Join 3,434 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


To boost urban cycling, figure out what women want.
September 25, 2009 12:59 PM   Subscribe

In part because a gender gap persists in urban cycling, women are considered an “indicator species” for bike-friendly cities.

If you're interested in reading more about women and cycling, Jan Garrard at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia has a ton of publications available.
posted by lunit (106 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
This rings pretty true. Here in Seattle, I seem to remember that last time Cascade Bike Club surveyed its members, a plurality of women said that the thing that would get them biking more is separated lanes.
posted by gurple at 1:06 PM on September 25, 2009


I think that the city cycling demographic probably also skews disproportionately young for other than socieconomic reasons: it's a lot easier getting back up after a nice ding from a taxi (cough) at 25 than at 50.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:14 PM on September 25, 2009


My wife used to bike to work here in Toronto. She told me it scared her out of her wits, but in a good way, as though it satisfied some sort of thrill-seeking impulse she didn't even know she had.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:21 PM on September 25, 2009


more is separated lanes.

Separated by what? Not gender, right? What do you mean?
posted by xmutex at 1:24 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


> Separated by what? Not gender, right? What do you mean?

Designated bike lanes rather than requiring riders to mix with motor traffic.
posted by ardgedee at 1:26 PM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wonder what the international symbol for a women-only bike lane is.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 1:27 PM on September 25, 2009


a plurality of women said that the thing that would get them biking more is separated lanes.

It would get more men riding too. There are a few hundred miles of so-called "bike lanes" in my city that were put there mainly to get some kind of Federal credit, but they are nothing more than a re-striping of the exiting roads. I may be a grandma, but I'm not going to ride on those things where I'll be less than a foot away from speeding SUVs with texting drivers and huge buses while dodging potholes and puddles.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:27 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


+1 for bike lanes, but I can't get over "gender" and "species". It's like a tongue-in-cheek commentary on how Americans will go to all ends to avoid the word "sex."
posted by rokusan at 1:29 PM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Anecdata: Mrs. Everichon is a game cyclist, but does not feel comfortable even in our town's segregated, much-trafficked bike lanes. It gets weird when we're out together--"Where did spouse go? Ah: There she is, on the sidewalk. Across the street."

Interesting post, lunit, thanks!
posted by everichon at 1:29 PM on September 25, 2009


> ...a plurality of women said that the thing that would get them biking more is separated lanes.

My aforementioned wife came back from Copenhagen raving "They had real bike lanes! With curbs!"
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:30 PM on September 25, 2009 [6 favorites]


*Paging lfr to the blue. . . .*
posted by Danf at 1:37 PM on September 25, 2009


Yeah, the supposed "bike lanes" here in Los Angeles are generally nothing but an old white stripe painted down the side of heavily trafficked streets. Where cars park. It's ridiculous.
posted by Justinian at 1:37 PM on September 25, 2009


everichon: "There she is, on the sidewalk. Across the street"

If it helps any, you could point out to her that most car / bike collisions are not caused by a car passing unsafely, but rather at an intersection, most often the notorious "right hook". Sidewalk riding doesn't make you any safer in an intersection, and arguably makes you less safe. Also, it is not very nice to pedestrians.
posted by idiopath at 1:37 PM on September 25, 2009 [4 favorites]


Funny. In his wonderful book Of Bicycles, Bakelites, and Light Bulbs, Weibe Bijker convincingly argues that the "safety bicycle" (what we now refer to as the "bicycle") was invented mostly to address the concerns of women riders in the late 19th century.

More in the Wikipedia article on social construction of technology.
posted by xthlc at 1:39 PM on September 25, 2009


The Card Cheat - The bike lanes in Copenhagen are great, except when you're a foreign pedestrian and get confused on how to cross that thing when you need to get on the bus in the morning. I've been slammed by a pile of bikes when I crossed it (in a haze of "still sleepy") heading for that bus thinking I was still on the pavement. Duh, me.
posted by dabitch at 1:41 PM on September 25, 2009


women are considered an “indicator species”

Like canaries... you send a woman biking to your intended destination. If she comes back alive, the route is safe.
posted by qvantamon at 1:42 PM on September 25, 2009 [12 favorites]


everichon / idiopath: Bicycle sidepaths: crash risks and liability.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:47 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I wonder what the international symbol for a women-only bike lane is."

For some reason the saying "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle" popped into my head here, which makes no sense in the context of symbols for women-only bike lanes.

So I propose it should be a fish on a bicycle.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 1:49 PM on September 25, 2009 [5 favorites]


Some of my scariest cycling experiences have come not from careless drivers but from highly aggressive drivers. The "Get off my road!" mentality is common in places where cyclists aren't as common. I would speculate that men are more willing endure driver/cyclist confrontations that often can include projectiles, shouted epithets, and aggressive maneuvering.
posted by andythebean at 1:50 PM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


most car / bike collisions are not caused by a car passing unsafely, but rather at an intersection, most often the notorious "right hook".

So true. As I mentioned before, RIP Alice Swanson.
posted by exogenous at 1:50 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


As someone whose number nearly came up yesterday (narrowly avoided the door prize at speed), let me say this: bike lanes or no bike lanes, educate drivers to be aware of other things than themselves, their phone conversations, texts and whatever other random things they're thinking of instead of driving/parking.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:52 PM on September 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


> The "Get off my road!" mentality is common in places where cyclists aren't as common.

Part of me would like to see Peak Oil hit the fan just so I could see the "Get off my road!" crowd struggling to push their fat butts up a hill on a bike.
posted by you just lost the game at 1:54 PM on September 25, 2009 [4 favorites]


It could be that there's a difference between European and American women as opposed to there being some huge difference in road layout. I'm sure if you compared the average Dutch woman with her American counterpart the differences in term of physical fitness would be pretty stark.
posted by GuyZero at 2:00 PM on September 25, 2009


i'm female. these are my personal anecdotes of my experience cycling in NYC:

i ride my bicycle almost everywhere, everyday. it's a personal drive to be healthy and a love of cycling itself - but this is not without a thick skin, resistance to people telling me i'm a fragile little girl, and a spine to handle the occasional scary moment. more of my male friends understand this mentality than my female friends. from the females, there are a variety of reasons not to ride regularly - what they are wearing, showing up sweaty, fear of cabs/cars/people/potholes/dirt/weather, etc. i grew up as a tomboy, rolling around in the dirt with my brothers. i've probably adopted a lot of their mentality.

in regards to appearance - personally, i DO understand the desire to show up somewhere dressed to the nines without sweat screwing up your makeup or clothes. the way my hair is cut is specifically so it doesn't look so horrible after the helmet has crushed it. since i ride, i usually end up having to pack an outfit into a huge bag and upon arrival heading straight to the bathroom to clean up and change - this is a major hassle, and yet b/c of my love for the ride and speed i have accommodated to this regardless. some guys can get away with less.

like the article mentioned, i'm all for more bike lanes. that kind of illusion of safety is rad - sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. the crazy guys i know, the ones that would be in the "A" group that ride really fast - those are often people with something to prove. i feel like the few female friends i have that ride don't feel that pressure, don't need to be the fastest or "swing their dicks around" as the phrase goes. enjoyment from riding for me comes more from the actual ride itself and what i can do with my own body, versus comparing myself to the strength of others.

these are just my thoughts about the difference between men/women cyclists. they are not meant to be generalizations - i understand variations are out there. i'm just drawing off my own experience. i would love to see more women riding - i think that women can do anything and should not be held back from cycling fun for any reason. you can adapt yourself, or wait for it to adapt to you. i want to have fun now.

lastly this quote:
"I say riding to work in heels is easier than walking to work in heels."

good lord. heels suck, on and off the bike. the day they make clip in heels is the day i... i dunno. not gunna happen. how on earth can your calf muscles operate properly when they are all bunched up in a heel anyway??
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 2:01 PM on September 25, 2009 [5 favorites]


Sidewalk riding doesn't make you any safer in an intersection, and arguably makes you less safe. Also, it is not very nice to pedestrians.

Actually, sidewalk riding has been demonstrated to be statistically less safe. Much less safe—the likelihood of a car vs bike collision is something like 4x as great.

Most naive cyclists are disproportionately concerned about "overtaking collisions"—that is, where a car hits you as it passes you. This is actually a relatively uncommon type of accident.

Also, fwiw, sidewalk riding is illegal in most places unless you dismount at every intersection and walk your bike through it. I'd be surprised if anybody has ever been cited for this, but there it is.
posted by adamrice at 2:03 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Example
posted by andythebean at 2:06 PM on September 25, 2009


I cycle in London, on quieter roads when I can, and the few times I've come close to an accident, its mostly been due to other cyclists, not car drivers. Car drivers pretty much stick to the rules, whereas some of the cyclists here think they can just do whatever they want.
posted by memebake at 2:12 PM on September 25, 2009


This is why I ride everywhere with my girlfriend. If she disappears, it means I need to be extra cautious.

Or check behind for vintage clothes stores or Portuguese bakeries.
posted by anthill at 2:13 PM on September 25, 2009 [7 favorites]


Where I live the bike paths are just sidewalks with special signs (and usually smoother grade). So you have mixed foot + bike traffic on the sidewalk/bikepath and car traffic on the road. Also everyone rides on ordinary sidewalks as well.

Also, fwiw, sidewalk riding is illegal in most places unless you dismount at every intersection and walk your bike through it. I'd be surprised if anybody has ever been cited for this, but there it is.

Actually, supposedly you're more likely to get hit crossing the street from a sidewalk then you are riding in the road.
posted by delmoi at 2:14 PM on September 25, 2009


Can we oppress the recliner bike folks next? they seem like probable smug types who almost certainly have some kind of theory about how they are smarter than the rest of us.
posted by Artw at 2:14 PM on September 25, 2009


+1 for bike lanes, but I can't get over "gender" and "species". It's like a tongue-in-cheek commentary on how Americans will go to all ends to avoid the word "sex."

what?

You should get a lapel pin that says "I ♥ confirmation bias."
posted by orville sash at 2:17 PM on September 25, 2009


they seem like probable smug types who almost certainly have some kind of theory about how they are smarter than the rest of us.

I'd explain it to you, but I doubt you could follow.
posted by Zed at 2:18 PM on September 25, 2009 [7 favorites]


Get him!
posted by Artw at 2:19 PM on September 25, 2009


"figure out what women want" is not a phrase i would follow with "to boost urban cycling"
posted by kitchenrat at 2:23 PM on September 25, 2009


Can we oppress the recliner bike folks next? they seem like probable smug types who almost certainly have some kind of theory about how they are smarter than the rest of us.

I know, right?
posted by dersins at 2:23 PM on September 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


See also
posted by dersins at 2:24 PM on September 25, 2009


Ugh, I need to stay out of biking threads.

It could be that there's a difference between European and American women as opposed to there being some huge difference in road layout. I'm sure if you compared the average Dutch woman with her American counterpart the differences in term of physical fitness would be pretty stark.

Unlike the difference in physical fitness between the average Dutch man and his American counterpart? Or could it be that the differences in physical fitness are not the cause but rather are caused by the fact that most US urban areas are not bike-friendly.
posted by muddgirl at 2:24 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Attack! No mercy!
posted by Artw at 2:25 PM on September 25, 2009


what? You should get a lapel pin that says "I ♥ confirmation bias."

Sex refers having the trait of being female or male. Gender is a grammatical category. More and more, people use incorrectly use "gender" to refer to biological characteristics. And more and more, these people linger on my lawn.
posted by exogenous at 2:26 PM on September 25, 2009 [4 favorites]


> Part of me would like to see Peak Oil hit the fan just so I could see the "Get off my road!" crowd struggling to push their fat butts up a hill on a bike.

Us cyclists still have a stake in cheap petroleum, you know. Tubes, tires and lube come from somewhere.

Come the post-Peak Oil end times, I don't think your schadenfreude will feel all that satisfying.
posted by ardgedee at 2:26 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


STUDY: Hummer owners believe they've made "a highly moral consumption choice"
posted by Artw at 2:28 PM on September 25, 2009


Us cyclists still have a stake in cheap petroleum, you know. Tubes, tires and lube come from somewhere.

This is just anecdotal, I know, but my tubes and tires are made from the flayed skin of SUV drivers, and my chain lube from the rendered fat of their babies.
posted by dersins at 2:29 PM on September 25, 2009 [11 favorites]


exogenous: "More and more, people use incorrectly use "gender" to refer to biological characteristics."

Gender is a more inclusive term, encompassing sex, as well as non-biological differentiators between men and women.
posted by idiopath at 2:29 PM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


dersins: "Tubes, tires and lube come from somewhere"

My chain oil is made from vegetable oil, and is biodegradable. Tubes can be made of latex, as can tires. My current tires are mostly latex (from trees) mixed with silicone (from sand).

Because we rely on fossil fuels, like just about everyone alive in this day and age, many of us feel a responsibility to use them sparingly, and avoid using them when there is an alternative.
posted by idiopath at 2:32 PM on September 25, 2009


Metafilter: Tubes, tires and lube come from somewhere.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:33 PM on September 25, 2009


The internets?
posted by Artw at 2:33 PM on September 25, 2009


Eh, I've started to ride on the sidewalks a bit more lately. It's darker and colder out now. Outside of downtown the vehicles go faster, there is way less room next to the curb, and pretty much no one is on the sidewalks. There's plenty of shoulder for me to move to if someone does turn up. I end up passing maybe two or three people total and crossing two intersections.

So outside of downtown I'll usually be on the sidewalk or the bike path. Unfortunately, the bike path is full of drunks lately who are not all harmless (we had a couple of daytime sexual assaults reported last summer).
posted by ODiV at 2:36 PM on September 25, 2009


Also, while bikes can use/do sometimes need petroleum-based products, the comparison between a small quantity of lube that lasts for a long time, and a huge quantity of gasoline that gets burned off at a rate of an entire gallon every 30 miles (or less) is absurd.
posted by Tomorrowful at 2:37 PM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is just anecdotal, I know, but my tubes and tires are made from the flayed skin of SUV drivers, and my chain lube from the rendered fat of their babies.

It's a lot more work to maintain your bike this way, but it's well worth the extra effort. You get used to the smell eventually.
posted by metagnathous at 2:41 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


i am guessing that this post

Can we oppress the recliner bike folks next? they seem like probable smug types who almost certainly have some kind of theory about how they are smarter than the rest of us.
posted by Artw at 5:14 PM on September 25 [+] [!]


is tongue in cheek. regardless, i would like to point out this:

sheldon brown, a much loved bicycle enthusiast/mechanic/website-encyclopedia-for-all-things bicycle-repair extraordinaire ended up riding a recumbent trike because "Brown developed a nerve deterioration over the last years of his life. After losing his ability to balance an upright bicycle, he continued pedaling by using a recumbent tricycle." i think that's amazing and a great reason for this kind of bicycle to exist.

<3 Sheldon Brown, RIP.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 2:42 PM on September 25, 2009 [4 favorites]


mentioned in the first link, Copenhagen Cycle Chic deserves a callout. The hottest photoblog on the internets.
posted by GuyZero at 2:44 PM on September 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


Copenhagen Cycle Chic deserves a callout. The hottest photoblog on the internets.

Agreed. See also.
posted by dersins at 2:53 PM on September 25, 2009


When I taught a girlfriend to ride a bike for the first time, I was harsh about "no riding on the sidewalk, you're not eight years old."

These many years later, she's a much better road-cyclist than I am, and is even fearless on freeways.

I keep worrying she'll get into a fistfight with some teenage punk who's on the sidewalk, though.
posted by rokusan at 2:58 PM on September 25, 2009


The Card Cheat: "My aforementioned wife came back from Copenhagen raving "They had real bike lanes! With curbs!""

Indeed! I used to bike to elementary school in those lanes, four-ish miles through the city. They even have (or at least had) their own traffic lights.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:05 PM on September 25, 2009


Oh man I love breathless biking around city blocks! <3 I do tend to stay on the sidewalk... for fear of getting run over. Such a wuss, I know.
posted by dragonette1 at 3:10 PM on September 25, 2009


I was in Montreal last week and during the 2 hours between trains I tried to rent one of those Bixi bikes, which were everywhere and were being used.

At one location I was part way through getting a Bixi when 5 (20-something) women asked if I was taking the bike or returning it. They wanted the last 5 bikes left in the station which held about 20 bikes. So I smiled and offered them the bike, then walked two blocks south and got another.

Many of the bike lanes in Montreal are separated by a concrete curb. It is safe and easy so people use the infrastructure.
posted by ecco at 3:13 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


With all the hate centred on SUV drivers above, I wonder if, had they not been developed, would the general class of cars have been equally vilified? Are cars themselves acceptable to many simply because SUVs are worse?
posted by ecco at 3:14 PM on September 25, 2009


I've been commuting and riding for fun around town since spring 2008, putting in about 3200 kilometers so far. I had stopped cycling years ago because my previous experiences had left me feeling entirely incapable and terrified of traffic. (I think a low background level of terror is probably adaptive for cyclists, but it shouldn't incapacitate you).

I'm now pretty comfortable going just about anywhere in Toronto and the GTA in traffic. While the prospect of separated bike lines in at least some parts of downtown tempt me, it's because I get tired of being trapped behind slow cyclists and want to have my own version of an expressway, damn it. Right now, I ride on bike paths, I ride in or on the far edge of bike lanes (because NOBODY puts baby in the door zone), I take lanes as I see fit for speed and safety, I accelerate past stopped buses, and I make left turns from the left turn lane. And I cycle to work in my sweaty gear and change to a pretty dress when I get there. Win-win!

I think the biggest part of getting comfortable in traffic is developing an appropriate level of confidence and assertiveness without tipping over into reckless aggression. I'm still working on it. I read somewhere (can't find the link) that women are more at risk for certain kinds of accidents, like getting crushed by right turning traffic at a light after it changes to green, because we often scoot into the gutter instead of stopping dead centre in the lane, as a car would.

Anyway, there's a meetup in the Beaches and I have to leave soon. I won't pack a pretty dress in my backpack, but for you guys, I'll put on a fresh shirt.
posted by maudlin at 3:21 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


With all the hate centred on SUV drivers above, I wonder if, had they not been developed, would the general class of cars have been equally vilified?

They're just an easy target for a stereotype, actually. I should've included all careless drivers in my original comment. SUVs are simply more visually intimidating because they're wider and taller, and they also have more potential blindspots for cyclists to become lost in. But at the end of the day a rider is going to get hurt about just as bad by a Smart car as a Hummer H2 if he/she is struck at cruising speed.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:22 PM on September 25, 2009


> So true. As I mentioned before, RIP Alice Swanson.

I was wondering who the ghost bikes (self-link to flickr gallery) were for when I was in Dupont Circle last week. Wow.
posted by ardgedee at 3:31 PM on September 25, 2009


In my experience Audis are way more frightning than any SUV.
posted by wcfields at 3:31 PM on September 25, 2009


re: "species" and "gender"
I'd much rather hear "gender" than "female species". Human males and females are not two different species! People are misrepeating the phrase "female of the species".

Here it seems the term "indicator species" is being used metaphorically, so it doesn't bother me.
posted by soelo at 3:39 PM on September 25, 2009


Women cyclists more at risk for obeying traffic law.
posted by availablelight at 3:45 PM on September 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


Sidewalks. When I'm in a car, I hate bikes being on the road, and when I'm on a bike, I hate being on the road with cars. I know I'm getting in the way there, and there's a nice gray strip just a few feet over with nobody on it. And the few people that are on it are proportionally a lot closer to my own speed on a bike.

Plus, my mom told me not to ride in the road.
posted by scrowdid at 3:52 PM on September 25, 2009


Can we oppress the recliner bike folks next? they seem like probable smug types who almost certainly have some kind of theory about how they are smarter than the rest of us.

Everyone I know with a recumbent is someone who wouldn't be able to bike without one due to a back injury. I'm glad there's adaptive technology, so to speak, available for people who want to keep cycling. Do you make fun of crutches too? Sheesh.

(That being said, these look incredibly dangerous to me for commuter cycling, since they have such a low profile.)
posted by availablelight at 3:57 PM on September 25, 2009


Plus, my mom told me not to ride in the road.

Will you mom pay the $79 ticket I'd get for riding on any sidewalk in my small city? (And yes, ticketing has gotten aggressive.) Ay, there's the rub: it's not a preference in most areas, it's the law.
posted by availablelight at 3:58 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am female and I have been an occasional urban bike commuter for the last 20 years, mostly in Seattle but now in Boston and environs. Whether I ride on the street or on the sidewalk depends on the traffic on both--the number and speed of cars, the number of pedestrians. I try not to ride in places where both pedestrian and car traffic is very thick. I am decidedly leisurely and unaggressive in my riding and if both ped and car traffic is very thick. I just get off the damn thing and walk it til the sidewalks clear out.

On streets with fast traffic and light or no pedestrians I will ride on the sidewalk, making sure to stay on the right side of the road so that cars coming onto the busy street will see me coming. I also religiously check for right-turning cars at intersections and driveways.
I would love, love, LOVE bike lanes truly separated from car traffic. God, that would be great.

I have never been particularly scared about riding on the street/near moderate traffic...until this summer, when I was rear-ended very hard while driving my car. In the blink of an eye one inattentive jackass in a truck destroyed our family car. Had the situation been slightly different, my kids or I could have been severly injured or killed. Since then I feel much more skittish about riding, even (perhaps especially) on relatively quiet suburban roads. All it takes is one dumbass who's messing with a cell phone instead of paying attention and game over. I still ride--love the exercise--but I'm far more nervous about it now.
posted by Sublimity at 4:01 PM on September 25, 2009


mentioned in the first link, Copenhagen Cycle Chic deserves a callout.

Wow, cycling looks so different there. Cigarettes, no helmets, street clothes and such a casual relaxed attitude. None of wide-eyed look of constant fear that most US bikers seem to have.
posted by octothorpe at 4:24 PM on September 25, 2009


The other day I was riding on the road in suburban south bay in what's basically a commercial area. There are bike lanes and for a variety of reasons there are few cars and even fewer pedestrians - if I see one pedestrian it's unusual. So basically there's no reason not to ride on the road.

Another guy on a bike is ahead of me in the bike lane and then cuts up a driveway onto the sidewalk. I have no idea why, as the road is empty. A block later he comes up behind someone actually walking on the sidewalk and he slows down and the pedestrian is kind weaving around so he can't pass him and I don't know why but this guy on a mountain bike won't ride on the grass so there's this horribly awkward attempt to pass and both of them come to a dead stop to discuss why the pedestrian won't let this guy pass and why the other guy is riding on the sidewalk.

I passed them on the road a few seconds later thinking that it was like watching two planes collide in an otherwise empty sky.

Anyway, don't ride on sidewalks, even empty ones.
posted by GuyZero at 4:29 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


To all those saying they ride on the sidewalk! Don't miss crush-onastick's link! The sidewalk is significantly more dangerous than road riding. The problems occur when you cross streets: drivers 1. are expecting slow-moving peds and 2. often can't see what's coming due to parked cars. Don't be fooled! It seems the best way to avoid accidents is to stay visible!
posted by wemayfreeze at 4:35 PM on September 25, 2009


Wemayfreeze, at your suggestion, I did look at that link--and followed it back to the source of that first graph. I think the Relative Risk presentation is rather misleading --"crash" means everything from a simple fall (no other object involved) to hitting inanimate objects to being in a collision with a car.

Also, check out table 4 in the paper I linked. Percentage of serious crashes was highest on a minor road without bike facilities (41%), then on a major road without bike facilities (29%). Serious crashes on routes classified as "other (most often 'sidewalk')" was 5%. Statistics are not dissimilar for the other categories of crashes in that table--sidewalk is always substantially lower than biking in the street.
posted by Sublimity at 5:04 PM on September 25, 2009


I would add--I absolutely concur that the best way to avoid accidents is to stay visible. But being in the flow of traffic not only raises your visibility, it increases your risk of accident.
posted by Sublimity at 5:07 PM on September 25, 2009


I'm walkng here!
posted by Artw at 5:12 PM on September 25, 2009


wemayfreeze: On the part of my commute where I'm on the sidewalk I cross two intersections. If there's a car that's in a position to come into contact with me on the cross walk then I wait until it's gone. There are no parked cars to obscure visibility, there are no buildings for people to come out of. There is a wide gravel shoulder I can ride on when passing a pedestrian. If this is not safer than riding on a street with no shoulder then I can't see it unless it somehow involves a car coming up on the sidewalk to get me.
posted by ODiV at 5:17 PM on September 25, 2009


It just seems weird to me that if hardly anyone is walking (and this will be even more true at twenty below) that I should put myself in the same space as a car or truck. My options will be even further limited in the winter if the bike path isn't cleared well.

But yeah, in an urban environment riding on sidewalks doesn't make any sense. I agree with you completely there. intersections every two seconds, pedestrians, parked cars, etc would make it non-practical and dangerous.
posted by ODiV at 5:23 PM on September 25, 2009


the few people that are on it are proportionally a lot closer to my own speed on a bike

Well, you see, you're supposed to turn the pedals.* Shortly after you try it, the existence of chain and sprockets may begin to make sense.

*With your feet.
posted by eritain at 5:29 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


One thing I see a lot of is that at an intersection, the bike lane becomes a right turn lane for cars and they never, ever look for bicycles before pulling across it. In some places they've experimented with various bumps, breakaway posts (which get promptly broken away) and other visual and surface deterrents but it doesn't really work. Perhaps high fines would, and the occasional sign reminding drivers of it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:40 PM on September 25, 2009


When I say "becomes a right turn lane", I don't mean legally, I mean in the mind of the driver. Or what passes for one.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:42 PM on September 25, 2009


Gender is a more inclusive term, encompassing sex [wiki link]

Wikipedia is weakipedia. I will derail this thread no more.
posted by exogenous at 6:30 PM on September 25, 2009


Everyone I know with a recumbent is someone who wouldn't be able to bike without one due to a back injury

Hmm, everyone I've encountered on a recumbent, including myself, doesn't have a back injury. That's speaking as someone who used to ride one quite a bit, and who has talked to a number of riders during that time. But it's also a nice option if you do have back issues.

look incredibly dangerous to me for commuter cycling

As far as dangerous for commuter cycling, well, even on my recumbent I sit as tall or taller than a kid on an upright bicycle, not to mention I'm well over 200 pounds of steel, flesh, and blood taking up a not-inconsequential six foot space on the road (plus the optional fluorescent flag). Given that, there isn't a very good excuse to run a recumbent rider down during your commute, unless you mow down all the kids biking in your neighborhood first. Oh, and any runner who hits the streets like they all seem to do around here. Oh, and anybody on a smallish scooter or moped.

There are a whole slew of people who talk about recumbent riders as if they were a completely separate group of bicyclists, and who don't seem to grasp a basic fact: many (probably most) recumbent riders used to ride road bikes before they went bent. For years when I was younger, the only vehicle I owned was a road bike to get around on. Judging by posts in related forums, a significant number of riders still switch off between bent and upright. So we have experienced the serious danger to all bicyclists in our urban wastelands, not just recumbents.
posted by mdevore at 6:42 PM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


exogenous: "Wikipedia is weakipedia. I will derail this thread no more."

That link relied on a cookie.

If you google gender, the top hits all refer to the non-biological aspects that differentiate men and women.

Once upon a time chauvanist unambiguously meant "foolish patriot" and had nothing to do with sexism, and gender was a grammatical term, and hello was a piece of nautical jargon that nobody used on land.

People are reluctant to invent words, so as times change old ones get recycled or extended, that is how language works.
posted by idiopath at 7:00 PM on September 25, 2009


soelo: Here it seems the term "indicator species" is being used metaphorically.

Just as well, because in biology / ecology the term is largely crap anyway, give or take the few cases where they may work with severe restrictions, or certain people who are wedded to the concept.

"Icon species" may be a better term in this case, because it refers to the cute ones everyone loves to see ;-)
posted by Pinback at 7:28 PM on September 25, 2009


My college town not only allows you to ride on sidewalks outside of downtown, but it also designates certain sidewalks as "bike paths." It irritates me. Designating a sidewalk as a bike path doesn't make it any safer, and I feel like you're expected to ride on the sidewalks rather than the street because there's a "bike path" for you. Most of the time, I'd rather just ride in the street.

Anyhoo... I'm a woman, and I'm a really new cyclist. I would say that designated paths were really important in terms of getting me on the bike in the first place, but after two months I've decided I'm not necessarily a fan. Before I started riding my bike a lot, being intimidated by cars was definitely a turnoff for me. But more than that, I associated (and to some extent still associate) bicycles with assholes. I think of cyclists as self-righteous, rude, and judgmental. I think of cyclists as the kind of people who would laugh at me as I, a beginning cyclist, "struggled to push my fat butt up a hill on a bike," as someone here put it. And I just prefer to avoid activities that put me into constant contact with testosterone-poisoned jerks holding pissing contests with each other. I think that part of the reason that American women don't ride bikes is that American cycling culture is pretty off-putting to a lot of women. My sense is that in other countries, bikes are much more likely to be seen as means of transportation, not as big metal phalluses.
posted by craichead at 7:37 PM on September 25, 2009 [4 favorites]


Legality aside, riding on the sidewalk just plain isn't safe.

It doesn't at all reduce the (rather minimal) risk you face as a cyclist in traffic.

You still have to enter and cross the same intersections as a cyclist in the street, but you do so without the benefit of being visible to the rest of traffic as a fellow vehicle.

It does, however, introduce more risk.

You'll be forced to avoid the same perils that pedestrians face, only at two to three times the speed: cars turning into driveways, cars exiting parking lots, cars that don't fully stop at stop signs, cyclists that don't stop at stop signs. How many feet does it take you to stop walking forward? Ok, now how many feet does it take you to you stop your bicycle? The first distance leads to a close call, the second to a collision.

Your best bet is to ride on the road as if you're on a vehicle capable of significant speed (hint: it is, you are) at a safe distance (5-6 ft) away from parked cars. This will place you in the line of sight of drivers entering your lane, either from intersections, from behind, or coming towards you. Signal your turns, take the space that's legally yours, and obey traffic signs/control devices.

(On preview: Sublimity, that's a self-selected survey of League of American Bicyclist members and doesn't even ask whether or not they have ridden on the sidewalk and not been in a crash. Every single cyclist who rides on the sidewalk could crash every time they ride on the sidewalk and that paper would still read the same. It's worthless data.)
posted by Coda at 7:40 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


You guys keep talking about streets sidewalks as if they're all the same everywhere (ie: in an urban centre). If there are no driveways and limited intersections that I only cross when no vehicle is phsysically able to run me over then how is it less safe?

There are no absolutes. Having this discussion reminds me of people who refuse to jaywalk, but will cross without looking when the light comes on.
posted by ODiV at 8:02 PM on September 25, 2009


I can promise you - from personal experience, even! - that there is a "huge difference in road layout" between the US and most bike-friendly European cities. And that's not even getting into the difference in the way you are treated by motorists and pedestrians.

I just moved to Chicago; what pass for bike lanes here are frequently just bikes painted on the right side of the road - on roads only wide enough for the lane and parked cars. Boston - the other US city I've lived in recently - has perhaps a few more actual lanes, but these tend to stop and start fairly randomly, and of course Boston roads are often very narrow, squeezing cylclists into the dooring zone. In both cities, there are many drivers who don't pay enough attention to bike lanes - dooring cyclists, cutting them off when trying to make a last-minute right turn, etc. Worse, there are many drivers who will intentionally try to tailgate you, run you off the road, throw things at you, etc., generally while shouting "GET OFF THE ROAD!" (and generally doing all of the above in areas where sidewalk biking is illegal.) (And, of course, there are plenty of uneducated cyclists who're still biking as if they're five year olds in a suburb - only now they're in the city, going on and off the sidewalk and road, generally without a helmet, endangering themselves and everyone around them.) Most people have no idea what road laws actually apply to bicyclists, and these laws often vary majorly between jurisdictions. It's a recipe for a stressful and sometimes terrifying commute, for all concerned.

Compare this to Munich, the non-US city I have lived in recently: on major roads in quite a few parts of the city, bikes have their own lanes, lights, etc., set off from cars, door-opening zones, and pedestrians. There are clear paths to suburbs and further-out areas of the city. In general, there's less of a reason for there to be conflict between bikes, pedestrians, and cars. It's no utopia, but dear God, I'd take the Munich bike commute any day. I like biking, but I don't like getting to work shaking because I was almost run over again.

I like biking. I am fine with a medium-length bike commute, even in moderately crappy weather. I am confident enough to put up with the assholes in the SUVs who harrass me, the drivers talking on their cellphones who regularly cut me off or otherwise endanger me. I can do it, but I really wish I didn't have to put up with all of the unnecessary danger and aggravation.
posted by ubersturm at 8:20 PM on September 25, 2009


Your best bet is to ride on the road as if you're on a vehicle capable of significant speed (hint: it is, you are) at a safe distance (5-6 ft) away from parked cars.

Hee hee. Try this on a lot of streets in Los Angeles. Let me know how high the hospital bills are. Assuming you survive.
posted by Justinian at 8:43 PM on September 25, 2009


They're just an easy target for a stereotype, actually. I should've included all careless drivers in my original comment. SUVs are simply more visually intimidating because they're wider and taller, and they also have more potential blindspots for cyclists to become lost in. But at the end of the day a rider is going to get hurt about just as bad by a Smart car as a Hummer H2 if he/she is struck at cruising speed.

I was hit by a Toyota Corolla two years ago and fractured my knee cap. I feel it every day. I'm lucky I managed to roll out of the way of another car after I flew off the bike and hit the road.

Drivers are dangerous, regardless of the size of the car. Drivers who hit cyclists should be put in jail or at least have their licenses revoked permanently.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:48 PM on September 25, 2009


Your best bet is to ride on the road as if you're on a vehicle capable of significant speed (hint: it is, you are) at a safe distance (5-6 ft) away from parked cars. This will place you in the line of sight of drivers entering your lane, either from intersections, from behind, or coming towards you. Signal your turns, take the space that's legally yours, and obey traffic signs/control devices.

I do this regularly. A week ago, an alpha male in a BMW sped between me and the lane to my left, barely missing myself and the car in the next lane over.

You do the best you can in the automobile-centric culture that is America, but drivers here are, by and large, ignorant, stupid and vicious people who think that being inside a metal box makes them immune to the consequences of applying Newton's laws of motion to flesh and bone.

The best bet is to ride the streets assuming drivers are out to kill you, using their cars as murder weapons. Because they will, if given half a chance.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:55 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can I plug a friend's work? Shelley Jackson writes Chainbreaker. She's a New Orleans fixture who is a modern pioneer in empowering women to ride and build bikes.
posted by valentinepig at 8:58 PM on September 25, 2009


ODiV, your counter-argument basically boils down to "but if I can never get hit by a car, I can never get hit by a car."

Safety is a function of probability. There is a decent amount of evidence which indicates that riding your bicycle on the sidewalk places you at a greater risk of an accident than riding on the street. Make of this what you will.

Justinian, I have ridden some of the worst streets that California has to offer. I offer the advice I do because of that experience, not in spite of it.

Blazecock, you have my sympathies. Be safe out there.
posted by Coda at 8:59 PM on September 25, 2009


Safety is a function of probability. There is a decent amount of evidence which indicates that riding your bicycle on the sidewalk places you at a greater risk of an accident than riding on the street. Make of this what you will.

Probability-wise, you're safer coming here and biking.

You can stay on my couch for a few weeks while you look for a job and a place to live if you like.
posted by ODiV at 9:16 PM on September 25, 2009


And yeah, the title of this post even says urban cycling so I apologize for my derail.
posted by ODiV at 9:18 PM on September 25, 2009


Sidewalks. When I'm in a car, I hate bikes being on the road, and when I'm on a bike, I hate being on the road with cars.

When I am walking, I hate people who feel entitled to ride their vehicles on what is clearly pedestrian territory, endangering me and others. People don't come with rearview mirrors and you are driving at way higher speed than I am walking.

Don't be a jackass about it. You belong in the road with the other vehicles unless you are walking that bike.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:27 PM on September 25, 2009 [4 favorites]


ODiV, right now I'm in a pretty damn safe town as far as cycling goes. If I end up on your couch, it'll be for the health care, not the bike lanes. ;)
posted by Coda at 9:29 PM on September 25, 2009


To anyone who is considering making cycling a bigger part of their routine, I recommend Forester's Effective Cycling. Most won't agree with everything in there, and I don't think his ideology is applicable to every situation, but this book has helped me approach cycling in traffic with confidence and practices that maximize my safety. Behaving assertively yet predictably, maintaining visibility, and simply obeying traffic regs have made my commutes and errands by bike much less stressful, and therefore more frequent. (FWIW, I'm overweight, I smoke a pack a day, and I drink a lot of beer. You don't have to be terribly fit to enjoy utility cycling.)

Granted, I live in a fairly bike-friendly city (Austin, TX), and my habits seldom involve competing for the road with motorists going over 45 MPH. Most traffic signals even detect your bike if you know where to stop. I've had a few minor incidents of harrassment, which are disappointing, but unusual.

I haven't had any collisions, fortunately. Most near misses I've had with cars have been my own fault. Given my experience, I'm most nervous about interacting with other cyclists, especially at night. I've had many close calls with other cyclists, and it's always been due to the other guy/girl doing something stupid (failure to yield, simply blowing a stop sign/red light, no lights after dark, riding on the wrong side of the road). When I clip out and put my foot down at every damned stop sign, I'm not just looking for cars. I'm listening for the clikclikclikclikclik which, more often than not, signifies the approaching freewheel of an oblivious asshole.

Have you been heckled by another cyclist for biking through a red light in Austin? Yeah, that was me.
posted by scatter gather at 10:32 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Drivers are dangerous, regardless of the size of the car. Drivers who hit cyclists should be put in jail or at least have their licenses revoked permanently.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:48 PM on September 25 [+] [!]


You assume it's always the drivers fault. Why?

I was once sideswiped by a car while on my bike. It was 100% my fault. The driver was horrified even though I was fine.


Why do bike threads always seem to devolve into a driver blame fest? I see people do stupid things in cars, on bikes, on foot, on skates, driving buses and even just standing there. Here in Minneapolis we have skyways that are often full of people trying to navigate them like street traffic. There are collisions and bottlenecks. The only reason there aren't injuries is that everyone is moving too slow. It's not the vehicle that makes someone careless.
posted by soelo at 10:36 PM on September 25, 2009


Drivers who hit cyclists should be put in jail or at least have their licenses revoked permanently.

Drivers at fault who hit cyclists should be subject to the same penalties as the at-fault party in any other vehicular collision.
posted by scatter gather at 10:51 PM on September 25, 2009


It's been years since I rode regularly, but when I did all the things a cyclist should do which included STAYING OFF THE FUCKING SIDEWALK.

People who ride on sidewalks are like motorists who ride in bike lanes. If you're too afraid to be statistically and factually safer on the road with the other vehicles, you have no business being on a bike.
posted by mistersquid at 11:32 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah, Metafilter does cycling threads so well...

Anyway, I'm a woman and the fact that I could take a multi-use lake front path to/from work was a big encouragement to me starting to commute by bike. But now that I've got 1,400 miles and almost 6 months of cycling under my belt, there are many times when I prefer the streets. I'm not nearly as scared as I expected to be when interacting with traffic. And while the multi use path concept is lovely, in reality the path is congested with pedestrians, rollerbladers, and many clueless cyclists. It feels much more dangerous than cars that (usually) follow the rules of the road.

The only thing that still scares me about street riding is being doored. Hasn't happened to me yet, but I expect it to someday.

Re: sidewalks, here in Chicago you can get a substantial fine and/or have your bike disabled if you ride on the sidewalk. (Not sure how they do that, maybe they have bike boots or something.)
posted by misskaz at 5:56 AM on September 26, 2009


craichead said: I just prefer to avoid activities that put me into constant contact with testosterone-poisoned jerks holding pissing contests with each other. I think that part of the reason that American women don't ride bikes is that American cycling culture is pretty off-putting to a lot of women.

i agree. that type of aggression is really off putting. also going into any bike shop for repairs or parts is completely intimidating as well - a lot of the people (majority in my experience being male) behind the counter for some reason are intimidating assholes. it's just a matter of pushing through the bullshit so you can get what you need to continue to be active in a sport that you enjoy. through my experience with shops i find the older a man at a bike shop is, the kinder he is - maybe b/c of so many years of working and dealing with women cyclists, or that he has a wife/daughter at home that rides too. (that's just my general notion - i'm sure there are plenty of guys that break either stereotype.)

i often lurk around the bikeforums, but rarely post anywhere except in the women's cycling portion of the forum, which is a women only area that you have to be invited in to be allowed to view or post there. (it's not exclusive, just women only - i was invited almost immediately after i signed up and introduced myself.) it's a great place to ask female specific questions or topics related to cycling and a lot of the women that post there are strong, wonderful, encouraging people. though i haven't found many female cycling friends in real life, thank god for the internet :)
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 6:29 AM on September 26, 2009


also going into any bike shop for repairs or parts is completely intimidating as well

I completely agree. Very much male superiority situation. Just fix my bike, dammit!

The scaring of most cyclists off the street leaves only young men, who are the most aggressive and least rule-abiding group of humans, and leaves them without any society of older males to provide a civilised norm. I believe that's why cyclists are so often rule-ignoring and rude. If most drivers were young men we'd ban cars entirely because of the horrific death rate!
posted by alasdair at 12:33 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


And the few people that are on it are proportionally a lot closer to my own speed on a bike.

In the city? No way. I am not at all a fast biker, but the the stop-and-go traffic of cities, where you can't get that far without running into stoplights or stop signs, I generally pace cars. 10-15mph? No problem. Sure, the cars might be hitting 20mph before they slow down again, there's not much of a difference. Compare that to the hapless pedestrians, plodding along at 3-4mph. My speed is certainly much closer to that of the street traffic, and in street traffic, I'm the more-maneuverable one, while on a sidewalk I am the bulky machine with speed-reduced reaction times. Oh, and I'm wearing a helmet; the pedestrians aren't. All in all, it makes more sense for me to ride where the other relatively fast vehicles are: in the street.

Biking on a sidewalk is arguably more dangerous for the biker, but it is definitely more dangerous for the pedestrians. And I'm a frequent pedestrian too. That's ultimately why I care a lot about people breaking the law and not biking on the road.

Sure, way out where the speed limit on the backcountry roads hits 45 or 55mph, the relative dangers change. I'd suspect that many/most bike commuters are in urban areas, however, and I know that the many places I have almost been killed by fucktards biking on sidewalks have all been urban areas. (Seriously, Evanston, do you ban helmets, lights, and riding on the roads, or something? I wish you actually enforced those "no biking on the sidewalk" signs you have up everywhere.)
posted by ubersturm at 2:21 PM on September 26, 2009


I hate when traffic is so hostile that I have to bike on the sidewalk and predict whether people are going to suddenly veer off to one side for some reason. That is all.
posted by tehloki at 5:23 PM on September 26, 2009


The scaring of most cyclists off the street leaves only young men, who are the most aggressive and least rule-abiding group of humans, and leaves them without any society of older males to provide a civilised norm. I believe that's why cyclists are so often rule-ignoring and rude. If most drivers were young men we'd ban cars entirely because of the horrific death rate!

this reminds me of a nytimes magazine article about elephants - it touches on how young elephants that have no adult influence on their behavior b/c the elderly elephants that would otherwise socialize them properly were killed off for poaching reasons.

anyway. i know lots of older cyclists. they are the best - my dad is one of them. they are fit in every part of their body except for their guts :D for some reason that never goes away!
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 7:35 PM on September 26, 2009


I'm a girl who bikes 4-5 times a week to work in Brooklyn, a 5 mile jaunt from Greenpoint to DUMBO, and the most prevalent issue right now for me is the Hasidic community's vocal opposition for more bike lanes through the South Williamsburg area that is smack in the middle of routes that lead from North Brooklyn to South Brooklyn.

This has been a longstanding public debate, a somewhat unique New York culture war/clusterfuck, and it's been tough to reconcile both angles. On the one hand, the Satmar and Lubavitcher Hasidim have worked hard to create a relatively isolated enclave in the middle of gentrified Brooklyn--with signs in Hebrew, gender-segregated and schools, and an ever-growing community of be-wigged women and heavily bearded men. It's a really neat example of how a people has actively resisted American assimilation and have fostered, in relative peace, a community utterly different and apart from their neighbors. (If anyone's interested in learning about the history of Brooklyn Hasidim and their various family clans, check out A Life Apart, which you can even stream on Netflix.)

On the other hand, you have people like me, who are pretty much forced to bike into Hasidic neighborhoods because they lead directly to the main route of Flushing Avenue and then to the rest of Brooklyn. The alternative is to bike through unsafe or inconvenient roads that put us miles out of the way. The Hasidim are appalled at how girls on bikes dress--short skirts, bare arms and legs, low-cut tops, sweaty and disheveled--and have protested the city's implementation of bike lanes that draw more outside traffic. Non-Hasidim hardly ever otherwise wander into those neighborhoods, but the increasing popularity of bikes and the advent of safer bike lanes has aggravated the locals, especially those who don't want unmarried men and innocent children witnessing inappropriate displays of skin.

NYC DOT has been at an impasse with Hasidim for years at this point. While I can personally understand their qualms about us scantily-clad cyclists besmirching their roads, I still conclude that safety trumps culture (maybe because it's my safety?), and it's an unfortunate fact that bikers pretty much *have* to zoom through South Williamsburg due to its location. Right now there are a few bike lanes that are tremendously helpful while one is whizzing through streets teeming with slow-moving school buses, minivans, children running in the street, and mothers laden with groceries. Cyclists have a designated area so people know to watch out for less visible road traffic, and I don't have to compete with all the oblivious 18-wheeler industrial trucks trundling along Broadway to Flushing Avenue warehouses.

There has recently been a flux of faked detour signs and aggressive driving to intimidate bikers. It's a very gendered debate that directly pits female cyclists against locals who think we're all dressed like prostitutes. I can deal with the cat-calling from truckers and the idiot drivers who turn left while I'm descending straight down a damn hill, but when a huge lot of people are saying, "Sorry kiddo, we don't care if it'll keep you safe, your skirt is too damn short to earn you a two-foot wide bike lane in this town," I draw the line.

My personal experience has been young Hasidic men asking me "How much?" It took me a while to catch on, but someone finally asked me more pointedly "How much for an hour?" I know that this is an isolated community and all, but most Hasidim work outside the neighborhood and aren't dummies about non-Hasidic culture. I think these repeated inquiries (while I'm stopped at a red light, sweaty and red and digusting, no less) are not a solicitation but rather a reminder that these people think I look like a hooker and will be treated thusly while I am on their turf. With the implementation of bike lanes, hopefully I can ride safer and faster through their streets, and then everyone is happy.
posted by zoomorphic at 9:22 AM on September 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


« Older Oak twig carved from dissolved recording of the he...  |  (all links possibly nsfw) This... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments