The Market Street bike counter at 10th and Market streets logged 96,693 eastbound trips in January, the highest number since it was installed nearly two years ago. This matches a trend showing that cycling in San Francisco is booming: Ridership, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, has increased 96 percent between 2006 and 2013, and continues to grow.
But despite fast-growing ridership rates, the number of women biking is notably lower than the number of men biking, both locally and nationally. Only about 32 percent of bike commuters in San Francisco are women, and the national average is even lower, at 24 percent.
This is not the case everywhere: In the Netherlands, where 27 percent of all transportation trips are by bike, women make up 55 percent of the bike commuters, according to the Alliance for Biking & Walking.
To encourage more women to bike, female advocates around the country have been leading some powerful initiatives, including the Los Angeles Latina biking group Ovarian Psycos and San Francisco’s own Gals With Gears cycling group for women ages 50 and older. One of the more recent initiatives is the coalition’s Women Bike SF program, which aims to inspire more women, transgender women and female-identified people to bike.
“Our biggest goal with this program is to build a bicycling community that encourages women to ride,” said Anna Gore, the coalition’s membership manager and one of the founders of the women’s program.
But how? By offering and encouraging people to host social events, regular bike rides, bicycle education and skill-sharing workshops designed for a female audience. In the past four months, Women Bike SF events have ranged from happy hours to group bike-shop tours to film nights. Most events are open to women, transgender women and female-identified people as well as all Women Bike SF supporters — that means men, too.
Beth Williams, 63, who has been to almost all of the events, said she enjoys the fun and supportive environment.
“We may have very similar concerns as the male bikers,” Williams said at the Coffee Hour event in March, “but the conversation changes in a woman-focused environment. It’s different than meeting in a place where we know we’re visibly less present.”
Here is what’s on the schedule:
Women’s History Ride: Learn about trailblazing women on bikes, and the fascinating intersections between the history of the bicycle and the history of the suffrage movement. This fun, casual ride will most likely end with some cupcakes or other sweet treats. This ride fills up every year, so RSVP. (1-4 p.m. Sunday, March 22. $10; free for coalition members. Meet at the Bicycle Coalition, 833 Market St., S.F.)
Coffee Hour: Women talk bikes, share tips and get caffeinated during a series of informal morning gatherings at coffee shops on the first Friday of each month. No RSVP necessary. (8-9 a.m. April 3. Martha & Brothers Coffee, 401 Irving St., S.F.)
How to Be a Bike Month “Roll Model”: With Bike Month coming in May, this workshop shows you how to be a leader and get more women rolling in time for the biggest bicycling time of the year. Please RSVP. (6 p.m. April 14. Bicycle Coalition, 833 Market St., S.F.)
Gals with Gears Ride: A group of women over 50 get together regularly for rides around the Bay Area. You don’t have to be over 50 to join — you just have to want to have a good time with the group. No RSVP necessary. The next is a 13-mile loop in town and along the shores of Alameda and Bay Farm Islands. (10 a.m. April 19. Meet at the Fruitvale BART Station.)
Basic Bike Maintenance for Women: This class for new riders covers pumping up a tire, changing a flat tire, adjusting brakes and other basic skills. RSVP required. (6-8 p.m. May 4. Public Bikes, 549 Hayes St., S.F.)
Stay up to date on forthcoming events at www.sfbike.org/women, and even submit your own event at www.sfbike.org/events/community/add. If you have questions or ideas, e-mail Anna Gore at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remember, May 14 is Bike to Work Day, San Francisco’s biggest biking day of the year.