In bicycle advocacy, we often cite the troubling statistic that, while women make up 51 percent of the American population, we accounted for just 24 percent of U.S. bike trips in 2009. As we discussed at the National Women Cycling Forum (and will tackle at the upcoming National Women’s Bicycling Summit), there are a number of complex factors that contribute to women riding less than men.
But that trend is shifting — and the National Bike Challenge is proof.
Already, more than 8,800 women from around the country have signed up — making up 37 percent of all participants (who indicated their gender). Over the course of the Challenge thus far, three women have made it well into the top 100 for individual riders, and there are plenty of female riders pedaling their way up the ranks.
As of yesterday morning, here’s how the top 10 women stacked up:
- Katie Schanz- Cleveland, OH
- Mary Catterton- Oshkosh, WI
- Cindy Dodd- Waterloo, IA
- Kate Powlison- Boulder, CO
- Emily Ponti- Cleveland, OH
- Kristen Keyes- Cleveland, OH
- Kerin Huber- Pasadena, CA
- Erin Chamberlain- Topeka, KS
- Abby Watson- Madison, WI
- Stephanie Skladzien- Madison, WI
As a former Iowa and Missouri resident, I had to smile at the dominance of the Midwest. And special props to Cleveland and Madison for being home to 6 of the 10 leading ladies. To learn a little more about the women’s leader, I got in touch with Katie Schanz for a short Q&A. Here’s what she told me…
When and why did you start riding?
I started cycling about four years ago. I always hated driving, so I got rid of my car about five years ago. I walked and took public transportation to get around at first. Riding a bike just seemed to make much more sense. It was cheaper, faster and more fun!
How much do you ride now and for what purposes — to get to work, for recreation, etc?
Since I’m car-free I cycle for everything. I’m a transportation cyclist, but I also still ride for fun. It’s not unusual for me to bike to work and do my errands by bike — and then go on a long social ride.
Why did you join the National Bike Challenge and what have been the benefits?
I learned about the Bike Challenge from Bike Cleveland. I thought it would be fun to track my miles and compare them to other people nationally and locally. It hasn’t really impacted my riding all that much. Since I ride for transportation I would be out on my bike regardless. I have been riding a little more than usual but that is more because I am getting in shape for the Pan Ohio Hope Ride.
Do you feel there are any equal number of women as men riding in your community? What do you think it would take to get more women riding?
There are definitely fewer female cyclists in my area than men. There have been many time when I am the only girl on a long ride. I have often considered what it would take to get more women riding and it’s a hard question to answer. There seems to be so many different reasons that women aren’t riding as much men.
What would you say to women to encourage them to join the National Bike Challenge?
I think one of the best encouragements for women to join the Challenge is so they can see how quickly their riding miles add up. I hear people say all the time that a 10-mile ride sounds so far, but they have probably ridden 10 miles themselves and not even realized it. Miles add up quick on a bike. If more women are tracking and see how much they’re already riding, they may be less intimidated to ride more or longer distances.
Carolyn SzczepanskiCarolyn joined the League in March 2012, after two years at the Alliance for Biking & Walking. In addition to managing the League's blog, magazine and other communications, Carolyn organized the first National Women's Bicycling Summit and launched the League's newest program: Women Bike. Before she crossed over to advocacy, she was a professional journalist for nearly 10 years.