By Adam Newman, photo via Adeline Adeline
It should hardly come as a surprise that women and minorities are far outnumbered on the bike lanes of America. Despite the incredible growth of cycling in the United States in the past decades, their number still fall well short of their white male counterparts.
But things are slowly coming around. In New York, a women’s bicycle boutique, Adeline Adeline, caters to women who may be put off by the male vibe in most bike shops. And in Washington D.C., a new bike club called Black Women Bike DC encourages and supports a group of African-American women who ride for fitness and transportation.
Both New York and Washington are going through a cycling boom, but participation has long been dominated by a mostly male, mostly white demographic. Both cities are among national leaders in the number of people riding, but various reasons keep women and minorities away.
In New York, the chief deterrent is safety, according to the New York Times. Male cyclists outnumber females three to one in the city, lagging far behind other American cities. It’s not that riding in New York is more dangerous for women than men, but that women are less likely to participate in an activity perceived as dangerous, the Times said.
Then there’s the other issue:
"Even if officials in New York were to persuade women that it was safe to cycle, they would still run up against an obstacle almost unique to the city: an obsession with fashion. Emilia Crotty, Bike New York’s operations director, said that women flooded the classes she taught on cycling basics. She said women clearly wanted to bike more, but they feared showing up at a high-profile corporate job or meeting friends for cocktails sweaty or weighed down with cycling gear."
Back in Washington the number of women riding may be higher, but certainly not among minorities. Black Women Bike DC launched only this spring on Facebook, but it has already collected more than 60 members, according to a recent profile in the Washington Post.
“We talked about equipment, we talked about fears of riding in the road. And we talked about hair,” said Najeema Washington, another co-founder of the group and a federal government analyst. “There always seems to be an attack on black women — we’re not attractive or we don’t exercise. We are dispelling myths about black women. We are carving out our own niche. Who said riding a bike had to be a white thing?”
What do you think it would take for things to change?