Why Don’t American Women Bike To Work?

couldn't we ride

Do you bike to work? Back when I regularly went to an office, I walked the two miles every morning. I was also a Xootr Commuter for a while (this means I rode a kick scooter while simultaneously being an adult wearing an Ann Taylor Loft sheath dress), but quickly went back to walking.

But why didn’t I bike?

The Guardian asks the question “why don’t American women ride bikes as often as, say, Dutch women,” and comes up with a few not-too-surprising answers:

In short, despite years of progress, American women’s lives are still disproportionately filled with driving children around, getting groceries, and doing other household chores – housework that doesn’t lend itself easily to two-wheeled transportation. It turns out that women may be more likely to bike in the Netherlands because Dutch culture is giving them more time to do so.


Even when women earn more, are better educated, and work more hours than their male partners, they still make 1.5 times as many child-serving trips and 1.4 times as many grocery trips. These findings reflect the fact that in most US families women still shoulder the responsibility for caring for the household, and that responsibility is hard to manage on a bike.

I resent the assumption that the parent who is better educated and works more should spend less time on childcare—because that assumption is part of what got us into these problems in the first place—but I do understand where they’re coming from vis-a-vis women have a lot of stuff to carry with them that might not fit on a bike, even if it’s a bike with a really good set of panniers.

I haven’t yet reached the part of adulthood where I get to consider whether I’ll have children, but I have done a considerable amount of research into modern parenting, and whenever I see something like “and to pick your child up from school, you must sit in a car line for 30 minutes and inch forward until your child is personally walked from the school to your car,” or whenever I see something about a parent (usually a mother) being arrested for letting kids walk to the park or play in the park or sit in the car while the parent runs into a store, I’m all “I do not want to sign up for that.”

And although my real question is “is there a way to parent that isn’t signing up for that,” I’ve also pretty much assumed that if I have children, my car-free days are over.

But The Guardian didn’t ask the question “why don’t American mothers bike to work;” they asked the question “why don’t American women bike to work,” and assumed the answer was because “well, they’re moms.”

The truth is that there are many American women who do bike to work. Buzzfeed did some research and uncovered that yes, fewer women bike than men (one woman to every three men, to be exact), but that doesn’t mean women aren’t biking.

Buzzfeed also notes that women may choose to skip the bike commute for any number of reasons, from “they’ve got to pick up kids after work” to “they’ve got to pick up groceries after work” to “nobody likes helmet hair.” (I’d be interested to see how women’s bike riding habits changed once helmet laws went into effect, because that was about the time that I voluntarily stopped my own bike riding. Call it vanity if you want, but nobody likes helmet hair.)

So now I’m turning it over to you: do you bike? Do you bike to work? Do you carry groceries in panniers and put your kids in one of those awesome kid-shaped bike seats with the individual leg supports? Do you just deal with the helmet hair?

And should people like me assume that once they have children, their car-free days are over, or is there another perspective?



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