Bicycles, Gender, and Risk

Disclaimer: In this post, I’m going to be referring to “men” and “women” because the study was done with a binary conception of gender. In a very real sense, this is garbage, but in a different real sense, it’s not only reasonable but a good idea to use that conception.

I came across the recent study put out by UMN’s Gender Policy Report, showing that women have a 3.8x greater risk of encroachment (cars/trucks passing within 36″ of the cyclist) as compared to men, in a comparison of 3000 passing events.

Here’s some thoughts about why this might be, as a woman:

  •  Men don’t usually endanger other men they don’t know. Women don’t usually endanger people. So, if anyone on the road is going to be endangered, it’s likely to be a man driving who sees a woman. Either they’re less careful around women or they’re actively dangerous. Intent doesn’t matter.
  • Men are worse drivers.  This compounds on the point above.
  • Women are less likely to respond aggressively to being threatened in general, so there’s less deterrent for endangerment.
  • Women get less personal space in our culture. Of course this extends to personal space that is critically needed for safety.

Here’s some thoughts about other possible options:

  • Women are less aggressive cyclists. As a woman who rides on the left-hand side of unprotected painted lanes and yells at cars, this doesn’t match my experience.
  • People are less used to seeing women cyclists. What that has to do with anything, I don’t even know.
  • Women are less good at cycling safely. Hahaha, no.
  • Flaws in the study design. Fund a replication study! Please!

In conclusion, riding a bike is not much different from any other facet of existing in public as a woman. It’s more dangerous than it is for men. What should be done? Better, more protected lanes, and less cars on the road would be a good place to start from.

Pine Salica

About Pine Salica

Pine lives in Minneapolis and works in Saint Paul. Pine hasn't owned a car for over a dozen years, and can count on one hand the number of times they've operated one in the last 12 months. Housing is a human right, car storage is not. Member of the Climate Committee.

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