I have been a cycling commuter for about 15 years, including the last 5 years in Victoria. I’ve also frequently participated in BTWW, and love the energy and enthusiasm generated by this event. But my perspective has recently shifted.
Last summer I became a mother, and while I was once an enthusiastic cyclist, I am now much less confident cycling in Victoria, especially anywhere there is no designated cycling infrastructure and I have to share the road with traffic.
And I’m not alone. I’ve recently learned that in Victoria men and women cycle equally up until the age of 25. After 25, the percentage of female cyclists drops by 25 per cent, resulting in a 50 per cent gender gap. One explanation for this gap may be women’s concern about safety, particularly their children’s safety.
To be fair, there have been significant improvements to Victoria’s cycling infrastructure, however we need to do much more. For example, Blanshard Street has painted bike lanes, but when there is a 40km speed difference between myself and a truck passing within a meter of my shoulder, I simply don’t feel safe.
I know many other moms who feel the same way. I think a shift is needed. Cycling infrastructure needs to be planned and implemented with our most vulnerable citizens at the heart: our kids. If children can cycle or be towed around in a way that is protected from traffic, then safety stops being an inhibitor to their cycling.
I believe this is the best path forward to reverse Victoria’s cycling gender gap and making BTWW a celebration for men and women cyclists equally.