Study reveals the stark gender gap in cycling and what could be done to close it

Sustrans study sees widespread support for better cycling infrastructure

Commute, training, work, riding

A new study has sought to cast light on the issues that mean that men are twice as likely to use a bike as a form of transport in major cities across the UK.

The Sustrans Bike Life study looked at the gender gap in cycling in six major cities across the UK, finding less than half of women thought that their city was a good place to cycle overall and that a similar proportion were unhappy with the amount, directness, condition, and signposting of cycle routes.

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Examining the cycling habits of people in Bristol, Edinburgh, Greater Manchester, Cardiff, Newcastle, Belfast and Birmingham, Sustrans found much higher levels of cycling among men than among women across the country. In Bristol there are 1.7 male riders compared to every female riders, while in Birmingham there are nearly three male riders to every female rider with levels of cycling also considerably lower among both genders in the West Midlands.

However despite the relatively low levels of female participation in cycling across the UK, there is widespread support for greater investment in cycling, with as many as four in five women supporting better funding for cycling with a particularly high level of support in Birmingham where the gender gap in cycling is most stark.

There is general alignment between men and women on where this money should be spent, with both genders saying that better on road physically separated or traffic free, away from roads infrastructure would be most useful in helping them to start cycling or cycle more.

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"A city that has a diverse and inclusive population of people riding a bike is a city for everyone. Cycling can play a vital role in improving health, whilst ensuring that jobs, services and communities are accessible," said Sustrans CEO Xavier Brice. "51 per cent of the UK population is female, yet most of our cities are failing to design roads and streets for women to cycle."

"Evidence from the UK and beyond shows that when dedicated space for riding a bike is provided, alongside engagement programmes, the gender gap in cycling can be eliminated.

"Governments at all levels need to listen to women’s voices and invest in a network of dedicated cycling routes and training so that everyone feels comfortable and confident to ride a bicycle, regardless of gender, age and disability."

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Henry Robertshaw began his time at Cycling Weekly working with the tech team, writing reviews, buying guides and appearing in videos advising on how to dress for the seasons. He later moved over to the news team, where his work focused on the professional peloton as well as legislation and provision for cycling. He's since moved his career in a new direction, with a role at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.