Riding the path to cycling equality

The recent announcement of more than $9 million in government grants for bike paths in Western Australia could help women overcome barriers to cycling.

A freshly released study from Monash University has found women face unique obstacles when it comes to cycling.

The study was led by Lauren Pearson from the Sustainable Mobility and Safety Research Group at Monash.

“Bike riding is a bit of a magic pill for health and the climate crises that we’re facing at the moment,” she says.

“We know that bike riding is this real chance to really reduce our transport emissions.

“Transport emissions are the second largest in Australia by sector, and they’re also the fastest growing.

“So it’s really something that we need to do something about.”

Hear more from Dr Lauren Pearson.

Perth Exercise Institute’s women’s cycling group instructor Sabine Bird says cycling helps women to be more independent.

“Cycling can help women overcome fears. Women face quite a lot of fears regularly and to be there … to show them that this is actually really an irrational fear and that it is something that they can overcome quite easily. That is incredibly rewarding,” Ms Bird says.

Despite the myriad of benefits that come with riding a bike, female participation is lagging behind in Australia.

There’s a lack of recent data in WA, but, a Melbourne-based study found for every two men riding a bike, there is only one woman.

A study published in the Journal of Transport Reviews found in countries with relatively low rates of cycling, like Australia, females are underrepresented. As the overall rate of cycling increases in a country, female representation improves.

Dr Pearson says women experience additional concerns and barriers about riding a bike, compared to men.

“Safety is really the number one barrier for people, particularly women, in terms of riding a bike,” she says.

Women have concerns about cycling close to traffic, falling off their bikes and aggressive behaviour from car drivers.

Dr Pearson says small changes could make a big difference.

“It’s really important that we implement safe infrastructure, like protected lanes, to really transform who it is that actually rides a bike,” she says.

She says investment in this kind of infrastructure is a major factor that would lead to more women on bikes.

The recently announced WA government grants will mean more than 62 kms of pathways for pedestrians and cyclists are set to be delivered over the next two years.

This is part of a $347 million fund dedicated towards the development of additional cycling and pedestrian infrastructure in WA over the next four years.