http://www.grist.org/biking/2011-06-20- ... omy-stupid
A widely cited 2009 study found that women are more likely to choose to ride on quiet residential streets, while men are more likely to choose direct routes even if they have heavier traffic. Women are an "indicator species" for cycling, this study concludes, and that cities can cajole greater women ridership by building safer-feeling bike infrastructure.
Much is also made of another concern women often express in surveys -- that cycling to work will impede our ability to conform to professional norms in clothing, makeup, and hairstyles. The response can be seen in the proliferation of the "Cycle Chic" brand, tweed rides, and the commingling of bicycling and high fashion in advertising.
There's plenty of truth in both the fear and fashion theories. But before we commit to blaming women's transportation practices on our timidity and vanity, I think it's worth looking at some other potential factors.
Like the economy.
Women are more likely than men to be poor. We still don't earn equal pay -- as recently as 2009, women made 77 cents for each dollar earned by men doing equivalent work. Other factors range from the kind of work available to women to hiring bias against pregnant women and mothers.
Despite the economy of bicycle transportation, households with lower incomes are less likely to have access to bikes. Barriers to bicycling include the cost of bicycle purchase when all one's transportation dollars are tied up in a car, cultural barriers such as perception and police profiling, and lack of access to safe infrastructure in neighborhoods with low housing costs.
Another barrier: Bicycling takes time. And this is something that, by the numbers, women have less of than men. In 2004, employed women reported an average of one more hour of housework per day than their employed male counterparts. These same employed women reported twice the time spent caring for young children. Employment status being equal, we have more household duties and are far more likely than men to be caregivers for aging relatives.
These kinds of responsibilities add up to more complicated transportation needs. Women make more trips than men, with diverse kinds of trips chained together. And twice as many trips as men's are at the service of passengers -- that is to say, the school drop-off, soccer practice, and the play date wedged in there between the grocery run and the commute to work (see pages 15 and 16 of this paper). No wonder the minivan is inextricably linked with motherhood in America.
We can hope that one day none of these duties will be tied to gender. Until then, statistically, if you're a woman, biking is going to be less accessible to you than for your statistical male counterpart.