Men Are From Midtown, Women Are From Brooklyn

Thursday, May 08, 2014 - 10:00 AM

Cyclists ride Citi Bikes past Washington Square Park in late April. Cyclists ride Citi Bikes past Washington Square Park in late April. (Natalie Fertig/WNYC)

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/ 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.)


Comments [3]

KB from NYC

I disagree with Recyclist. The program took a hit because of an off the charts nasty winter in which it was practically impossible to ride a bike anywhere. I think that it will pick up, and that the rates are so low a slight rate hike would be manageable.

May. 09 2014 02:31 PM
Recyclist from N.Y.N.Y.

"As New York's bike share program becomes more established"...

Huh? See that elephant standing over there by the coffee table? That's the program's huge financial losses that are compounding every day. If they raise prices, subscribers will bail. If they don't, it starves to death.

May. 09 2014 11:21 AM
Tacony from New York

When I look at this map I can't help but think that a lot of those male-dominated stations are mostly suburban commuters who enter the city from Penn Station, Grand Central, and Port Authority. Those stations skew male because they're the suburban breadwinner men with wifey working closer to home. I can see the argument that women might be more intimidated bicycling around the middle of Midtown -- I'm a strong, physically fit man and I sometimes think it's dicey making my way down 5th Avenue during rush hour -- but I'm not so sure the preponderance of women on bikes in Fort Greene is due to access to specific greenways.

May. 08 2014 04:09 PM

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