The key to getting more women to cycle as a form of transport could lie in developing ‘bike-friendly’ neighbourhoods, according to Victoria University research.
A study of about 230 Melbourne office workers found that women who report that cycling in their local area is convenient are more than twice as likely as other female bike-owners to cycle for transport.
In contrast, men who cycle for transport or to commute are not influenced at all by their impression of how convenient cycling is in their neighbourhood.
The finding is important because public campaigns to boost bike-riding tend to focus on developing cycling corridors from the suburbs to the CBD to support commuter cycling – the main reason men use their bikes as transport.
This focus on commuter cycling encourages more men to hop on their bikes, but may be inadvertently increasing a gender gap between the rates of men and women who use their bikes as transport at the same time.
Researcher Matthew Bourke of VU’s Institute for Health and Sport says female cyclists who use their bikes to get around show more complex travel behaviour, riding with children to school or to run errands, compared to men’s focus on commuting.
“The results indicate if we want to encourage more women to use their bikes for transport, we need to invest in local cycling networks that connect to local shopping centres, service areas, and schools as a starting point.”
Australia has a low rate of transport cycling, with only 1.1% of trips to work made by bicycle according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
While the figure is comparable to the USA, Canada and the UK, it is well below rates of some European nations such as the Netherlands, where one-quarter of work trips are by bike.
Other researchers in the study were Associate Professor Melinda Craike of VU’s Institute for Health and Sport, and Dr Toni Hilland of RMIT’s School of Education.
Matthew Bourke is available for interview.
Moderating effect of gender on the associations of perceived attributes of the neighbourhood environment and social norms on transport cycling behaviours was recently published in the Journal of Transport and Health.