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Exploring #CycleDiversity: Pedalling Together on International Women’s Day

Blog Exploring #CycleDiversity: Pedalling Together on International Women’s Day
On International Women’s Day, March 8, we turn our gaze towards gender to highlight how creating cycling environments with women in mind contributes to more inclusive and safe urban landscapes and communities across the globe.

Join us in celebrating past achievements, as well as pushing for even more positive changes on the path towards a better future for all.
Women and Cycling at the Frontlines of the Pandemic

Around this time last year, in early 2020, we had not yet fully understood the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic would transform our lives. As many cities were implementing strong lockdown measures, urban landscapes became quieter and less polluted, while voices calling for change and sharing visions for a different, better and more equitable world grew louder. 

Together with the rethinking of how we live and how we address pressing environmental concerns, many have also been calling for better recognition of workers that are often overlooked and undervalued. Suddenly, in the wake of the pandemic, we have understood that they are the backbone of our societies, and we have started referring to them as essential. A big number of these essential workers are women.

As the UN states, the impacts of crises are never gender-neutral. The socio-economic effects of the pandemic have been hitting women, especially those poor and marginalised, hardest. Not just that, globally 70% of the health care workforce are women, and they have been standing at the front line of the COVID-19 response.

The cycling community quickly recognized the need to support people who continue to provide key services at considerable personal risk. By providing free bikes to essential workers and delivering food and medicine to those isolated, for example, individuals and business have shown that bicycles are part of the solution for strengthening solidarity in our communities.

Cycling has allowed people, especially essential workers without the luxury and privilege of teleworking, to commute safely to work, accompany children to school and run errands efficiently. 

Turning the Cycling Craze Into a Permanent Solution

Focusing on other positives, women have also been in the middle of the cycling craze that has swept across many cities around the world. The bicycle has always been a symbol of emancipation, autonomy and freedom and an indispensable companion in women’s struggle for equality. It therefore comes as no surprise that women have once again, and in otherwise difficult conditions, embraced the possibilities offered by the bicycle. 

During the COVID-19 crisis, the bicycle has once again become a necessity and triumphantly emerged as the cheapest, safest and most efficient mode of transport. As a tool that helps break down mobility barriers, fights transport poverty and contributes to social cohesion between people of different backgrounds, it has answered the fragility of our current mobility systems. Policies promoting cycling are therefore indispensable not only when addressing environmental concerns, but also for reasons of social justice, inclusion and solidarity. 

Despite positive developments further accelerated by the pandemic, the gap between women and men in the cycling modal share still exists in most countries around the world.

Research shows that women tend to value better and safer cycling infrastructure more than men. Another reason contributing to gender disparity is that the commutes of women tend to involve more trips and trip chaining. Additionally, women make more non-work trips, many of which are done accompanied by children. Safe and adequate cycling infrastructure therefore becomes key. This is further shown by the reversed modal shares in the most well-developed cycling countries. In the Netherlands, the cycling share of women is 28%, compared to 26% for men

Understanding the need for cities that are designed to make shorter trips a no-fuss endeavour is at the core of concepts such as the “15-minute city”, which is quickly gaining momentum. Pushed by Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, the underlying idea is that residents’ homes, workplace, shopping, entertainment, education and healthcare necessities are all within a 15-minute walk or cycle. 

Designing cities with women’s needs in mind, especially of those poor and marginalised, contributes to making cycling more accessible and attractive to the groups of people otherwise underrepresented in cycling. And as Pinar Pinzuti nicely puts it: 

“If women ride bicycles in a city, men and children will ride too!”

Women and Cycling at Velo-city 2021 Lisboa

The next edition of the Velo-city conference series will bring all Velo-citizens to Lisbon, Portugal, from 6-9 September 2021. Together, we will explore the creation of inclusive, cycle-friendly environments accessible to cyclists of all ages, abilities, backgrounds and genders.

The Preliminary Programme of the conference has now been published, and three sessions will be dedicated specifically to address topics of gender and cycling. In the months leading up to #VC21, we will be dedicating more space to the in-depth exploration of these sessions, so stay tuned for more!

Women in Cycling Network 

Women in Cycling is a new initiative launched by ECF, CIE, Velokonzept, Mobycon and CONEBI aiming to help women to get more visibility, impact and leading roles in the cycling sector. The Network was launched virtually on 24 February 2021 with more than 550 participants. Read more and celebrate the International Women’s Day by joining us here.

By Eva Malovrh
08th March, 2021