Recently, I was chatting over coffee with a young woman about cycling in Boulder. We were talking about the various trails around town, our commutes, and our fear of getting our bikes stolen from downtown. She went onto to describe a new fear she was experiencing; she was becoming more nervous about riding in town due to the increase in the number of aggressive riders. Cycling, for her, was simply not fun anymore. Sadly, I understood what she was saying. Although Boulder is probably one of the most cycling-friendly places in the U.S. (and yes, I have lived elsewhere, namely San Antonio & Austin, which when I left were probably ranked 150 and 151 respectively out of a group of 151 friendliest places to ride a bike), it’s also packed. Whether you are riding, driving or walking in town, Boulder is a busy little town. I don’t think Boulder has an inordinate number of aggressive drivers. I just think the chance of a cyclist and a driver having a negative encounter is probably a little greater simply due to the number of people getting around using lots of different forms of transportation (i.e skate boarding, roller-blading, etc).
Later, what concerned me more than my friend’s fear was that she was considering giving up commuting by bike. And that’s when I realized this is how it begins. Young women, who may have been commuting for some time, weary of the conditions of the road, the interactions with drivers and begin to abandon cycling. It’s not just that there is one less commuter on the road but what that change in perception means for her and our community over the long term. If people, especially women, begin to abandon cycling as an option for getting around then our hopes for more significant transportation changes will be an even greater struggle.
This point was further expanded on in a great article titled, Women in Cycling: Why We Matter, written by Sarai Snyder over at GirlBikeLove. I recommend checking it out because if you are interested in seeing cycling expand in our communities then it’s critical to have women’s continued involvement and support. Can you imagine how much further along cycling adoption and commuting support there would be if more women were involved? I think we’ll move the needle that much more quickly if both men and women are part of the solution.