By Mel Barnard
Bicycles were invented in the early 19th century and designed with men in mind. The bike garnered attention as a masculine activity because women couldn’t ride bikes sidesaddle, as they did in the proper feminine way of horse-riding. However, the invention of the “safety bicycle” made for an easier time riding. Some women were able to take advantage of this change and used bicycles as a way to transport themselves around without a chaperone, exercise freely in public, and get places quick. This led to changes in clothing since dresses got caught in the gears, which further fueled bicycles as a symbol of feminist action, particularly the suffragette movement.
Since then, however, the bicycle has remained a largely male-dominated activity. The numbers vary based on location, but in San Francisco, twice as many men commuted by bike compared to women. Surveys into the phenomenon generally agree: cycling, particularly on roads, feels intimidating and unsafe. Women are more generally more risk averse and are driven away from the activity because of that danger.