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Voices From the National Women’s Bicycling Forum

For the second year running, the Women's Bicycling Forum kicked off the National Bike Summit in Washington, DC. 350 people attended, and Streetfilms got to take their pulse on the state of bicycling for women and collect some suggestions about how to grow the number of women who ride.

Here's a montage of what we heard (sorry to the many left on the cutting room floor), set to cycling scenes in a dozen cities throughout the U.S.

Clarence Eckerson, Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • Cali Bike Tours

    This is an awesome piece on how to get more women biking! Thanks for doing what you do Clarence!

  • ladyfleur

    Another great thing about protected bike lanes is that it sends a clear message that the city believes bicycling is a legitimate, respect form of transit. I think that aspect appeals to women almost as much as the safety aspect.

    Family members, friends and co-workers are often discouraging: "Is it safe to ride with all those cars? How can your ride on the street with your kid?" But when the city has separated bike lanes on busy streets and a good network of slow traffic streets, women get fewer discouraging comments.

  • Krieg01

    Great video, as an avid cyclist in Southern California I totally agree that more women are out there, just an observation. I'm curious what cities are you featuring in the video that seem to have such huge ridership in the downtown area's?

  • Edpino

    Nice job Clarence! Good to see you back and advocating. Go women in all areas

  • http://karenlynnallen.blogspot.com/ Karen Lynn Allen

    I enjoyed this video and hearing women's voices talk about bicycling. I think we need to look beyond safety in bicycling and instead consider then pleasantness of the experience.  Women aren't going to bicycle if they view the experience as unsafe, but they also aren't going to bicycle if they find the experience stressful or unpleasant, a different metric than safety.  This is why physically-separated bicycle infrastructure is so important.

    If a 10,000 lb truck rides within 8 inches of you and doesn't hit you, was that particular experience unsafe? Well, no, not exactly. After all, you're fine. Was the experience unpleasant and stressful? To this question, women are going to say yes with much more frequency than men. Is this because women are big babies, naturally timid and just need to gain confidence, buck up, and they'll be fine?

    Let's consider the sheer sensory perception differences between men and women.  On average, women have better peripheral vision and men have better distance vision. When riding a bike (as opposed to driving a car) one's peripheral vision is wide-open. This means that women will notice themselves riding next to the 10,000 lb truck much earlier and receive a huge negative sensory impact of its looming presence all the time it's next to her. Men might not even notice the truck until it's nearly past them. On average, it's more unpleasant and stressful for a woman to ride next to large, fast-moving objects than a man because she perceives them sooner and more clearly. It's not timidity and it's not her imagination.

    On average, women hear multiple audio sounds simultaneously, while men, especially if focused, can more easily tune out audio sources. So if a man is concentrating on something, he may not hear the truck roaring from behind or only be vaguely conscious of it. On average a woman is likely to perceive the roar much earlier and, unable to tune it out, experience a much more unpleasant sensory overload. It's not timidity and it's not her imagination.

    On average, women have a better sense of smell than men. On average, the nasty, stinky exhaust fumes from trucks and cars truly are more revolting to a woman than a man. It's not timidity and it's not her imagination.

    There is a reason most vehicular cyclists are men. On average men don't see, hear or smell the traffic the way women do, so they just don't find it as physically stressful or unpleasant. (Which is not, by any means, to say there is no variation in men, or that all men find traffic pleasant.)

  • http://twitter.com/SchwankyTown Zak

    You wouldn't believe all the comments I get from moms about "safety" and "all those cars". Protected bike lanes would help reduce those comments for sure.

  • http://www.streetfilms.org Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    I'd say about 80% of the footage in the videos is from NYC, Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Portland.  There are others, but some only a shot or two.

  • amelia

    HELL YEAH!

  • Bicibella

    Yay! You go grrrls!!!