Almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of women living in major UK cities never ride bikes for local journeys, a new study has found.
This is despite more than two-thirds (68 per cent) saying their city would be a better place to live and work if more people cycled.
As a result, Sustrans – a sustainable transport charity that makes it easier for people to walk and cycle - is calling for more dedicated routes to encourage people to ride bikes.
“Most of our cities are failing to design roads and streets for women to cycle,” the charity says.
The report, which is part of the Bike Life project, is based on an independent survey of more than 7,700 residents living in Belfast, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Greater Manchester.
It found that twice as many men as women cycle at least once a week with just 27 per cent of women saying they felt safe while riding a bike in their city.
“A city that has a diverse and inclusive population of people riding a bike is a city for everyone,” said Xavier Brice, CEO at Sustrans.
“51 per cent of the UK population is female, yet most of our cities are failing to design roads and streets for women to cycle.
“Evidence from the UK and beyond shows that when dedicated space for riding a bike is provided, alongside engagement programmes, the gender gap in cycling can be eliminated.
“Governments at all levels need to listen to women’s voices and invest in a network of dedicated cycling routes and training so that everyone feels comfortable and confident to ride a bicycle, regardless of gender, age and disability.”
The “Women: reducing the gender gap” report has set out a number of recommendations for local authorities to create a more diverse and inclusive culture of cycling.
These include planning and delivery of protected cycling routes on main roads, training to enable more women to travel by bike, and integrating gender into different stages of consultation.
“We know there is substantial demand for cycling infrastructure among women and other currently under-represented groups,” says Dr Rachel Aldred, reader in transport at Westminster University.
“In the Netherlands, women cycle a higher proportion of journeys than men do, showing that a good cycling environment works for both women's and men's trips.
“Women too often have limited mobility: they're less likely than men to have access to cars and have on average lower incomes, so struggle to pay for transport more often. Enabling women to cycle can open up opportunities and help make our society more gender equal and inclusive."
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