Citi Bike Tackles Biking's Gender Gap

New York City's bike share program, Citi Bike, enjoys a greater percentage of female cyclists that the city as a whole, but still only reaches 25 percent. The problem is typical of bike share programs in the United States.

July 20, 2015, 8:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

"Women are early indicators of a successful bike system," Sarah M. Kaufman, the assistant director for technology programming at the Rudin Center for Transportation at New York University and an author of a new report on Citi Bike, told Emma G. Fitzsimmons of The New York Times. "If you have more women riders, that means it’s convenient and safe."

But two years in, Citi Bike’s inroads have been decidedly uneven, with men far outnumbering women in using the bike-sharing system.

"For the bike service, that is a problem...but persuading more women to join is seen as vital to the success of Citi Bike," writes Fitzsimmons. "Today, women take about a quarter of all trips by Citi Bike riders and make up just under a third of its members."

Of course, since there's a gender gap in biking itself, it follows that bike share programs would experience the same problem. "Citi Bike’s gender gap is part of a broader pattern among cyclists across the country; bike-share systems in Chicago and Washington also have more male riders," writes Fitzsimmons.

Will less busy streets result in increased female ridership?

"Women have avoided riding in bustling Midtown Manhattan and often stick to less chaotic neighborhoods on the Lower East Side and in Brooklyn, the NYU report said." It went on to suggest that "Citi Bike’s planned expansion this year to Long Island City in Queens and further into Brooklyn in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Greenpoint could help diversify its customer base, bringing in less wealthy riders and more women."

The piece generated lots of comments from readers, so much so that The Times devoted an article to it. My favorite: "I believe that the biggest factor discouraging most people, not just women, from biking in the city is the lack of an adequate infrastructure for bikes, the absence of which can make biking a truly scary proposition for the average New Yorker," commented Wing from Queens.

Correspondent's note: Some of the challenges to reducing the gender gap, not just in the U.S. but internationally, have been discussed here before—in particular in the bottom three "related" posts listed below.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015 in The New York Times N.Y. / Region

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