01 02 03 Bike Darlington: Helmet hair and perspiration prevent women getting in the saddle 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Helmet hair and perspiration prevent women getting in the saddle

New research commissioned by Cycling England has revealed that two thirds (64%) of women say they never cycle and just 2% cycle every day.

Men are still three times more likely to cycle than women. Today’s poll suggests that the perceived effect of cycling on appearance, together with a lack of confidence in cycling on the road, is behind this gender imbalance.

Women are three times more likely to cycle indoors on an exercise bike (14%) than to work (4%). When it comes to cycling to work, it seems that fear of being anything less than well groomed in front of colleagues is an off-putting factor. Among 18-34 year old women:

* 58% wouldn’t want to arrive at work sweaty
* 50% would be worried about getting wet in the rain
* 38% wouldn’t want to have to carry a change of clothes
* 38% say there is nowhere to shower at work
* 27% would be concerned about ‘helmet hair’
* 19% wouldn’t want colleagues to see them without make-up or stepping out of the office shower.

What the research fails to consider, however, is just how ethno-centric such perceptions are. When attitudes are compared to those amongst women in cycling-friendly cultures, concerns about helmets, showers and sweating miraculously disappear - because they are simply not needed.

The study contrasts with a film and photography project currently underway in Darlington and in Bremen, Germany, which explores the attitude of teenage girls to cycling in both communities. Cycling is highly popular - and seen as fashionable - in cycle-friendly Bremen. Most girls in Darlington lose interest in cycling by the time they are 15 years old.

Attitudes and infrastructure appear to be strongly connected - good, safe cycling infrastructure that offers car-free routes most of the time means that cyclists can travel at their own pace, and not have to battle with motorised traffic. Attitudes to cycling change as a result. When teenagers in Bremen were asked how they deal with rain, they replied "we use an umbrella, of course".

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