- When women bike, your city is safe (Photo: Associated Press)
Angela Koch wants to see more women on bikes—and not just because she gets her paycheck from local bike shop Revolution Cycles. According to Koch, Revolution's events and advocacy coordinator, women cyclists signal a healthier community for everyone outside the bike shop, too.
That's not great news for D.C., where counts performed on District trails and major intersections show that only about 20 percent of local bikers are female. Koch is hoping to change that.
Why bother growing D.C.'s percentage of female riders? Check the work of transport economics scholar John Pucher of Rugers University: "Pucher calls women the indicator species of the healthy community," Koch says. "The more you see women riding bikes and families riding bikes, the more you can be pretty well-assured you’re in a safe, healthy, livable community."
Because "women are generally more risk-averse," Koch says, a high percentage of women riders is a good indication that a city is safe. Women are more likely to hop on a bike on a safe street, and that's especially true for mothers. "I'm a car-free mom of three daughters, and when I'm biking with my children, my whole approach to the road is going to be way different than when I’m biking by myself," Koch says. "I'm going to be thinking extra carefully about the route I take, how fast I’m going, how far I'm going. And I'm a very competent cyclist."
Women cyclists are also a sign that city necessities, from food to childcare, are readily accessible to all residents. "We are generally the grocery getters, the errand runers, the childcare providers," Koch says. "It's more challenging for us to just hop on our bikes and go."
So Koch is hoping to use her advocacy position at Revolution Cycles to encourage more women to get on the saddle. Tonight, Revolution is hosting a "ladies night" at its Clarendon location, which will provide information for female cyclists, women-specific bike products, and wine.
But can more women be convinced to bike without that safer infrastructure that naturally gets them riding? "It's a chicken and an egg sort of dance," Koch says. "I get that: 'You want me to ride my bike more, but I don’t feel safe yet!' But statistically speaking, the more people who ride, the safer you are."