Biking to Work Is a Healthy Alternative, But Women Do it Less than Men Do

Valeria Boltneva / Pexels

Woman on Bicycle

Valeria Boltneva / Pexels

AnnaMarie Houlis
AnnaMarie Houlis

Commuting to work by bike is healthy exercise for the body and mind, since we spend most of the day cooped up in the office. Plus, it's all around better for the environment. That's why the majority of US states and cities say they want to increase the number of people biking to work to reduce traffic, promote public health and curb greenhouse gas emissions. But more than 85 percent of us drive to work every day, while less than four percent bike or walk, according to Bike Walk Alliance.

And women don't bike to work nearly as much as men "primarily because of barriers related to perception of safety, lack of bicycle facilities, and lack of end of trip facilities, such as showers and changing rooms," according to recent research. We reached out to women to inquire about why they don't bike to work as much, so that companies could make it easier for their female employees. Here's what they had to say.
1. Offer incentives for biking.
"I’m new to bike commuting but have gotten really into it since working at Oliver Russell (I started in October)," says Caitlin Masingill. "I’m still a wuss during winter, because shoes! I generally bike twice a week if it’s not below 35 degrees outside (we’re in Boise, Idaho, so high desert climate, mostly blue skies). We have a bike-to-work policy that definitely helps inspire me to do it, plus competitions like May in Motion, which is going on right now in our city. Oliver Russell pays employees $2.50 every day that we don’t drive solo (walk, bike, or carpool). Heck, it’s a coffee, right?"
2. Provide e-bikes.
"I'd definitely bike to work more often if I had an e-bike," says Locke Hughes. "They can take a lot of the sweaty effort off riding to the office, but still provides an exercise outlet. I can provide more context if you'd like."
3. Encourage bike riding.
"I bike to work almost every day (I take a Lyft when I need to get to a birth but, otherwise, I bike to clients' homes for prenatal and postpartum visits regularly — I've actually been discriminated against by some doulas in the community because I bike, when in reality I have never missed a birth nor ever had a problem with my lifestyle in relation to my career)," says Darby, a birth doula. "Ufortunately, [biking] is just not something that is accepted for women to do in our society.  Women are supposed to be soccer moms driving their mini vans, not biking their children around."
4. Offer showering and changing facilities. 
"I would bike to work if there were a decent-sized facility like a gym shower and changing room in the building," says Rebecca Donohue. "It has to be big enough to feel like a women's locker room at the gym, though. If it's a small shower room like I've seen at some startups, it gets a little creepy."
5. Make biking more accessible.
"I would be more inclined to bike to work if there were more sidewalk paths in my area," says Stacy Caprio. "There are some paths, but there are many areas where it is just road, and it is uncomfortable to bike with all the cars driving by so closely."
6. Make space for safe bike parking.
"I love commuting by bike and wish I could do it more often," says Marina Pilipenko. "But there are several reasons that make it really uncomfortable. First of all there are no bike lanes on my way to work. I have to ride on the same road as cars which isn't really safe. The second reason is the lack of protected parking for bikes. Every time I commuted by bike I keep thinking if I'm going to have my bike to come back home in the evening.And the last reason — the lack of changing room. And this is where my company could help me. It's just really uncomfortable to change in the ladies restroom."
7. Incentivize with gift cards or bonuses.
"For me, biking to work seems out of reach, because I don’t want to be sweaty when I get there," says Hayley Ellis. "A shower would definitely help me make the change. I would also need to change out of the clothes I biked in, so a locker room would also be essential. The thought of saving the environment is certainly enticing. I’d be willing to commit to it if the culture in the office encouraged it. If for instance, they incentivized carpooling and biking with a gift card or bonus I think a lot of people would make the switch. Another good incentive would be to give me the requisite time to recover from the ride and stretch, stretching being more important. I also find that I’m really hungry after a bike ride, which can be distracting at work. If I could have food available to eat I’d be more amenable to the idea."

8. Encourage biking buddies.
"I actually used to bike to work and I absolutely loved it — there are so many benefits including physical, mental, financial, environmental, etc.," says Mary Weidner, co-founder of Strongr Fastr, a nutrition and training app. "I don't any more, mainly because I moved to an area that is hilly and has no bike infrastructure, but I do have some thoughts on what would help. Get people excited for Bike to Work Day (third Friday in May). It just happened in my city, and I saw men in suits and women in dresses biking around. Seeing other people do it makes it seem a lot more exciting and feasible. My former employer had a program where people signed up and got to see a database of other people who were looking to have a bike commute buddy. You find someone who is in your area, agree to meet at a certain time/place, and you bike in together. People make friends, ease in to the new commute, keep you accountable, and also feel safer and more visible. Invest in a bike infrastructure. This is the most important thing. Making sure there are bike lanes people feel safe in that lead to their place of work and then have a safe place to lock up their bike. My old office was in an extremely bike friendly area of the city, and half of my office biked to work. I got a side job outside of the city with zero bike infrastructure and no one biked, myself included (and I only lived a few minutes away). It makes all the difference."
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at by night.