Kate Hinds covers transportation for WNYC News.
Men Are From Midtown, Women Are From Brooklyn
Thursday, May 08, 2014 - 10:00 AM
Bike share stations in Manhattan are predominantly used by men, while women prefer brownstone Brooklyn, as well as the East Village and the Lower East Side.
"That's clearly a choice of access to specific greenways where women can ride safely," said Sarah Kaufman of New York University's Rudin Center for Transportation. She analyzed six months' worth of Citi Bike subscriber ride data and blogged about it on the Rudin website.
(NYU Rudin Center for Transportation/linepointpath.com graphic)
According to Kaufman, the station that achieved the best balance was on Avenue D and East 8th Street in the East Village, where 41 percent of users were women. But at several stations in Midtown, women accounted for just 14 percent of riders.
That men and women approach cycling differently is well known. Men will bicycle on streets with a wide variety of conditions, but women prefer bike lanes or streets with less traffic. A 2011 New York City bike count by the League of American Cyclists showed that 15 percent of the cyclists on a street without a bike lane were women, compared to 32 percent on a nearby streets with a bike lane. Caroline Samponaro of Transportation Alternatives said that because women cyclists prioritize safety, they're avoiding the traffic maelstrom of Midtown Manhattan. "You have this intensity of vehicle traffic that is unrivaled in terms of other parts of the city," she said.
But Citi Bike -- which turns one this month -- could be starting to close the gender gap. One recent study found that the female share of cyclists in the city is 23.6 percent -- but the female share of Citi Bike cyclists is 31.1 percent. In Boston, 47 percent of bike share subscribers are women. In D.C., that number is 54 percent.
As New York's bike share program becomes more established, and the city's bike lane network grows, the number of female subscribers could increase. Currently, said Dani Simons, Citi Bike's marketing director, Citi Bike's membership is 32 percent female, 68 percent male. "We are committed to improving the gender balance and have a number of initiatives to help do so," she wrote in a statement, "including being a supporter of this weekend's upcoming Cyclo-Femme Global Women's Cycling Day, and offering group rides to help the Citi Bike curious get more comfortable riding on City streets."
Sarah Kaufman agreed that the number of women using bike share in New York is poised to rise should cycling become safer and more prevalent. "Last year, Citi Bike was relatively new, so people will be more used to seeing it around," she said.
(Updated 6:13 p.m.)