Spokes models

SciAm has a piece in the October issue which argues that US cities are not particularly bicycle-friendly, and that even in the most so, male cyclists far outnumber females. The reasoning:

Women are considered an “indicator species” for bike-friendly cities for several reasons. First, studies across disciplines as disparate as criminology and child ¬≠rearing have shown that women are more averse to risk than men. In the cycling arena, that risk aversion translates into increased demand for safe bike infrastructure as a prerequisite for riding. Women also do most of the child care and household shopping, which means these bike routes need to be organized around practical urban destinations to make a difference.

Bike Pittsburgh has been running the numbers for the 60 largest US cities, and only 20 have even 1 percent of commuters on bicycles. Portland, at 6 percent, has the most. But even in Portland, there are half again as many men as women on wheels.

Near the bottom of the top 60 is Oklahoma City, ranked 56th, with a whole 0.2 percent of commuters on bicycles: 0.3 percent of men, 0.1 percent of women. Dallas finished dead last, as anyone who has ever driven there can probably understand; Tulsa finished 43rd overall, though it’s tied for 22nd for women. (Among women only, OKC rises to a tie for 37th.) It might be useful for our Trails people to see what Tulsa is doing to promote cycling. And SciAm notes:

In the U.S., most cycling facilities consist of on-street bike lanes, which require riding in vehicle-clogged traffic, notes John Pucher, a professor of urban planning at Rutgers University and longtime bike scholar. And when cities do install traffic-protected off-street bike paths, they are almost always along rivers and parks rather than along routes leading “to the supermarket, the school, the day care center,” Pucher says.

Assuming, of course, they’ll even let you ride to school.


  1. McGehee »

    12 October 2009 · 9:40 am

    Peachtree City, GA is laced with off-street paths of that variety, whih they cleverly designated as cart paths rather than bike paths. Of course, this ha led to the bicyclists having to share the paths with people driving carts, so there is a downside…

    But these paths go pretty much everywhere; it’s unusual to drive through a parking lot of any size anywhere in town and not see a golf “car” parked in a space alongside the more conventional motor vehicles.

    Actual bikes are much rarer.

  2. Tam »

    12 October 2009 · 10:10 am

    As a longtime Atlanta resident and current denizen of Indy, I’m shocked to see the former rank higher than the latter; it must be the weather.

    I’d rather bike from Broad Ripple to downtown than from Virginia-Highlands to downtown any day of the week.

  3. canadienne »

    12 October 2009 · 1:00 pm

    I’d love a city with bike paths separated from both pedestrians and cars – some German cities, like Hannover, do a great job of this. North American cities seem to be more fixated on cars. Walking actually feels safer than biking, as bikes do not belong in traffic. Some cyclists are idiots, so they don’t belong on pedestrian paths either. (I bike like I drive, like a little old lady.)

    I admit to environmental concerns, and health concerns (both of which seem to be scorned by some of your commenters), but I think the reason I like to get outside is reflected in Isaac Asimov’s old short story “It’s Such a Beautiful Day”

    I think it is ridiculous that children not be allowed to bike to school!

  4. Lisa Paul »

    14 October 2009 · 9:58 am

    I notice San Francisco is right up there near the top. I think because we do NOT have risk-averse female bikers. In fact, if you see a female bike messenger headed your way, you move over. Even if you are in an Urban Assault Vehicle. You don’t have a chance. These gals carry chains. And they use them.

  5. DFW Point-to-Point »

    15 November 2009 · 2:32 pm

    Propaganda – or Not?…

    I did a little more checking, and this claims it came from Scientific American, though I could find no mention of it there. It also cites “Bike Pittsburgh” as a source, here. It doesn’t really seem to have very high fidelity data, though it does cla…

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