Are you seeing more women on bicycles?Are you seeing more women on bicycles?

By Hilary Reeves, Communications Director

Editor's Note: This post was first featured in the Downtown Journal.

The arrival of the bicycle in American life in the 1900s added a measure of freedom unknown to women. A woman could get on a bike and go places. No one would know where she was, which was amazing at the time. This bit of bicycling history (which I heard from Sue Macy, author of "Wheels of Change," at last year's Women's Cycling Forum in Washington, D.C.) came to mind when the 2012 Bike Walk Twin Cities and City of Minneapolis count reports were released in February.

While bicycling has increased by more than 50 percent over the last six years (2007-2012), it appears that the percentage of women cyclists as a share of the total number of bicyclists has dropped, from a high of 33 percent in 2008 to 27 percent in 2012. The figures are based on annual counts of bicycling and walking at set locations around the Twin Cities.

The numbers seem odd to some who feel that there are many more women using bicycles these days, more women visible on the streets. At some locations, the proportion of females is up. On the Franklin Avenue Bridge, women's slice of the cycling pie grew from 31 percent in 2008 to 36 percent in 2012. On the Lake Street Bridge, women have held a steady 29 percent share even as cycling has increased. But, on 15th Avenue South in Dinkytown, even though women cyclists are up 36 percent between 2008 and 2012, their share of the total dropped by a couple of percentage points.

Across all benchmark locations counted by BWTC, women were 27 percent of bicyclists. This tracks generally with national data, which show that more men bicycle than women. Certain locations indicate a much higher share of women cyclists.

The numbers make female cyclists wonder. Are the count locations just not the top places women tend to ride? Or is it simply the case (as the numbers suggest) that the growth in women cycling hasn't kept pace with the overall increase? Do the types of facilities make a difference, with women preferring separated or off-road bike paths rather than bike lanes on streets?  

Some studies have suggested women prefer bicycle boulevards over bike lanes on busy streets. Bicycle boulevards are quiet residential streets maximized for bicycle and pedestrian use. Two good examples are the Riverlake Greenway on 40th and 42nd streets in South Minneapolis and on 5th Street in Northeast Minneapolis. Buffered bike lanes-bike lanes with additional painted space between the lane and motorized traffic-are another way to feel more protected. Lately, there is much interest in cycle tracks, here and around the country, as the ticket to getting more hesitant riders (including women) happily on two wheels. For more about cycle tracks, see the Green Lane Project and, locally, Bikeways for Everyone. 

Here are the top locations for women for 2012, based on the overall number of women counted and on the female percentage of the total. (Source: Bike Walk Twin Cities 2012 Count Report)

Top locations - daily number of women cyclists (percentage change since 2008, if data available).

1.      15th Ave SE, north of University - 1,692 (up 36 percent since 2008)

2.      Midtown Greenway, west of Hennepin - 846

3.      Franklin Avenue Bridge - 750 (up 27 percent since 2008)

4.      Lake Street Bridge - 712 (up 32 percent since 2008)

5.      Cedar Lake Trail - 700

Top locations - highest percentage of women cyclists.

1.      Riverside Avenue, east of Cedar - 38 percent

2.      Franklin Avenue Bridge - 36 percent

3.      Larpenteur, east of Cleveland - 35 percent

4.      Loring Bikeway Bridge - 34 percent

5.      Lyndale Avenue, north of Loring Bikeway Bridge - 33 percent

These locations include on-street bike lanes, the famed Midtown Greenway, and off-street bike paths. For current women cyclists, the top locations don't seem to show a bias toward on or off-street bicycle facilities. Prescott Morrill, who works with the count data at Bike Walk Twin Cities, says he sees a correlation between top overall locations for bicycling and top locations for women, but only by a small margin.

What would get you out on two wheels-or your mother? There are many options as spring melts the snow and Nice Ride stations open again. As you ponder your options, consider that in Portland 31 percent of cyclists are women and in Boston 32 percent, according to their recent count reports.



In the news:

KSTP: "Bicycle Ridership Explodes, But Men Outnumber Female Cyclists"

Related Resources:


League of American Bicyclists: Women Bike

In 2009, women took just 24 percent of bicycle trips in the U.S. It's time for that to change. That's why the League launched Women Bike-the first national advocacy initiative to empower, engage and elevate more women bicyclists in the United States.

Women on Bikes Saint Paul

We want to support women who bike or want to bike, as well as encourage policy and infrastructure improvements. And have fun while we're at it.

Grease Rag

A forum for women/trans/femme cyclists in the Twin Cities.


Group Rides & Classes

Group Rides presented by The Hub Bicycle Co-op:  

  • Women's Casual Ride. Monday nights. 6 PM. 301 Cedar location. Causal-paced ride that will use a combination of bike paths and streets. This is suitable for all kinds of bikes (and all kinds of riders!). Starts Monday, April 15, and goes through the end of August.
  • Women's Road Ride. Monday nights. 6 PM. 301 Cedar location. Faster-paced road ride of about 15-20 miles at about a 15 mph average speed. Rides will be in a single or double pace line on streets and with traffic. Starts Monday, April 15, and goes through the end of August.

Twin Cities Bicycle Club:  

See their calendar for a full schedule of rides all over the metro. Color key to different experience levels.

U-cycle 101: Build confidence in cycling in and around campus:

Presented by University of Minnesota Bike Center (operated by Hub Bicycle Co-op) and Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota . Wednesdays, noon- 1 PM. University Hub Bike Center, 401 Oak St SE, Minneapolis. Free. Register here.


Bike Safety and Cycling Infrastructure presented by Twin Cities Bicycle Club:

Friday, May 10, 2013, 7:00 PM, REI Bloomington. Learn how and why the Twin cities is investing yearly in a network of trails, bike boulevards, cycle tracks, and bike boxes to put us near the top of Best Bike Cities. Then learn how to navigate them safely. Please register at the REI website.


Riding with Traffic Class at Spokes Bike Walk Center:

Monday, May 6, 6-8:30 PM, 1915 East 22nd Street, Minneapolis.


Traffic Skills 101 presented by the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota:

This traffic skills course gives cyclists the confidence they need to ride safely and legally in traffic or on the trail. Two-day course. Both days required. Fee: $50. Location: The Hub University Bike Center, 401 SE Oak Street, Minneapolis. Register online.

  • 4/26-27
  • 5/31-6/1
  • 6/28-29
  • See more dates & other classes here.


Open Shop & Bicycle Maintenance


Open Shop Nights presented by Grease Rag at neighborhood bicycle shops/centers:

Feel free to bring in a project to work on, or come to help or hang out. You do not need prior mechanical knowledge to attend. You will be doing all of your own work, so be prepared to get in touch with your bicycle! This event is free and open to all WTF cyclists.

  • 2nd and 4th Mondays, 7-9 PM. Spokes, a community bike walk center in Seward. 1915 East 22nd Street, Minneapolis.
  • 2nd Tuesdays, 7-9 PM. Recovery Bike shop in Northeast. 2555 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis.
  • 1st and 3rd Thursdays , 7-9 PM. Sunrise Cyclery, a used bike shop in Uptown. 2901 Blaisdell Ave, Minneapolis.
  • 2nd and 4th Thursdays, 7-9 PM. University of Minnesota's Bike Center (managed by The Hub Co-Op), 401 SE Oak Street, Minneapolis.


Open Shop for Women/Trans Cyclists at Cycles for Change:

Tuesdays, 5-9 PM, 712 University Avenue, Saint Paul.


Bicycle Basics at Freewheel Bike Shop (locations on West Bank, Midtown Greenway, Eden Prairie):

Classes are designed for people who need to know the basics of operating and maintaining their new bike. Free, but registration is required. 




Cited Source: 
Downtown Journal


Top Locations for Women: Any Correlation with Improvements?

Thanks for shedding some light on women bicycling. I appreciate the background, and also looking for opportunities to increase the number of women biking.

That said, I'm curious: with the top locations listed how many of them had facility improvements in/around them since 2008? Off the top of my head, I know there have been improvements near some of them - e.g., bike lane east bound on Marshall Ave near the Lake St. Bridge.

Is it possible these facility improvements are correlated with more women biking in these areas? And, what do othere bike count locations look like that may have had similar facility improvements?

Lastly, as someone that hauls "precious toddler cargo" I tend to seek out safer, more protected faciltie facilities. There are times I avoid streets with bike lanes in favor of quieter residential streets because the traffic volumes, speeds and proximity to move traffic feel uncomfortable with a trailer behind me.

Thanks for your note. We're

Thanks for your note. We're checking on the details from the count report & will be back soon w/ a reply.

4 of 5 top locations for women cycling have new facilities

Thanks for your note & apologies for the delay in responding. Of the top locations for volume of women riders, four out of five have had new facilities added since 2008:
--15th Ave SE. City of Mpls and U of M added green paint and other, clearer bicycle markings along that route.
--Franklin Avenue Bridge. Hennepin County (w/ BWTC funds) added bike lanes and (eastbound) a bike box. Note: women have accounted for most of the increase in bicycling at this location.
--Lake Street Bridge. No changes on the bridge itself, but on the Saint Paul side, the City (w/ BWTC funds) added an east bound bike lane and, southbound toward the bridge, "bikes may use full lane" signs to reinforce state law that allows bicyclists to take the lane when necessary for safety.
--Cedar Lake Trail. Hennepin County and City of Minneapolis funded a major extension of the trail to connect to paths along the Mississippi River.

In terms of correlating the facilities to rates of women cycling, we can compare the Loring Bikeway Bridge (at the north end of a new bicycle boulevard) with Franklin Ave (west of Nicollet, where there are not bicycle facilities). On the Loriing Bikeway Bridge, the percentage of female bicyclists rose from 37% to 63% (2010-2012), while at Franklin Ave. the percentage of women cyclists dropped, from 33% to 28%, over the same period.

Your own experience as a Mom with precious cargo definitely fits w/ national data that indicates women prefer bicycle boulevards (which generally are on quiet residential streets) to bike lanes on busy streets. There are some new BWTC-funded bicycle boulevards coming this summer-- in Saint Paul on Griggs, Charles, and Jefferson, and in Northeast Minneapolis, the "Presidents Bicycle Boulevard" will run on residential streets parallel to Central Ave.