Making cycling more female-friendly

Move aside MAMLs. City of Sydney is focusing on making cycling more attractive to women as it continues its push to increase bike riding across the city.

Melissa Derwent participated in the survey

Sydney has the highest rate of trips by private vehicle in Australia with just one per cent of people cycling to work, and women aren’t cycling at the same rate as men, according to the On the Go: How Women Travel Around our City report.

The report, by City of Sydney and the C40 Women4Climate initiative, looked at why this is happening and what to do about it.

Researchers surveyed nearly 900 women across Sydney and walked and cycled alongside 18 women to better understand their experiences.

The report says there is a historical bias towards designing cities for men, and women can face unique barriers to participating in active transport that may not apply to so called MAMLs (middle-aged men in lycra).

These include concerns about safety and harassment, lack of access to end of trip facilities like showers, change rooms and lockers, and perceptions that walking and cycling are “just not me” or something only inner-city women do, the survey found.

Some women said they didn’t want to turn up to work with sweaty clothes and helmet hair, and others said responsibilities like shopping and dropping children off at school prevented them cycling or walking.

However concerns about the environment were a key factor cited by the women surveyed in choosing active transport, while others said they chose it because it was cost effective.

Encouraging women onto their bikes

The report recommends a range of initiatives to encourage more women to walk and cycle including making more inclusive spaces, challenging perception and increasing safety with separate cycleways, better lighting and other measures.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore

City of Sydney says it will use the findings to work with the state government, urban planners and transport health and sustainability experts from councils, state government and community organisations to develop ideas to make walking and cycling in Sydney more women-friendly.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore says the response reflects Council’s commitment to get more people walking and cycling across Sydney.

“By breaking down the perception, safety and access barriers that are stopping women from riding to work, to schools and local businesses, we will create connected active transport infrastructure for all people of all ages, abilities and confidence levels,” she said.

The global C40Cities climate action organisation, which co-funded the research, says the research helps fill a global data gap.

“Mayors have long been trying to enable more people to cycle, because it is good for public health and good for the climate. Understanding the barriers that are stopping women from getting on their bikes is going to help cities everywhere. As we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, that is more important than ever,” executive director Mark Watts said.

City of Sydney is holding a series of workshops arising from the survey, which also comes in the context of the Three Cities vision, Council’s Resilient Sydney strategy and Transport for NSW’s Future Transport Strategy.

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2 thoughts on “Making cycling more female-friendly

  1. Good, smooth surfaces (avoid using slippery paint), and regular maintenance (eg sweeping up grit, tree debris and glass) are also important for safer cycling, as well as fast restoration of services trenches dug across bikeways and footpaths.

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