One issue that I’ve always been interested in when it comes to bicycle commuting is where are all the women? It’s not that there are zero, but they are certainly outnumbered. In my unscientific observation (between my house and my work), the numbers are completely lopsided. I probably see 1 or 2 women each day while I see at least a couple dozen males commute by bike.
I thought it might be interesting to hear from one who does her daily commute by bike. So I bugged one of the few female bike commuters that I know with some questions. Here’s what she had to say.
I have a DiamondBack Hybrid which I bought a few years ago for just riding with the kids. I had a super cheap Canadian Tire special before but it couldn’t handle pulling the bike trailer with one child in it so went to the bike shop and told them that I needed a bike for paved trail-riding with the kids. They recommended that one and it fell within my budget which was determined by some biking friends at work.
As for accessories, at the beginning just had the standard kick stand and that was it. After having the bike for a year, I tentatively tried riding into work after doing a LOT of research on the route to take. After a couple of runs, I decided a bell would probably be a good thing. I rode in for that summer with all of my stuff on my back which was really too heavy for me. I’m not a real fussy girl and I leave what I can at work but I still had to bring my clothes, lunch and personal daily things…all of which weighed a ton! This spring, my husband brought my bike in to be serviced and while he was there he bought me a back rack and pannier bags (Kargo by Arkel)….LOVE ’em!
I think the primary reason for getting on the bike was for fitness and health. I was training for a half-marathon and had an injury. The doctors suggested trying another form of cardio until I healed. I’m not a bike rider so I couldn’t see myself hopping on my bike and riding aimlessly. Having a dedicated route and start/stop point was right up my alley.
Other factors that helped pushed me on the bike were financial…while I ride, my husband drives my car which is more fuel-efficient, gas is only required for one car and my company gives me a monthly bonus for not driving…I can be bribed :)
Route!! By far! I talked to all the riders from work that lived in my neighbourhood and grilled them about the route. I mulled it over for about a month, looking at maps and running it over in my head. I finally talked myself into trying it one day and kept at it for the summer.
This is gonna sound girlie but I also didn’t know how I was going to make myself presentable for work. I’m not a fussy girl but still try to make a bit of an effort. I realized that there was no way I could carry everything I needed on my back so the day before, I brought all my shower stuff to work. Overtime I learned that I needed to leave more a work like a pair of shoes, makeup, hair dryer, etc. You should see my desk :)
The kids! I have a school aged child and a preschooler. During the previous school year, I had the sweetest setup. I was responsible for pickups so I’d ride my bike home and hook up the trailer for the preschooler and throw in the scooter for the school aged child. I’d ride down the road to the school to get one from the after-school program and then we would ride/scooter over to the sitters for the preschooler. Put the preschooler and all the bags in the trailer and we would have a great ride/scooter home. Sadly, summer has brought some changes that were threatening to pull me off my bike because of summer camps for the school aged child which are all over the city and a new day-care for the preschooler that was no longer in the neighbourhood. Thankfully, my very supportive husband has managed to do both drop-offs and pickups with the kids so I can keep riding. Of course, every week we need to look at each camp to see if this is still possible. I keep my fingers crossed every week and have already begun to wonder if I can still ride once the new school year starts.
For me, I would say that I fit that completely. I really needed to research out my route to make sure that I could handle the traffic challenges that I might encounter and to be honest, my route takes me away from as much traffic as possible. I have lived in two large cities prior to Waterloo and would not ride into work. Although a few times I looked into it, I just couldn’t see myself doing it. Saying that though….I am a risk-adverse person! I am cautious but I do ride on the road, except on King street at the expressway ramps…cars are way to fast there for my liking, I will take the lane, if required. I do turn left from the turning lane and I have no problem pulling out in front of a car, after it is clear that they have seen me. I do everything I can to get myself to and from work with some speed but safely. I would ride year-round if I could, but my route is not winter safe for me. In order for me to ride during the winter, I would want a trail that is guaranteed to be clear, is away from traffic but isn’t so secluded that I would worry about my safety…not likely to happen but one can dream :)
I have had conversations with other women about riding into work and risk isn’t always the first thing that they bring up when it comes to why they don’t ride. When women hear that I ride in, the first thing they ask me is not about my route, although most males do, but they ask me about the logistics…how do I get ready for work and how do I handle the kids. Maybe as women, we just worry too much about all the details :)