Women cycling: “Make it happen”

“Celebrate women’s achievements. Call for greater equality. #Make it happen.” This is the theme of the International Women’s Day in 2015, that is celebrated today, 8 March.

Women of all ages and backgrounds cycle very regularly in The Netherlands.

I always feel fortunate to live in a country where the rights of minorities are generally treated with respect. That doesn’t mean everything is always as it should be, not even here in The Netherlands, but I am fully aware that it can be a lot worse too. This is also true for women’s rights. In general there is respect for half of our population, but unfortunately there still is imbalance in certain topics. When it comes to equal pay for instance, something that should have been behind us for a long time already. But we do still need a greater awareness for women’s equality in this field.

With mothers cycling with daughters the future of women cycling in The Netherlands seems secure.

There is one thing regarding women, however, that goes very well in The Netherlands. The number of women who ride a bicycle. We are the country with the largest percentage of women cycling. In fact, more women than men cycle in this country. A fact we only share with our rival Denmark.

There are large differences in the share of women cycling around the world. Only in The Netherlands and Denmark do women cycle more than men, but in Germany there is almost parity as well.

When the Guardian wrote about Dutch women cycling, last October, they nailed it when they wrote: “Dutch cities are equipped with networks of separated bicycle paths, and as a result they actually have more women cyclists than men.”

But they went the wrong path completely, when they continued to say “American women’s lives are still disproportionately filled with driving children around, getting groceries, and doing other household chores – housework that doesn’t lend itself easily to two-wheeled transportation. It turns out that women may be more likely to bike in the Netherlands because Dutch culture is giving them more time to do so.” No, no, no! We are not that emancipated at all in this country! Dutch women also do those chores far more than men. But they do them on a bicycle! You see, that housework does lend itself for two-wheeled transportation very well, when you have that network of separated bicycle paths! The fact that Dutch women do these household chores more than men, is precisely the reason why they make more journeys on a bicycle than men.

Shopping by bike from an earlier video I made.

If have shown you before how the Dutch get their groceries, in my shopping by bike video, and you will see that it is mainly women doing the groceries! A school run in the Netherlands involves a lot of bicycles. Parents, usually mothers, ride with children on bicycles when they’re still young. From the age of about 9, but certainly from 12, children cycle everywhere alone. So the Dutch don’t have to spend so much time driving their kids around. When Dutch parents do take their children somewhere, it is also done on a bicycle or a bakfiets often.

Why wouldn’t you be able to take your children to school on a bicycle? These women show you can take two kids on a regular bicycle or in a bakfiets. From my bakfiets compilation video.

The fact that women can cycle everywhere in safety up to a very high age and that the same goes for girls from a very early age, gives them a great freedom to travel. And the freedom to travel independently is also a very important aspect for (women’s) emancipation. In “City Cycling” (2012) we read: “The Netherlands, in particular, has achieved one of the highest rates of female utilitarian cycling in the developed world by establishing cycling as an appealing, convenient, and safe form of everyday travel for women of all ages, including during the child-rearing years. It is therefore an important model for other developed countries where few women cycle for transportation.” (Garrard, Handy & Dill; Chapter ‘Women and Cycling’, p229) So: #makeithappen, you can see here that it can happen!

My video with a focus on women cycling in The Netherlands


21 thoughts on “Women cycling: “Make it happen”

  1. My teen daughter and I would so blend in, we never wear helmets, we bike a lot, we bike everywhere, thats just a few examples

  2. The Los Angeles Department of Transportation is starting to test various inexpensive plastic or rubber lane dividers to use for protected bike lanes.


    The LADOT is also going to make a temporary pop-up cycletrack at the next CicLAvia event on Chandler Blvd, March 22. They have applied for a grant to create a permanent cycletrack on this street. This to me is a brilliant way to get the foot in the door for getting widespread support for cycletracks by giving a large number of people in the area a first hand look at what these are and how it feels to ride a bicycle on one. There will be a large number of people at the event who don’t normally ride on busy streets.


    Unfortunately, since bicycling makes up only 1.2% of commuters in the city of Los Angeles, the amount of money that is given to the LADOT for bikeways is about that same level out of the overall transportation spending in the city. That’s about $10 million per year, or less, for a population of 3.8 million. That’s the reason for trying to find a way to create a permanent durable cycletrack without having to spend a lot of money on constructing one. Placing plastic or rubber dividers on a roadway is both the fastest and cheapest way to do this.

    1. One aspect of these road barriers that was not tested by the LADOT is which one is the most effective in keeping motor vehicles from moving in or parking on the the bike lane. I made a suggestion to the LADOT that they do an experiment to determine this by installing each of these devices along the bike lane that is next to the police headquarters downtown where officers routinely park their vehicles.

      This video shows a recent count of 22 LA police vehicles along that bike lane.


      What better way to determine the effectiveness of a device in keeping motor vehicles from parking in a bike lane than to see if it will keep police officers from parking there. Police officers in Los Angeles know that they can park anywhere.

  3. There seems to be one observer who believes that in Hanoi more women than men cycle.

    “Hanoi is home to 7 million people and just as many motorized scooters and motorbikes, and they all weave dart and honk around the cyclists, everyone travelling in every direction in every part of the road. The cyclists are overwhelmingly adult females, and their bikes are mobile shops for inexpensive items of daily use.”



  4. Helmet laws in English speaking countries probably keep a lot of women (and men) from cycling.

  5. Pingback: Blog | WeBike
  6. The other side of th story why more dutch women cycle:
    a lot af families have just one car. The one who has to travel further uses that car to go to work. Most of the time, that’s the husband. Furthermore, most dutch women work parttime.
    Why do dutch people often have just one car per family:
    – a car is very expensive due to high taxes and costs of fuel
    – they don’t need a second car because bicycles suffice for the distances they have to travel to school, shops, sport clubs and sometimes work.

    1. CBS reports that 38% of couples have two or more cars.
      Looking at couples with children, the figure is 49.5%.


  7. Glad to see an article about why there is just as many women as men cycling in the Netherlands from someone who lives there.

    The Guardian article was co-written by Herbie Huff who bicycles for a lot of her daily trips and serves on the city of Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee. That article states that one in three bicycle commuters in Portland is female and that this is the highest proportion of any U.S. city. Portland (pop. 600,000) has the highest bicycle commuting of any large U.S. at 6%, Davis California (pop. 66,000) has by far the highest bicycle commuting rate of any U.S. city at 24% and the portion of bicycle commuters that are female is 42%. Although a much larger portion of the population are young college students in Davis, than in Portland.

    To show how this lack of everyday bicycling by a wide range of people makes it difficult to convince residents in Los Angeles that removing a motor lane to install bike lanes would be a good idea, here’s a recent article…


    …from someone who lives in Los Angeles west of Beverly Hills who calls bicycle advocates “the crazies and corrupting influences who continuously and repeatedly suck up the oxygen from the Planning room in their intensity to replace cars with bicycles… and who are dominated by family/children-unfriendly/clueless advocates, are turning off those who did (and still do) want to create a viable and livable 21st-Century Los Angeles.”

    “One thing I’ve learned, and I pretty much everyone else involved with Neighborhood Councils have learned, is that families with children–small, and school-aged children–don’t have the time, money or energy to go to daytime or evening events that are dominated by those who will either unintentionally and/or callously destroy what Angelenos need for economic, environmental and quality of life improvements in our City.”

    “but while bicycling is both good for mobility and recreation, it is truly “jumping the shark” altogether by suggesting that we can create a more economically-vibrant and mobile City by slapping the bejeezus out of commuters who recognize that cars, buses, rail and telecommuting will be far more successful when it comes to numbers.”

    The U.S. Census Bureau household survey commuting to work results for the city of Los Angeles show just as much gain in the share of commuters who use transit for most of their trip to work as there was for bicycling to work from the years 2000 to 2013. This occurred even with the billions of dollars spent on the completion of these following major transit lines, compared to about $20 million total for striping bike lanes:

    Transit Line year of completion:

    2000 Red Line subway station in North Hollywood
    2003 Gold Line light rail from downtown LA to Pasadena
    2005 Orange Line bus rapid transit across the San Fernando Valley
    2009 Silver Line bus rapid transit
    2009 Gold Line light rail extension to East Los Angeles
    2012 Expo Line light rail from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City
    2012 Orange Line bus rapid transit extension to Chatsworth

    The city of Los Angeles has had since mid 2011 about $2.1 million allocated annually from the local share of the half-cent sales tax from county wide Measure R for transit/highway improvements that is used for on-street bikeways. That’s only enough for bike lane striping and sharrows (shared lane markings). There could be another county wide half-cent sales tax (that would be the fourth half-cent sales tax for transportation in LA county since 1980, all still on the books) on the ballot for the 2016 presidential election which could possibly include funds for bicycling and pedestrians–non of the other half-cent sales tax measures have that.

  8. As far as I know, Cambridge is pretty much there- though as ever, the Campaign here won’t rest contented with that. We do try to emphasise the benefits to equality from high quality cycle infrastructure.

  9. Not just in The Netherlands and Denmark! Also in Japan more women than men cycle. Source:


    One of my favorite bike videos is from Japan. Of Japanese women picking up their toddlers. See:

    I recommend skipping the first minute of someone telling you what you are going to see and skipping straight to seeing it.

    Also, note how the guard enforcing the car-free zone bows politely to passing cyclists. Japanese culture.

  10. We’re challenging Essex County Council using the new Public Sector Equality Duty, a law passed in 2010. We are arguing that their pathetic attempt at cycling infrastructure when they adapted a major scheme discriminates against women and children who may want to cycle but can’t do so because of a lack of facilities that would suit them. We’ll let you know how we get on.

    See http://colchester-cycling.org.uk/troobjections1.html “Unjust to cyclists”

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