Taken from the Australasian College of Road Safety (ACRS) newsletter.

With a basket on the front of her bicycle and two daughters and school bags weighing down the back, Melissa Derwent cops “surprised looks” as she pedals up and down the steep hills of suburban Oatley to school drop off before starting her commute.  There is no Lycra in sight.  “There is no bike infrastructure in the suburbs, and you definitely stand out. You are not a middle-aged man in Lycra. You are the mum on a bike version of a minivan, or the nearly middle-aged mother not in Lycra,” Ms Derwent, 37, said.

As policy makers grapple with how to reduce the pressure on public transport during the COVID-19 pandemic, a study by the City of Sydney to be released on Thursday found many women didn’t ride or walk because of the absence of dedicated walking or cycling paths. Women also feared for their personal safety and wanted better street lighting, and said they wanted end-of-trip facilities to change so they didn’t arrive at work sweaty or with “helmet hair”.  Like Ms Derwent, many felt they didn’t fit the stereotype – commonly an inner city dweller, mostly male, wearing exercise clothes.

The survey of nearly 900 women was conducted by the City of Sydney council with the global group C40 Women4Climate to address the barriers female walkers and cyclists faced. To be released at a webinar with policy makers on Thursday, it recommends every street should be thought of as a “walking and cycling space” and calls for lower speed limits, and separated bike and walking paths.

On Wednesday, the Amy Gillett Foundation also released results of a survey that found 90 per cent of Australians agreed more needed to be spent on temporary bike lanes.  Before the pandemic, a million people travelled to the CBD every day, said Sydney’s lord mayor Clover Moore. Only 1 per cent of work trips in greater Sydney are by people cycling, and 5 per cent by those walking, according to the council.

Cr Moore said breaking down the perception, safety and access barriers that were stopping women from riding to work, schools and local businesses, would create “connected active transport infrastructure” for everyone.  Women are estimated to make up one in every 10 cyclists. Where there are dedicated cycle lanes or paths, the numbers rise. Women account for 13.2 per cent of cyclists using the city’s bike paths.

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