New report highlights gender divide in UK cycling

Government data shows that men cycle further and more often than women in every age bracket. Diving deeper into the factors behind this, a new report from Paul’s Cycles uncovers what’s preventing people in a range of demographics from taking to the UK’s roads by bike. 

Surveying around 1,000 road users across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, Paul’s Cycles found that:

  • Women are nearly twice as likely as men to say that concerns about safety prevent them from cycling.
    • 44% of women stated that safety concerns stop them cycling, compared to 23% of men.
    • 23% of women named it as their number one barrier, compared to 14% of men.
  • 73% of women and 50% of men say lack of segregated cycle lanes and/or poor road quality prevent them from cycling.

Respondents were unified in some areas – for example, 62% overall felt that other UK road users fail to treat cyclists with respect – with only slightly more women (67%) than men (61%) feeling this way. When asked if cycling in their local area was safe, 52% of women and 45% of men disagreed – though women were twice as likely to strongly disagree (17% vs 8%).

“The lack of segregated cycle lanes across the UK appears to disproportionately affect women’s cycling habits.” Paul’s Cycles Marketing Manager Shirin Sadr says.

“37% of women identified the lack of segregated cycle lanes as a barrier to cycling more frequently, compared to 22% of men. Women’s heightened concern about the lack of protective infrastructure makes the importance of ensuring a safe and secure environment clear when it comes to encouraging more women to cycle.”

With the government recently announcing £380m in cuts to the Active Travel Budget, it seems unlikely that cycling rates will improve across the country any time soon. Described as “a backward move for the economy, the climate and health” by Sustrans, it’s no surprise that reducing, rather than increasing, funding for cycling and walking infrastructure, is expected to reduce cycling rates in turn. 

“More than ever, people want and need support to walk, wheel or cycle and we know that these cuts will impact those that would have benefited most, limiting their choice to travel healthily, cheaply and emissions-free.” Xavier Brice, Sustrans Chief Executive says.

“in the current economic climate, this funding is more important than ever to help everyone access the things they need without having to rely on a car.”

64% of respondents in the Paul’s survey predict that budget cuts will decrease cycling rates, with older respondents in particular citing concerns over a lack of infrastructure. 

“Addressing these concerns is not only a matter of building more bike lanes or repaving roads.” Shirin Sadr goes on to say. “It also calls for thoughtful planning to ensure infrastructure serves the cyclists’ needs effectively. For instance, segregated cycle lanes should connect residential areas with city centres, schools, parks, and other key destinations.”

One thing the government can’t fix, however, is the weather. While safety concerns were the number one barrier to cycling cited by female survey respondents, the UK’s unpredictable weather came in as the biggest issue on male cyclist’s minds.

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