A new report from bike and scooter share firm Lime has found that badly lit streets at night and the lack of safe infrastructure are major barriers to cycling for most women, helping explain why, in the UK, men on average make three times as many trips by bicycle than women do, according to government figures.
Publishing the findings of its research under the title Tackling the Gender ‘Pedal Gap’ – Women’s Night Safety Report 2023, Lime also found that anti-social behaviour and the prospect of harassment from other road users were issues that each prevented around one in three women from getting in the saddle.
Just one in five women responding to the survey commissioned by Lime for the report agreed that they felt safe riding a bicycle at night, while more than three quarters said that a car was their preferred option for travelling in the hours of darkness.
Overall, nine in 10 women who ride a bike or scooter experience some type of barrier to doing so, says Lime, which in the UK runs e-bike and or e-scooter schemes in runs e-bike and e-scooter schemes in London, Milton Keynes, Salford, Derby and Nottingham, and which listed five key recommendations resulting from its research, as follows:
The government and local authorities should build upon existing work to deliver more cycling infrastructure and parking bays.
Local authorities should also ensure there is street lighting on popular cycling routes and around parking bays.
The government should work with local authorities and charities to introduce cycling lessons or refresher courses in secondary schools.
Transport and mapping applications should introduce a feature to show well-lit routes home for cycling, with 66% of female cyclists saying they’d feel safer with this kind of map feature.
Lime will explore new product features to improve personal safety, such as a ‘Follow My Ride’ feature which would allow women to share their cycle journey with loved ones.
In a foreword to the report, which was based on a survey of 2,000 UK adults conducted by polling firm Opinium as well as a survey of 132 Lime riders, Lime general counsel Sarah Binder, who said that women who use its bikes and scooters are among the company’s “most loyal riders and advocates,,” wrote of her own experience.
“Even before joining Lime, I was a passionate advocate of cycling in London,” she said. “I have experienced the value and benefits that it brings to my life - for commuting, for fun or fitness, and to see friends and family.”
She said that the report highlighted that “despite these benefits, women continue to cycle less regularly than men in the UK. I am proud of the role that Lime has played in starting to increase accessibility for female cycling, including making me and other women feel safe on the roads. But there is clearly more that needs to be done.
“We believe that companies such as Lime have a vital role to play in working with government, local authorities and industry to overcome the barriers that exist and hope this report can be a step in the right direction to closing the gender ‘pedal gap’,” she added.
Earlier this year, we reported on research from Australia that highlighted similar barriers to getting more women cycling in Melbourne, including the lack of safe infrastructure that separates cyclists from motor vehicles.
Dr Lauren Pearson of Monash University's Sustainable Mobility and Safety Research Group, who led the research, noted that twice as many men cycle in the city compared to women, a similar proportion to that in the UK.
“Gender differences were stark in terms of the barriers,” Dr Pearson said. “We were really surprised at just how substantial these differences were, and how many women were reporting these concerns.”
Just over three quarters of women surveyed as part of the research said that they would like to cycle more, which Dr Pearson said reflected “massive potential,” and she added that segregated bike lanes “may support more women to ride a bike through reducing motor vehicle interactions.”
As with the Lime study, the research from Melbourne also found that poorly-lit routes discouraged many women from cycling, with nearly half of the women questioned agreeing that well-lit areas would lead to them cycling more often.
“It's about planning for the trips that aren't taken as well as those that are," Dr Pearson added.
“Women want to make local trips and we need to make sure we're building the infrastructure to support this, not just thinking about the people that are already riding, and having that gender lens on all design decisions.”
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.