Women have been biking in record numbers during the pandemic. As traffic returns, will they keep riding?
A bicycling craze has swept the United States during the pandemic, sending bike sales soaring and triggering a nationwide bicycle shortage.
In many cities, but perhaps most notably in New York, much of that growth has been driven by a surge in the number of women who took to bicycling after lockdown orders eliminated the main barrier that research has shown keeps them from cycling: streets that often feel perilous for cyclists.
In New York, there were an estimated 80 percent more cycling trips in July compared with the same month last year, with biking by women rising by 147 percent and increasing by 68 percent among men, according to data from Strava Metro, a mobility tracking application used by 68 million people globally.
But now traffic is rising again, and it remains unclear whether the momentum will continue. Cycling advocates say the city should build on what has happened during the outbreak and do more to create a transportation network that prioritizes cycling as a greener way to travel.
New York’s system of bike lanes is often disjointed and obstructed by cars, and lacks bike parking, which has discouraged cyclists.
Whether women remain on bikes will be a test for city officials who are under pressure to reduce space for cars to make more room for cyclists and pedestrians. Other cities face similar challenges in a country where biking has never come close to the levels seen in some European and Asian nations.
“There is no way we will get to high rates of cycling if we don’t solve the gender gap,” said Jennifer Dill, a professor of urban studies and planning at Portland State University. “The big question now is how this will change behavior in the long term.”
“This is a great opportunity if cities take advantage of it,” she added.
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