By Jennifer Waggoner
If you look around at the cyclists in your city or town, most likely
most of them are men. In fact, male cyclists outnumber females by 2 to
1 in the U.S. But that’s not the case in some European countries like the Netherlands, where female cyclists actually outnumber their male counterparts.
Americans can increase the number of female cyclists by building more
bike-only commuter routes and paths that provide a greater sense of
safety. But while we work on that, there are some easy ways for female
riders to get more comfortable with biking now. Here’s how.
Picking out and then adjusting a bike can be more complicated for women
than men because most bikes are designed for men. Handlebars can be too
wide and brake levers too far away to easily grasp. But the good news
is that there are increasingly more female-specific bikes on the market
so finding the perfect one for you is now possible. When picking out a bike, keep in mind some of the most common fitting problems for women, and speak up if something doesn’t feel right. Gain confidence.
You don’t have to hit crowded downtown streets right away. Pedal on
recreational paths at first to get used to biking and gain confidence.
Once you’ve spent some time on your bike, you’ll be able to spend your
commute thinking about merging buses instead of how to shift gears.
Female cyclists are far more likely to choose routes based on
enjoyment and safety, rather than because the route is faster, flatter,
or otherwise efficient. And that’s OK. It's your ride, so don’t feel
pressured to cycle in conditions you aren’t comfortable with.
Being comfortable on the road is key to bike commuting, so consider
joining a recreational cycling club. Once you feel confident in that
setting, biking to work will be much easier. Many communities now have
women’s cycling clubs or female-specific offerings within mixed-gender
cycling clubs. You can find anything from women-focused workshops to
If you’re shy, busy, or don’t have a cycling community in your area, check out online tips and discussions. Velo Girls provides a lot of useful information, and the Sierra Club’s Climate Crossroads bicycle group has many female members.
Be safe. One
of the best ways to be safe is to get to know your route. Use maps to
plan the safest route, take a test ride with a friend when you aren’t
feeling pressure to be on time, and talk to a reliable source (like
police officers or members of a cycling club) about safety incidents
and trends.Keep in mind that female cyclists are at far greater
risk from accidents than from violent attacks. So work on your
bike-handling skills and always wear a helmet. And remember, driving a
car is one of the most dangerous activities you can undertake. A little
perspective can be a good thing.