Updated: 04/22/2013 8:49 PM KSTP.com By: Beth McDonough
It seems everywhere we look these days, there are bicyclists.
Getting around on bikes in the city or suburbs has become so popular, ridership is up 50 percent from just five years ago. That's the result from the most recent Bike Walk Twin Cities study. Despite that explosion in cycling, men outnumber women riders.
We wanted to know why? And what's being done to recruit more women on wheels?
"It's fast and convenient," says Erica Schmidt. That's why she first tried life on two wheels. Schmidt pedals to and from work in Minneapolis at least three days a week and to the University of Minnesota for class. Turns out, she prefers it. "It's a big time saver," she says.
Lindsey Legatt agrees. "Biking is much faster than taking a bus or any other mode I found; walking is too far," she said. "A bike gets me where I need to go fast; time is of the essence."
Both women are surprised to hear the new Bike Walk Twin Cities study shows there's a significant gender gap in ridership. The growth of women riders hasn't kept pace with men. In 2008, 33 percent of cyclists were women. Today, the number has dropped down to 27 percent. That means only a quarter of riders you see hidden under bike helmets are women.
A longtime biking enthusiast, Hilary Reeves headed up the study. "It's a comfort thing, once you get more comfortable it opens up all the possibilities," she says.
Reeves' goal is not to point out the decrease, but work on ways to increase the interest. Reeves says women tend to be "fair-weather" riders, choosing locations based on infrastructure: if there's a dedicated bike boulevard, versus a bike lane on a busy street. There are hot spots females prefer: Riverside Avenue, Franklin Avenue Bridge, Lyndale Avenue and 10th Avenue Bridge, avoiding sidewalks if possible. Safety's the biggest factor. "Women like to ride where people like to ride in general, women feel safe where there are other bicyclists already on the road," says Reeves.
At Bike Shops across the Metro, the wheels of change are in motion. Marcy Levine, who leads by example, said "I still have probably put more miles on my bicycles than I ever have on my car."
Levine teaches a female friendly bike class for beginners and helps to promote women-only rides in the metro.
"The more women see other women riding, the more there's a likelihood they might try it and then it becomes a habit," according to Reeves.
A number of bike shops in the Twin Cities offer female friendly bike maintenance classes and rides as well.