Women and Biking in San Francisco

This article first appeared in the Winter 2015 edition of our quarterly magazine, the Tube Times. For this story and more, download the Winter 2015 PDF.

“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every times I see a woman ride by on a wheel. It gives woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.” – Susan B. Anthony, 1896

Looking Back

The quote above from an 1896 interview with suffragette Susan B. Anthony still resonates today with anyone who has experienced the liberating and elevating feeling that comes with riding a bicycle. But for women at the time, the role of the bicycle was especially profound. Anthony named the bicycle the “freedom machine” for the way it enabled women to move around autonomously and with complete control.

The bicycle became an important element of the “New Woman” ideal that emerged in the late 1800s to describe the strong, independent, and educated woman who challenged the male-dominated norms of the time in Europe and the U.S. The bicycle emerged alongside this form of feminism, symbolizing an ability for women to move into new spaces, both literally and figuratively.

Pedaling Forward

Today, women and men alike increasingly choose to move through our city using human-powered transportation. In San Francisco alone, we have seen an incredible 96% increase in people biking since 2006. Yet the number of women biking remains comparatively low; only a third of bike commuters in San Francisco are women. The national average is even lower, at 24%.

Female advocates are leading some incredibly cool and powerful bicycle initiatives, such as feminist bicycle author, Elly Blue; the L.A.- based empowerment and advocacy-focused Latina biking group, Ovarian Psycos; and our very own SF Bicycle Coalition Gals with Gears cycling group for women aged 50 and older.

We want to add even more momentum to this movement, which is why we have begun our Women Bike SF program. So to all of our local women, trans*, and female identified individuals, this initiative is for you. We are actively growing our resources and forum so that you can meet others, get excited, and join the historic movement to get more women on bikes. Stay tuned, and come ride with us!


The SF Bicycle Coalition has launched a pilot program, Women Bike SF, that aims to inspire more women, trans*, and female identified individuals to ride bikes, and to encourage and support them along the way through social events, rides, and workshops. To stay updated on upcoming events, keep checking back at sfbike.org/women.

FRI., FEB. 6 | 8AM | Mojo Bicycle Cafe
This will be the second in a series of informal monthly morning gatherings at various coffee shops. We’ll talk bikes, share tips, and get caffeinated together!

ALL MARCH | Citywide
Check sfbike.org/events for femme-focused bike events, including Bicycle Education Classes, a Women’s History Bike Ride, a Bike Shop Bike Tour, and more!

WED., Mar. 11 | 2-5PM | Location TBD
A team of Stanford University students will be developing a toolkit of resources to support our Women Bike SF initiative. They will be doing research and surveys through January and February and make a final presentation on March 11. If you are interested in getting involved, email janice@sfbike.org.

Do you have an idea to get more women rolling? Reach out to anna@sfbike.org.

Become a member and you'll improve your commute and get discounts at shops across the city.