It is a truism of urban riding that women are the indicator species as far as perceived safety goes. Those countries with the most robust urban riding cultures are also those where women make up between 30-50% of all riders. In the Netherlands, where integrated infrastructure extends beyond the cities and towns and across the country 55% of all riders are women. Traditionally in Australia female riders make up much less than that, between 15 and 25%.
Last Tuesday, Super Tuesday, saw the most recent count of bike commuters across Australia and in Melbourne at least the initial figures show a welcome change. Some inner-Melbourne areas, such as Richmond and Fitzroy had female riders running at between 40-45% of all commuters. Not suprisingly, these areas are also those with better infratructure for bike riders. Numbers of riders overall had also increased significantly in many parts of the country although it will be a while before the official figures have been analysed and made availble.
Amongst those areas with significant increases in riders overall is inner Sydney where the City of Sydney, headed by Clover Moore has made significant efforts to ease congestion and make alternative options for commuting in and out of the city viable. These are obviosuly paying off. With plans to continue developing infrastructure, including bike parking and cycleways hopefully Sydney too will find increasing numbers of women getting on their bikes.
Super Tuesday only counts commuters on main routes between 7-9am. In those countries with the higest numbers of female riders, like the Netherlands, it is often activities around parenting and the household that get women out on their bikes. Ferrying the kids to and from school and getting down to the shops are times when people may be less likely to use a busy commuter route or be done outside commuting hours. Considering the number of female commuters counted, it could be interesting to see who just how many are using their bikes at other times of the day.