Winter Cyclist Taxonomy

remind me to try this sometime

The Pacific Northwest Inlander looks at four types of winter cyclist:

THE METAPHYSICIST

Stealthy, swift and undeniably easy-going, the Metaphysicist doesn’t own a car. This type rides for pleasure — defying the norms of everyday transportation. You can spot him by the twinkle in his eyes, the ease with which he rides, his lack of concern over distance and weather.

THE BIKE GURU

This breed of winter commuter has a bike for every occasion. These specialized rides cost more than a lot of people’s cars, and they rip through the ice and snow better than any vehicle on four wheels. The Bike Guru is identifiable by his bicycle tattoos and his mastery of technical lingo.

MR. BUSINESS-CASUAL

This winter cyclist is equally at home in the conference room and the intersection. For Mr. Business-Casual, commuting is practical and efficient. His bicycle, like his briefcase, is an extension of his being — like an extra arm or a leg. Look for him to be wearing dress slacks and a sweater vest beneath his cycling jacket.

THE MARY POPPINS

This winter warrior rides because it makes her happy. Mary Poppins takes her bike into the grocery store, to work, and into her friends’ houses, because she forgot her lock and no one has the heart to tell this merry nanny “no.” She rides in dresses, baskets and bells.

Read the full article here: Winter Warriors

Where do you fit on the list? Personally, I’m trying to be a “Mary Poppins” but no one is letting this guy bring his slush covered bicycles inside anywhere!

Photo via the BikingToronto Flickr Group

Taking Cycling Beyond Recreation

Sing Love and Danger

Another excellent short from StreetFilms interviewing women who recently became bicycle commuters due to the massive expansion of cycling infrastructure in New York City.

Jeez, better bicycle infrastructure means more cyclists and less crowded transit… whooda thunk that?

Photo via the BikingToronto Flickr pool.

How to Get Teenage Girls on Bikes; Focus on Something More Than Beauty

Recently, Scientific American released a much talked about article stating that in order to assess the “bikeability” of a city, you simply count the number of women on bikes. The conclusion is that the safer the city is for cycling, the more women you’ll have on bikes.
In Canada, women make up just 30 percent of cyclists and in Toronto under 2 percent of the population choose bicycles as their main transportation choice. Needless to say, we’ve got a lot of work to do.
To make cycling a more “attractive” option for women in the UK, campaigns are popping up that place emphasis on looking good while cycling. However, is this the only concern keeping young girls off their bikes? Sarah Phillips says, “no.”
What’s stopping teenage girls from riding bikes?

Campaigns to get women cycling seem to focus on how to look good over other concerns. Is this really all girls care about?

Posted by Sarah Phillips

Teenage girls don’t ride bikes. Or so says the Darlington Media Group, who have set about trying to rectify the problem with a campaign to get young women cycling.

Several years ago, the National Children’s Bureau published research that revealed that on average, boys cycle 138 miles a year and girls only 24 miles. This still rings true. Christie Rae, 16, from Newcastle told me: “I do have a bike, but I don’t really use it. Only sometimes in the summer when my friends and I cycle round to see each other. I don’t know many girls that do, actually.”

Darlington’s project began with the production of a documentary called Beauty and the Bike, chronicling a trip made by a group of teenage girls to Bremen in Germany, where they met their cycling-loving peers and found out about the joys of the open road. It all sounds slightly twee, but addresses the important issue that girls tend to get to a certain age and it’s no longer the done thing to get about by bike.

I have every admiration for such attempt to get women enjoying the numerous benefits of cycling, but what is frustrating is the focus on appearance that is often so integral to said schemes. Aside from the title, BATB, which incidentally has been used for a similar scheme in the past, Darlington’s site makes it clear they are keen to address the important issue of remaining fashionable while cycling. But as I recall, it was an overprotective mother that stopped me from spending too much time around the bike sheds in my teenage years, rather than any personal concerns over the way I looked.

Another offender is the site Bike Belles, run by the otherwise excellent charity Sustrans, which encourages women of all ages to take up cycling. One helpful section dedicated to beauty tips provides such gems as: “Use waterproof mascara when it’s raining on your bike, and take a powder compact for a quick refresher on arrival.” Admittedly, I write as someone who occasionally arrives at the office sporting a minor oil slick on my face, but I sincerely doubt that women are so image conscious that this is what is stopping them. As many a female cyclist will confirm, it is more hassle than it’s worth looking attractive while travelling by bike.

Aside from fashion tips, the beauty bikers and belles both voice concerns over the lack of decent cycle lanes and safety issues that make our roads a wholly unappealing prospect. Those two are serious issues that would put inexperienced riders off, and are much more worthy of a campaign to get people, regardless of gender, on their bikes.

Discuss this topic in the BikingToronto Forum

Bikephopia?

Bells on Bloor - Queen's Park Montage

Is “bikephopia” a spelling mistake? Or is it a strange mish-mash word meaning a city where it is fear-inducing to bike in? Sort of a bicycle negative of utopia…

From The Toronto Star:

How to conquer bikephopia

A new study suggests women fear cycling in infrastrucutre-poor cities like Toronto. I’m trying to get over it

My bike is going to kill me. That was all I could think about as I rolled the thing out of my apartment and made those initial awkward pedal pushes in my first ride around downtown Toronto.

But gliding along Queen St., with no angry cars honking or getting too close to my wheels, I figured I might actually get home alive. If I could just remember the road rules.

Hand signal directional changes. Turn left on left lanes only, or get off the bike and cross the intersection like a pedestrian. If you’re changing lanes near streetcar tracks, approach them at a sharp angle so your tires don’t get caught in them. And for God’s sake, don’t pass cars on their right-hand side at stoplights.

You know the saying that you never forget how to ride a bike? Apparently I had. Or was too scared to remember. Either way, I’m not the only one. Studies from Australia and the U.S. identify me with a demographic researchers insist is key to promoting urban cycling: women.

Jan Garrard, senior public health lecturer at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, calls us an “indicator species.” Women are more likely than men to avoid cycling because they see it as dangerous. The extent to which women hop on their two-wheelers, or fail to do so, is a good indication of how developed a city’s cycling infrastructure is – how safe it is for biking, how accessible and extensive its bike lanes are.

Women in North America largely don’t ride bikes. In areas where they do, such as Europe, there are more cyclists on the road overall.

John Pucher, a professor of planning and public policy at Rutgers University in New Jersey, has studied this trend for over 12 years. He found that in Denmark, where 18 per cent of all commutes are by bike, women make up 45 per cent of cyclists on the road. In the Netherlands, where women cyclists are in a slight majority at 55 per cent, cycling takes up nearly a third of all commuting trips.

We Canadians, however, aren’t doing so well at a 30 per cent bike share for women, and maybe a 2 per cent commute share for bikes. (The trend is similar in the U.S and Australia.) In Toronto, just 1.7 per cent of the population rode to work in 2006 – just 35 per cent of them female. But we’re not the worst city, laughs Pucher. “In Dallas, Texas, 95 per cent of bicyclists are men. Which is disgusting!”

Garrard, meanwhile, explores the psychology behind the numbers – why most women refrain from riding in the first place. She surveyed Melbourne’s cycling population by asking what situations kept them from the road.

“For just about every constraint we included in our item list,” she says, “women were more likely to say it was a constraint. And these things included traffic conditions, weather, lack of time.”

Sounds familiar to me. Though I’d have added fear of my face in the pavement.

A larger number of women also indicated they preferred off-road routes, or paths separate from cars. Last month, Scientific American reported on a Portland, Ore. study that coincides with this, having tracked Portland cycling commutes by GPS. When given the choice, women were more likely to take longer routes to a destination if it meant using a car-separate path.

Which is something cycling advocates in Toronto would argue we don’t have enough of. Most are intended for recreational use – not a lot of help if you’re trying to get to work, which is largely why I wanted to cycle in the first place.

Pucher points out that the idea isn’t to paint the non-cycling majority of women as timid creatures, and that other bike minorities, children and seniors, are also important in gauging a city’s bikeability.

“I’m pretty risk-averse myself,” he says. “I think anyone who is concerned with safety is going to want some kind of facilities that address those concerns.”

There are bike shops in Toronto that try to, by offering women-only programs that teach bicycle repair and construction and traffic laws.

Sherri Byer, co-ordinator at the Community Bicycling Network on Queen St. W., finds she still gets condescended to in unfamiliar cycling shops, even though she’s been fixing bikes for eight years.

“I think that’s why Wenches with Wrenches is so popular,” Byer says of CBN’s four-week program, which aims to provide women with a non-competitive learning space. “I kept thinking the market for it would dry up for it, but it’s not.”

I figured the Sunday sessions for women and transgendered people at Bike Pirates, a cycling co-op on Bloor and Lansdowne, was a good place to start. If I did the work they would supply me with the help, space and tools to build a bike of my own.

And as Lisa McLean, a Sunday volunteer, points out, there’s a certain confidence that comes from knowing how your bike works.

That may not stop me from slamming into the open door of a parked car, I think to myself as McLean shows me how to install ball bearings into a stem. But at least I can fix my bike afterwards.

Besides, I can’t imagine any of the women working at Bike Pirates fitting into the description of risk-averse or road-shy. With any luck (and a lot more riding), hopefully I will eventually count myself among them.