2 thoughts on “Follow Up: Girls On Wheels

  1. Oh this is interesting… Allow me to be an amateur analyst here a moment.

    My first though was to simply discard that article from bicyclinginfo.org. Why? It can be summed up as women are too insecure and the roads are dangerous. Just because you cite sources doesn’t make it a credible article. Seriously, I had this whole thing written about why the article sucks.

    Then I got to thinking…

    Lets go with the easy one first. Yes, the roads are dangerous. We’ll get to that when I go into the other two articles. That’s just too easy.

    The insecurity thing pisses me off. As a son, husband, and father of women/girls it’s the constant insecurities that bother me most. I can’t fix my mom or my wife, but I’m doing what I can to show my girls they can do whatever it is they want. The insecurity thing is a HUGE problem with the American culture and it’s something that we as a population have been both covering up and enabling for far too long. I’ve had my ass kicked by women at enough different sports, academic, and work events to know the only thing holding women back is self confidence. Every woman that actually stands up for herself and says, “No really, I’ve got this.” does incredibly well for herself.

    Do I have an answer? Not at all. But I’m starting to actually understand the problem. I could continue, but I’ll just move on.

    The interesting thing about the other two articles is the apparent desire to make commuting by bike a reality in the US. This is an admirable goal for many reasons – the environment, the overall health of us fatty’s, all that stuff.

    But dang, talk about trying to take a bite of a big sandwich… With few exceptions the US is simply too spread out to make this a reality. How many of us really track how many miles we travel in a given week? I do. I know my average week consists of right at 500 miles. And the mileage wasn’t a whole lot different when I lived in a more urban-like-suburb. Of those 500 miles – about 70 miles each day. Roughly half of them are driven solo. The other half have one or more kid in tow. Assuming it were comfortable to haul one or more kids on a bike, how many of those miles could I reasonably do on a bike? Well, probably less than 10 living where I am now, and closer to 25 in the real ‘burbs.

    But why not bike? I used to bike all the time when I lived in Boulder. Heck, some days I could get to/from work faster on a bike than in a car. That’s sort of a special case though. In general there’s the time factor. My truck has an hour meter. It allows me to figure out exactly how many hours I spend driving, and gives me quick estimate of average speed (time over distance). In a stop and go environment I tend to average about 25 MPH. The same route on a bike is likely only about 14 if I’m pushing it (mountain bike). So, it takes roughly half the time to get there by car.

    Remember earlier when I said it was dangerous? That’s no stinking joke. Thinking of the period of about a year when I both lived and worked in Boulder I think I averaged a near incident probably once every two weeks. To be fair, this is about the same frequency I seem to experience similar stuff in my car. The big difference is, if there’s a collision between cars, odds are good everyone will be just fine. A bike-car incident does not carry the same odds.

    Frankly, I see this as the biggest inhibitor to getting women onto bikes in traffic.

    Most women know better.

    Self confidence issues aside, they have nothing to prove and won’t take on the life/death challenge of biking across town just for the fun of it.

    And then there’s vanity… Forgive me for being stereotypical and a touch condescending, but I’ve witnessed it enough to know it’s a truth.

    I’ve only known one man that needed to spend an hour getting ready. Most of us are well under 20 minutes. My personal best being about 2.5 minutes from “oh crap I overslept” to pulling out the driveway. Most women I know spend way too much time primping. A quick jaunt on the bike would destroy all that effort.

    I’m reminded of Bike To Work Day a few years back. Me and the woman that I later married were going to bike to work together. She was in shape. It was my job to keep up. She was in front the whole way. I’m not ashamed to admit it. And then we hit the office locker room. There was a line for each. The difference? The mens line was about a five minute wait. The womens line was closer to 45 minutes.

    Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the effort. It’s pretty obvious when a girl puts the effort into looking good. But lord, how do you folks put up with that?

    But I digress. The point I was trying to make was the overly vain US women simply wont put up with needing to do the hair and make up just to have it all messed up by a silly bike ride. Thus, the commuting by bike, the quick trips to the store by bike – they will never happen in the US.

    And now, please join me in a moment of silence for all of those people stuck in traffic on the way to the gym to ride the stationary bike or spend time on the treadmill and eliptical.

    And forgive me for being wordy tonight.

    1. I agree with you on many many levels. Yes, the whole confidence issue seems to be just an excuse because it’s thrown around a lot. And if you aren’t someone who suffers from confidence issues, it can be VERY frustrating to hear “confidence” being used as the reason why you aren’t out more.

      But it is very much real for many women (and probably some guys too, just to be fair). There is a difference between taking calculated risk and taking a risk. It’s VERY stereotypical but women tend to be more of the homemakers regardless of their employment status. I believe whether the woman has kids, wants kids, or is very happy without kids can have a huge bearing on her confidence is going out on the bike. It’s not the only thing for sure – but it can have an impact.

      Which is why I thought the Scientific American article was interesting. It spoke to the main concerns I have for myself and really, my kids – safety and practicality. I understand that having separate spaces for bicycle riders, especially when ridership is relatively low compared to vehicular traffic, is expensive to build and requires space. Many urban environments simply don’t have space to put in a protected bike lane at the expense of a lane on an already overcrowded street. What I like about my current neighborhood is that I have quiet streets that I can ride to get to many practical places – the bank, the post office, the cupcake shop, the library, the pool and Starbucks. But it is the more circuitous route.

      When my kids were younger, I hardly ever rode my bike. Not because of confidence, but because I didn’t consider riding my bike with my kids in tow to be practical. We lived in a typical suburban neighborhood where everything is too far away to practically ride with two (and then three) kids. And between work and getting them to various practices/lessons the next city over, and keeping the house clean and the kids fed – there just wasn’t enough hours in the day to read a book, much less ride a bike. Different time in my life for sure.

      College was a whole different situation though. I didn’t have a car (or kids) and lived closer to the university and downtown area. I rode my POS $120 bike I bought at Target everywhere – to class, to work, out with friends – even while pregnant with my first kid. I rode on-street with no concerns other than trying not to get hit by a car. Confidence, practicality, safety (to some extent) weren’t as big of a concern to me.

      And yes – not being able to take a shower or get “ready” for the workday after a bike ride into work is sadly a reason many women don’t ride to work. It’s superficial but it’s true. I’m probably as low-maintenance of a primper and it’s still a concern to find a solution to. (Fortunately my place of work has a gym with showers – I’m looking into finding out if they offer a “shower only” membership.)

      I was out to brunch with several girlfriends recently and one of them commented “How do you have time (to ride your bike)?” to which I replied “My kids are older. I didn’t ride my bike when they were your kids’ age. As they become more responsible and self-sufficient, I can take more time back for myself.”

      Re: the quality of writing for bicyclinginfo.org. It’s a government-run site. The points are still valid and the solutions are still there – get a bike that fits and have a fitting, take a maintenance class, buy women-specific clothing if it feels better/is more flattering, etc.

      I see your wordy and raise you loquacious.

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