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.
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