Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Be Part of the Conversation

In the national bike scene there has been a growing discussion on the differences in men and women. Differences in group riding styles, differences in reasons to ride, differences in attire and differences in safety concerns. It's an important discussion to be having, and one that can be brought home and discussed here in the Upstate. I feel the need to call attention to this topic because the needs of men and women can be different and otherwise overlooked.

Men make up a majority of riders. Nationally, though the gap has been closing recently, men make up about 70% - 75% of riders. Bike counts I've run at Clemson University have shown that around 80% of riders are guys, which means only 20% are women. With only about a quarter of riders being women, there needs to be a serious conversation about why this happening. What are the barriers, both perceived and real? What improvements would enable more women to ride, especially in the Upstate in communities like Clemson, Easley, Pickens and Walhalla?

Some of the challenges include the perceptions of being feminine (and masculine, for that matter) and bicycle riding. With the development of a bicycle culture in places across the country, there has been more acceptance and a wider audience interested in riding a bicycle as a way of life and not just for speed and sport, the traditional entry point for many men. As more folks have become interested and engaged in bicycle riding, exploring what it means to ride a bike, and why it matters has become part of the national dialogue, including exploring how to get more women on two wheels.

Today, in the Upstate, national news and movements are suddenly becoming local. You may know or see folks in your community riding where several years, five years or ten years ago very few were seen riding bicycles. When you see someone in your neighborhood riding, it may cause you to pause, think and ask yourself "Hmmm. I wonder why they/he/she is riding?" It might also be important to ask, and encourage decision-makers to consider "What can be done to encourage more women to ride?"

As you take time to consider how riding can fit into your life during National Bike Month, consider doing some research on what it would take to commute to work. Talk to your friends, colleagues and explore other blogs and websites to learn more. Find a few groups or folks to follow on Twitter and join the social media conversation, and explore what riding a bike means to you.

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