents specific to adversity because of gender, they were also specific to a women’s age group. These types of situations are being addressed strongly at the University of Arizona where this type of problem is most likely to occur.
    My concerns when it comes to bicycling in Tucson is that, generally speaking, Tucsonans do not seem to acknowledge how populous the city has become. Although traffic volume/density has increased radically over the past 20 years, the numbers of bicycle riders have similarly increase, and bike lanes have been designated, the multi-modal or mixed-use street concept is (mostly) absent on both sides of user groups.
    I believe many of our bicycling concerns can be solved with common sense/ (not so) common courtesy practices! Both drivers and bikers need to look BOTH WAYS before entering an intersection. Current street densities warrant this precaution. Both drivers and bikers need to realize that cars are bigger and that a collision between the two will likely bode poorly for the bicyclist; ie. cars slow down and give bikers space, bikers do not antagonize drivers – stay in designated biking lane and use lights in the early morning/ later evening.
    Similarly, driver and bicycling safety is not the sole responsibility of city planners or law makers either. Each group would best be served by taking on some responsibility for their own safety and liability.
    That being said, traffic engineers cannot build a fool-proof road system. Users have to pay attention. We need to take time to be courteous, liable and responsible. This way city planners, traffic engineers and lawyers will have more leeway to develop attractive streets.

    What makes me feel most comfortable and encourages bike use? Shady street corridors, tree-lined, cooler streets, attractive streets.

  2. Rachael says:

    Thanks for the article about gender and safety. It was thought provoking. I’ve never thought about my gender in regards to my safety while biking. I used to bike from mid-town to the UA; from West of I-10 to downtown and on to midtown, and now I live more East and bike around from there. I struggle most with my kids’ safety instead of my own personal safety. I’ve never felt targeted or discriminated against as a woman biking, but have felt the wrath of driver’s when biking with my kids and they have to wait for all five of us to cross. I love reading about Family Biking events and seminars in Seattle and Portland. I would love for the bike loving family riding culture to spread to Tucson – and not just the Douglas Spring/Menlo/Barrio neighborhoods. There are so many families that live East of downtown and would love to have safer crossings at major streets. It would also be awesome if as a city we could complete and connect our River Path bike trails. Then, I would feel safe biking my family around the city. Thanks for the article about gender and safety. It was thought provoking.