The Atlantic Cities examines what keeps women from cycling and how bike share is changing that. From the Atlantic Cities:

Do a lot of women ride bicycles in your city? If so, you’ve probably got a healthy bicycling culture where people in general feel safe getting on the bike to ride for transportation and recreation.

The importance of women as an “indicator species” for biking has been known for years. But the United States doesn’t look so great when it comes to this particular statistic. Only 24 percent of bike trip were made by women in the U.S. in 2009, compared with 55 percent in the Netherlands and 49 percent in Germany.

Women Bike, a new initiative from the League of American Bicyclists aims to close the biking gender gap in the U.S. It launched this month with the publication of a report, “Women on a Roll,” [PDF] that puts together the numbers on women biking in a way that hasn’t been done before.

“There’s been a lack of collective knowledge on key data points,” says Carolyn Szczepanski, director of communications for Women Bike. “We’re really trying to position ourselves as a hub of information.”

The data in the report shows a lot of pent-up desire for biking among women. Among the statistics:

  • 82 percent of women have a positive view of bicyclists.
  • From 2003 to 2012, the number of women participating in bicycling rose 20 percent.
  • 60 percent of bicycle owners between the ages of 17 and 28 are women.

So why aren’t more women out there riding? The report focuses on what it calls the “five Cs”: comfort, convenience, confidence, consumer products, and community. The numbers show that the lack of sufficient safe bike infrastructure plays a major role in keeping women off the streets. And in places where bike lanes go in, women use them. Local surveys show dramatic increases in female ridership on streets with dedicated cycling facilities:

  • In New Orleans, female ridership went up 115 percent on South Carrollton Street after a bike lane was installed.
  • In Philadelphia, the presence of a bike lane increased female use by 276 percent.
  • In New York in 2011, 15 percent of riders on a street without bike lanes were women, compared with 32 percent on a street with bike lanes.
  • 53 percent of women say they would ride more if there were more bike lanes and paths.

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