Girls on Bikes

final count, 55 ridersWhat started off as a simple discussion about a planned ride over on Midnight Ridazz has turned into a super interesting discussion about why there are so many fewer female bike riders than men in LA. There are comparisons being made to other cities like San Diego, San Francisco, Portland etc where it’s basically a 50/50 split between men and women but for some reason in LA there seem to be far fewer ladies on bikes. Why is that? The discussion, now almost 80 comments strong is packed with speculation. Suggestions include that too many people take photos of rides in LA and girls are scared of having their photos taken, that there are too many sexy sexist jokes on the rides, that biking isn’t considered “cool” in LA so girls aren’t drawn to it, or that the only time girls ride bikes is if their boyfriends talk them into it. These all sound like lame excuses to me so I’m asking here, and I only want to hear from women, why do you ride (if you do), or why don’t you ride (if you don’t). Inquiring minds want to know.

35 thoughts on “Girls on Bikes”

  1. i have this weird thing that is probably unique to me since i am a special kinda girl…it’s called a fear of dying. i’ve personally seen 4 cyclists get hit my stupid drivers in 4 different traffic scenarios this year and that freaks me out way too much to ride.

  2. As much as I love the idea of biking to/from work and to the SO’s house, it’s always been an issue of personal safety- taking not only into account the insane drivers of los angeles, but also that fact that I’d have to bike alone, as a single female.

    Also, since I don’t get out of work til late, I’d be biking after dark and not through the best neighborhoods in the world, so … there’s my rationale.

  3. I don’t ride, but even if I did, the whole death-defying aspect of riding in LA would put me off the game.

    Also, try this experiment. 1.Walk into a DSW (shoe store) in LA. 2.Look at the selection of women’s shoes. 3.Walk into a DSW in SF or DC. 4.Look at the selection of women’s shoes.

    It’s hard to bike in mules with maribou feathers; that’s all I’m saying.

  4. I agree, the main reasons I don’t bike are:

    1. An acquaintance of mine was on her bike riding legally and was pulled under a bus and killed instantly.
    2. As a woman, after dark I am worry about my safety in many neighborhoods.

  5. I don’t think that whether I choose to ride or not has anything to do with being female (although, perhaps with a sample survey there might be some similar patterns among female riders).

    I think a lot of why I don’t ride has to do with the fact that I’m afraid of riding near cars. I’m kind of clumsy which leads to a lot of falling, and falling is neither attractive nor cool, which are things I strive for. So I guess that “cool factor” you mentioned has a bit to do with it.

    Although, I think bike kids are “cool” as well, so I’m not sure if my insight would be helpful in developing that theory. It’s really a difficult internal struggle with me.

    Sometimes I walk/metro or take the car because I don’t have anywhere to carry all my stuff. If I’m walking I can take a big tote, which I can’t really do if I’m on a bike.

    I think that about covers all the reasons I don’t ride. Hopefully this is helpfull

  6. Mr. Angelino, I think you are comparing apples to oranges. If I’m driving on Olympic and get rear-ended or sideswiped at 35-45mph, chances are very high that the only thing injured is my car. If I’m on a bike, minimum, I would get really bad road rash, maximum….I don’t like to think about it.

  7. Actually, I was just looking into the possibility of buying a bicycle. (OK, I was specifically looking at the options in toddler seats for bikes, but that would eventually have led to looking at bikes themselves.) I don’t ride a bike because I don’t have a bike. That’s about it. I don’t know if it’s relevant, but I would probably only ride it in my residential neighborhood if I did have one, because I’d be taking the bambino with me.

  8. i’ve been in 2 accidents (no hospitalization, but longish-term repercusions) while riding on my bike, but i still do it! why? i love the feel of the air on a bike. i love weaving through cars on the street. i love the exercise and the oxygen. i like representing (pounding chest) the bike. i especially love riding in l.a. vs. other larger, taller cities in this country. l.a. seems more manageable, it’s more open and i GET the city better on a bike. and i actually feel safer on a bike at night…i know it’s a false sense of security that i’m moving at 11 mph….but i feel a little invincible and a little more powerful on my bike.

  9. I have been on Midnight Ridazz rides and am comfortable doing so. In those instances, I was either with a large pack of riders or at least one other person. As for the reasons posted earlier by women who would not ride, I totally understand and empathize. However, despite not being the best rider (yes, I have inadvertently toppled over while on my bike), I ride because I simply enjoy zipping along with a bunch of other riders late at night. I have had my photo taken and posted and it hasn’t bothered me (no racy photos, so no big deal). I have not heard any sexist jokes on my rides. I don’t really care if it’s cool or not – I do it because it’s fun and there’s usually a great group of people. My boyfriend and/or husband did not get me to do the ride. Although I would prefer not to be roadkill at any given point, I wouldn’t give up doing something I enjoyed as long as I was handling it safely.

  10. I second that about the fear of dying thing. Although, since I’ve moved from Echo Park to Burbank – I’ve been on-line shopping for a bike. Must be something about the wide, oak-lined streets with far less traffic?

  11. Interesting that basically none of the reasons given so far are specifically femalcentric. I wonder, though, if the kind of people that don’t ride because of things they perceive as sexist are the kind of people that would read something like this and write about it. It’s probably less quantifiable than that.

    As a woman, after dark I am worry about my safety in many neighborhoods.

    This cracks me up. My testicles must be broken, because I worry about my safety in many neighborhoods too.

  12. The fear of getting run over and/or killed is a big part of why I don’t ride my bike more often. Also, I don’t know other people into bikes and meeting the ones that are into them is intimidating. That’s about it. If I knew people who rode bikes, I would ride mine too. Safety in numbers I suppose.

  13. I wouldn’t ride my bike to work (crazy commuters, sweat, etc), and I’m currently bikeless anyway since some jerk broke into my garage & stole my bike. For short trips I usually prefer walking though.

  14. I used to ride my bike from Van Nuys to Los Feliz for soccer games, and then from Glendale to USC when I lived in Glendale. Aside from showing up sweaty to work (teaching undergrads), the only downside was tired legs and having to listen to some pretty sketchy comments about my ass, my tits, my legs, etc. I suspect most women who have ever walked in L.A. have had to deal with this. Sometimes you can brush it off, sometimes it gets to you. Oh and the right lane of the road can have some hella nasty potholes – unavoidable if you happen to be smooshed between a car and a sidewalk.

  15. How funny – that’s me in the photo!
    So here is my perspective on being a female cyclist in LA. I think there is a barrier to entry keeping women out of the scene. Some challenges include bad drivers, safety in “dangerous” neighborhoods, and lack of knowledge regarding bike routes and equipment.
    These challenges are not insurmountable. This morning my mom rode to work for the first time, from Hancock Park to Santa Monica. She called to thank me for turning her onto cycling and to encourage her to use it as an alternate mode of transit.

    If there are any other women who need this type of support or encouragement please join us on GOGA.
    A ride for the ladies of Los Angeles.

  16. I ride a bike.

    I love riding my bike, but other people don’t. My boyfriend thinks I’m going to get killed, because I ride against traffic and because in general I just lack common sense.

    I wasn’t too into the biking thing, because the people I saw biking in general weren’t my type of people. The gear people with the spandex and helmet I can’t do that. I did not wear my head-gear. I’m not wearing a helmet. I’ll just have to die.

    Then you had the messenger/extreme crowd, spending time fixing their bikes, fighting with alligators, layering their entire bodies with tattoos which are all very cool thing. I’d date that person, invite them to parties, but I wouldn’t want to be that person.

    My physical activities are typing and lifting gin and tonics. I’m not into riding miles and miles and miles. I have to go to bars and sleep and do important things, BUT I try to live, work and play within a 4-5 square mile radius (I planned it that way) and when I saw those companies Nirve and Electra and the super cute bikes you could buy, well that changed everything.

    I can casually ride my bike, have a little basket for my flask and a bell to tell people to move their booties because I’m coming through and look cute all at the same time.

    (Just kidding, I always go into ongoing traffic to make room for pedestrians, because I hate when bicyclist don’t do that. It’s rude to ride on the sidewalk when you see people, but I do use my bell with the kiddies. This little girl just loved my bike. She started jumping up and down like I was god. I just have to transfer that kind of power to generate enthusiasm to an adult with lots of money.)

    I realized that I could ride my bike without having to embrace the lifestyle of cycle person or learning how to fix it. If it breaks you can just take it to a bike shop, that’s the kind of peace of mind a person like me needs.

    oh, oh, interesting story in NY Observer, I love the rag…might be insulting to some, probably will be insulting to lots I was a bit insulted when someone sent it to me with a smiley face.


  17. OK, yeah, I’m a dude, but I’m in the picture too, so can I comment? It seems like the primary reason for women not cycling more being given here is the safety factor, which reflects the statistic as to why people on the whole say they don’t ride more. So is it that men are more willing to put that fear aside? Perhaps in our culture, men are taught that fear isn’t manly?

    Regardless, I’m fully aware of the dangers, but the pleasures and rewards I get from biking around L.A. far outweigh the risks. That’s a decision that every individual has to make for themselves.

    Observation tells me more people than ever are biking around Los Angeles, and while that may lead to more incidents in the short run, I like to think that eventually drivers will have to get used to the idea of bikes on the streets and that conditions will improve.

  18. I think the main reason I don’t ride my bike to work is safety in the night ride back and the fact that there is no easy way to get from my place to work on a bike. I do however love riding my bike on the weekends down to the beach and along the beach bike paths. I just wish it wasn’t so short of a path. I’d also like to see better bike helmets made just for girls. Oh and travis – as far as shoe shopping with a bike – i have a detachable (and collapsible) basket for mine, which makes grocery shopping easy.

  19. “I’d also like to see better bike helmets made just for girls.” Eve

    Yes, better looking and I’ve got hair, lots of hair, even if I wanted to wear a helmet I couldn’t. I’m not cutting my hair or thinning it out just so I won’t die. I will just try to concentrate on not getting hit, though I don’t really try that hard with that.

    The safety thing with the bike at night, never thought of that. I think though getting a very girly looking bike would probably prevent people from knocking you off your bike and taking it, but I’m not sure what the safety concern is.

    Question for people who have safety concerns:

    A. Is the safety concerns people knocking you off your bike and taking your bike

    B. People hitting you on the bike.

    C. People seeing you on the bike and wanting to harm or rob you.


  20. The Militant has never heard of anyone getting “bikejacked.” Think about it — if you were a thief, what’s more worth stealing, a nice bike or a nice car?

    The Militant has gotten into two bicycle accidents, but the two accidents were twenty years apart and did not involve another vehicle.

    The Militant knows the streets. If you’re pedaling hard down the street, no matter what time of night, no one’s gonna fuck with you.

    Besides, life is full of risks. Would you never wear a t-shirt for fear of getting stung on the arm by a bee? Maybe you’re better up holed up in the house all day, which is fine, unless a big earthquake hits.

    The Militant will share with you the fact that he was once afraid to ride his bike on the streets years ago — until he tried it. The turning point was riding from his Hollywood-area compound to Venice Beach and back. Now the world is his oyster. He hasn’t looked back since.

  21. Funny that, Midnight Ridazz was started by a group of females who eventually quit when the group started getting too macho and crazy. It’s just what I heard…

  22. Same. I’ve already been hit by one car (in Pasadena); I don’t particularly want to repeat the experience. For outdoor riding, I drive, park, and ride my bike on one of the paths (usually Ballona Creek to the Strand).

  23. I ride my bike all the time and I LURVE it. I commute to work and generally when going out on the weekends.

    Yes, it’s dangerous, but side streets are where it’s at. When I go out to the bars, I take my cruiser, because it’s slower, I’m higher up and can cruise on the sidewalks without getting frustrated.

    But then, yes, biking in LA is a sexist culture. There’s this boys club mentality, which is very off putting. I think it’s why the Bitchin is so terrific.

    My big problem with Ridazz is more about homophobia (which is, of course, a form of sexism), though. Each ride i’ve been on, I’ve been surrounded by dudes making some really shitty comments about folks on the street. Makes a queer like me feel mighty out of place.

  24. I ride my bike because I feel good on my bike. Getting back into biking was one of the best things I did in the last 10 years. It makes me strong, gives me energy, makes me feel good, and there’s an awesomely creative and vibrant worldwide cycling community that I am proud to be a part of.

    I have been in accidents, been hit by cars, have had assinine and sexist comments made by peds, cops, and other cyclists over the years. There are lots of things that anyone not on a bike might think would discourage me from riding, including the “car driver vs cyclist” related deaths of people dear to me.

    Even with all that, my bike makes me feel grounded in a way that not a whole lot else does. I think cycling builds confidence in even the most timid people. I love watching people build confidence as they ride, realize that transportation doesn’t have to be passive, and discover that excersize doesn’t need to be in a stale-aired gym.

    I think some cities, like LA and NY, are more prone to having an unequal male-female-queer ratio than say, SF and PDX.

    But – that said – some of the best bicycle activist/organizing I’ve seen the world over was started and is maintained by women.

    And yes – Midnight Ridazz was from my understanding, started up by women.

  25. I’m a girl and I ride in LA!

    I just started riding for the first time since I was a kid about a month ago and I have to say, I love it. I’m a total klutz and I can ride beautifully with almost no problems. I’ve rear ended my husband once and downed my bike getting the wheels caught spinning along between a sidewalk and grass – I jumped off and landed on my feet!! Not a scratch in either case.

    Riding a bike actually makes me feel more coordinated and strong. Seriously. It’s so much fun. I HATE working out but riding a bike is not working out – it’s traveling and it’s just fun.

    I also have to say – get over the whistling and comments. If you are female and have walked a block on the sidewalks of LA, you’ve been whistled at, propositioned, and generally leered at by men. Biking is no different.

    As far as safety goes – traffic sucks and be careful. I will not ride in the street unless forced. I almost always ride on the side walk. Ride in the same directions as traffic – cars in driveways will see you better.

    If you’re worried about riding at night, don’t. First off, unless you’re in spandex – it’s hard to tell if a person is male or female in the dark on a bike. And secondly – PEDAL harder!!!! If you’re cranking away a person on foot will have a hard time keepin’ up. Just my opinion – but I don’t ride much by myself at night – I’m normally with my husband, but I wouldn’t have a problem.

    I also wanted a bike to expand my range of options. I haven’t owned a car in over 5 years – I’ve barely driven anything but rental cars in that time. I take the bus and the subway everywhere – riding a bike is faster than either in some cases. Maybe I’m just cheap – but maybe not…I just don’t want to spend 3 bucks a gallon on gas, plus insurance, and a car payment. I can use that money on games, shoes, clothes, better food and a nicer apartment.

    My daily commute is:

    * Bike 3 blocks to a metro station
    * take metro subway to the area around my office
    * park bike next to my cube
    * bike 1.5 miles to the next train station
    * take metro back to the station near my apartment
    * bike 3 blocks home

    No sweat on the way to work and barely any on the way home. It’s nice to have the wind in my helmet and not be stuck with the automatons in their SUV’s in car traffic.

    Bikes RULE!!

    I think alot of the problem with the lack of girl riders in LA are mostly the things people mentioned before – BUT I also want to add that cyclists are part of the problem too.

    Not all, but the girls I’ve seen on bikes here are not very girlie (except for the 2 girls I saw biking in heels). You have alot of wanna be actresses and models who take one look at a girl on a bike and say “EWW – that helmet would mess up my hair!” They would rather sit in a car in traffic than mess up their hair, clothes, or make up.

    Plus – you have all the Lance Armstrong wanna bes who look down their nose at anyone on a bike, not wearing a spandex jersey with a company name plastered on it.

    AND – the masocistic (and/or stupid) hipsters on their fixed gear bikes who make biking look ALOT harder than it is.

    My 2 cents ^_^

  26. So it’s not OK for “Lance Armstrong wanna bes [sic]” to look down their noses at other riders, but it’s OK for you to look down your nose at fixed gear riders? Please explain your (for lack of a better term) logic here.

  27. I love biking. I love the wind on my face, I love the challenge of a pot-holed street, I love figuring out difficult intersections, and I love starting the day with a nine-mile ride under my belt. It’s like exercise … but not excruciating.

    But an impression exists that biking in LA is taking your life in your own hands. And maybe they’re right: drivers don’t expect to see bikers here, so they drive differently than drivers in, say, Portland or San Francisco.

    I also suspect some women here would prefer to get their exercise in a yoga or dance studio, or a gym. A calmer, more controlled environment where they can wash their hair after. I’m not sure if it’s an image thing or a status thing — bikes are gritty, and they’re low on status. If only they knew what they were missing!

Comments are closed.