Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Girl Racers- are there more women cycling?

This morning I was cheered by the numbers of female cyclists I spotted on the road . At one junction eight out of ten of us were lacking a Y chromosome (as far as I could tell). I feel this has been a change- when I began big-city cycling (as opposed to university town cycling, where there is no real gender division) I was often the only female about. Only a few years ago three times as many men as women were cycling in the capital.

There has been one main reason for this. When trying to persuade my female friends that cycling was the way forward their reluctance was always about safety. It is true that some research indicates women are more likely to have a fatal accident involving a van or lorry, possibly because of a lack of assertiveness. I've never really known what to make of that, or the way that it has been reported. Surely cyclists of all genders need to be really careful around larger vehicles? it upsets me that women might be put off riding because of these stories when road sense is easily taught. It is not as if female pheromones are physically attracting four wheeled metal monsters to them. These stats are not inevitable.

As well as safety, (understandable) vanity plays a part. Although there is no need to dress head to toe in neon lycra, women are distinctly less willing to do so than men, who I think have residual super-hero fantasies to play out. Yes, male hair copes with helmets better, and normal male shoes are perhaps easier to cycle in than heels. But, all these things are minor compared with the joy and convenience cycling brings.

I hope I am right about there being more women on the road, because apart from wanting my female friends to experience it, I think it would be beneficial all round. The competitive overtaking and reckless light-hopping might be somewhat tempered- it is a gender generalisation but one with some basis in fact I think. With more women customers bike and kit manufacturers might up their game and begin to prioritise style as well as practicality. The mothers mafia who can bring David Cameron to his knees are exactly the kind of noisy, bossy campaigning force we need to get our roads made more cycle friendly. And ultimately, London women drive fashion in this country- where they go the nation will follow. We may end up as a country of cyclists yet.

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