Part 2: Five Things I Knew About Women & Bikes*

13 Aug

*But was afraid to write about without data to back me up. The is the second post in the series.

Last week the League of American Bicyclists released their Women on a Roll research report on women and bicycling. The report breaks down results into five key areas: comfort, convenience, consumer products, confidence and community. Here’s my take on convenience based on my personal experience.

What I knew about CONVENIENCE: Female cyclists shop and run errands by bike more than male cyclists.

Grocery Shopping

Some Statistics from the Women on a Roll report:
Women are far more likely than men to report the following as barriers to bicycling:

  • “Lack of time” (29% vs 21%)
  • “Inability to carry children and other passengers” (19% vs 7%)
  • “Inability to carry more stuff ” (32% vs 20%)

My Personal Experience: If I couldn’t carry things on my bike except what I could fit in a messenger bag I wouldn’t be a daily cyclist. Period. I need to carry a laptop to work every day, I like to pick up groceries and shop for random things after work, and I don’t like how my sweaty I get when I wear a bag on my back.

It wasn’t easy to find equipment I have now. To start, bikes you find at most shops don’t come with racks or baskets and putting them on anything except a touring bike or cruiser is discouraged. When I bought my ’97 Lemond Tourmalet the guy at the shop flat out told me “you can’t put a rack on this bike” when I asked about it. Six years later I did it anyway and it works and looks great.

I now ride a city bike to work because it means I can dress professionally which eliminates the second change of clothing. It also leaves room in my panniers for shopping after work and holding extra layers of outerwear for all sorts of weather. My city bikes are also more practical for big shopping loads on the weekends. Three bags of groceries? No problem. Throwing down the plastic for a new dress coat at Macy’s? No problem. Too bad it took bike industry outsiders like Public Bikes and Linus Bikes to build a bike that lets me do that.

Macys After Work

And that’s for me, a woman who’s not a mom with kids to take to day care, to school, to soccer or dance or to the doctor. How easy is it for mothers to find proper equipment locally? Are these places close enough to home or work to have time to zip between them, especially if they were originally chosen based on driving times?


The Impact: In addition to the gear issues mentioned above, traditional programs like Bike to Work Day promote commuting to work (often the longest trips people make all week) and neglect the shorter and often simpler shopping, errand and kid ferrying trips. Often there’s a competition that only measures mileage instead of number of trips which could be just as effective at reducing congestion, pollution and traffic noise.

The emphasis on work commutes also means that routes are planned with office parks and city centers in mind more than short cross-town destinations. So cities create neighborhood greenways that avoid busy retail corridors and then people scratch their heads when they still see bikes riding busy roads. They don’t realize that cyclists are doing the same errands to the grocery, the drug store, the hardware store that they do by car.

I’ve heard people at meetings discourage putting bike lanes on retail streets because of all the driveways, but I’m guessing they don’t shop that much. I don’t love watching out for cars entering or leaving parking lots, but if that’s your destination, you need a comfortable way to get there even if that means you ride a little slower.

For mothers bicycling with children the bike infrastructure discussion from yesterday is even more important. It’s one thing to accept risk for yourself and respond to others’ concerns. Riding with your kids requires a much higher level of confidence that the route will be safe for both of you and your little sweeties.

How often do you shop or do errands by bike? Do you ride with your kids to school or after-school activities? What were the biggest barriers you faced doing so?

Elly Ciaran 2


Posted by on August 13, 2013 in Issues & Infrastructure, Women & Bikes


13 responses to “Part 2: Five Things I Knew About Women & Bikes*

  1. tophat8855

    August 13, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    We are carfree and have 3 kids. Your “Bike to Work” day thing is right. I bike everywhere- averaging only about 7 miles/day (some days up to 14, some lower like 3) but with 90 pounds of children on my bike, that’s still a lot! Here in Oakland the EBBC did a “bike to work day” thing with stations set up along bike routes for workers. I missed participating because I didn’t go out to the grocery store until 9:30, when most commuters are already at work and the streets are less busy.

    I understand what you say about confidence and having safe routes for kids. I will say, though, that the big bike (we have a Madsen) has given me more confidence about “taking the lane.” It is so obvious that I can’t squeeze in, so I don’t feel “obnoxious” to drivers for taking up more space in the lane when I’m with the kids like I do when I’m biking on my own kid-free. Alone, I feel like I don’t have a good “excuse” to be on the lefthand side or middle of the lane, but with three kids, I get a “pass”.

    I do feel more obnoxious with the kids when I’m at an intersection and the light turns green and it takes me a while to get “up to speed” because I have to overcome extra inertia.

  2. Molly

    August 13, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    So, true, all of it. Like TopHat, I have 3 children I move around. I am pleased to finally have a bike shop that is willing to take my $ and do what I want so that my bicycle can actually work for my daily activities. (mostly – they are foot dragging on getting me a water bottle holder) And greenways-such an important point! In addition to your wisdom, in Seattle the arterials are frequently the least hilly, most direct routes. You can sign other routes forever, but us tired people who who are trying to get the errands done are still going to be on the flattest route we can find.

  3. gasstationwithoutpumps

    August 13, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    I only had one child, and he’s been on his own bike for over a decade now, but I hauled him around in a trailer then a Trail-A-Bike for his first 7 years. A trailer adds a lot of visibility to a bike and people pass with wider clearance. Having a roll cage around a child adds to their safety if something should go wrong.

    Neither my wife nor I has ever had a driver’s license at it looks like my 17-year-old son is unlikely to get one in the next 4 years. We do everything by bike or on foot (except on the rare occasions when we need to take a bus over the hill).

    Most of my bicycling is my commute (6.5 miles roundtrip), but utility riding makes up almost as much.

  4. Easy

    August 13, 2013 at 11:50 pm

    Great article.

  5. Elizabeth

    August 14, 2013 at 7:47 am

    I have one car, three bicycles, one dog, and no kids. The nearest grocery stores are about a mile away. According to Google, it’s 4-5 minutes in a car, and 5-6 minutes on a bicycle. So the time difference is negligible and riding my bicycle is more pleasant. My bike now has an open pannier bag. It fits a reusable grocery sack perfectly.

    The biggest challenge is that the closest stores don’t always have a great selection of produce, but I found a route to Sigona Farmer’s Market about 2 miles away by back streets. The other challenges are fairly minor. The old fashioned bike racks in front of the store are not bolted down, but there is a more modern rack on the other side of the shopping center. i walk my bike for a block or so on either Marsh or Middlefield, but it’s not that big of a deal. Why wait for the light to cross four times to only ride my bicycle one block? Crossing one street is a bit of a pain because the walk signal never seems to work and the push the button is located quite far from the corner behind a telephone pole.

    • ladyfleur

      August 14, 2013 at 9:19 am

      I know the area around Sigona;s in North Fair Oaks well. Not much fun to ride on Middlefield there, is it? I end up on the sidewalks when I shop on El Camino in Mountain View more than I want too.

      • Elizabeth

        August 16, 2013 at 6:19 pm

        Middlefield in the area around Sigona is too dangerous for me since the bike lane ends at 8th at the edge of Atherton. I ride Middlefield only between about Marsh and Encinal because there is no other way to get to downtown Menlo Park or Palo Alto. On the way home, I ride behind the trees which is quite nice, and sometimes on the way to the train if I’m not in a hurry. At first, the noise and the cars really bothered me, but sometimes I get used to it a little bit. I grew up on Ocean Front Walk in Venice Beach and didn’t have to deal with cars much there or Santa Monica as there was a 20+ mile bike path in front of our house that went most anywhere I wanted to go.

      • Elizabeth

        August 16, 2013 at 6:29 pm

        That part of Middlefield is too dangerous for me since the bike path ends at 8th. Mostly I ride on Middlefield behind the trees from about Marsh to Encinal. However, there are other ways to get to Sigona.

        On Ocean Front Walk in Venice Beach where i grew up, there was a 20+ mile bike path in front of my house that went most anywhere I wanted to go. I’ve never really gotten used to cars, and didn’t ride a bike for a long time as a result of that and stories of accidents, even when I didn’t have a car.

        I walk my bike more than I like sometimes too. If I’m walking my bike a block or two to get to a nicer road, then I don’t mind. If there is no better road anywhere near such as El Camino or many places in San Francisco, then I wish things were better.

      • Elizabeth

        August 16, 2013 at 6:30 pm

        Sorry, I thought the first reply didn’t go through so wrote it again!

  6. infinitebuffalo

    August 14, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    “Often there’s a competition that only measures mileage instead of number of trips which could be just as effective at reducing congestion, pollution and traffic noise.”

    This is one of the reasons I’m happy the Bike League’s National Cycling Challenge on Endomondo ( gives only one point per mile travelled, but 20 points for each separate day biked. I ride daily, but my commute is only 5 miles round trip–but that’s 25 points a day, which keeps me even with the folks who drive their bike to one or two 20-mile club rides a week….

    (now, if only we got extra points for vertical travel, this Pittsburgher’d be doing a lot better against the Florida and Cleveland folks…)


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