In a new survey conducted by Sport Industry Research Center (SIRC) at Temple University, 228 members of Women Bike PHL reflected on how they felt the program was going and in what areas they feel it could improve.
Founded in 2013, Women Bike PHL is a program of the Bicycle Coalition with a mission of inspiring more women to ride and building community among those who do. Over the years, it has grown and developed tremendously.
While the survey conducted is a modest sample size, the group’s founder and lead organizer Katie Monroe found the results useful in thinking about the future of the program.
The original goal of Women Bike PHL, says Monroe, was to build a community and support system, start an important dialogue, and get more women on bikes.
“We see in our bike counts every year that only about a third of Philadelphia’s bicyclists are women. There’s a lot of different reasons for that gender gap, but most of the barriers can be partially alleviated by building community among women so they can support each other through whatever their biking obstacles may be – be they parenting constraints, safety concerns, weather and outfit challenges, harassment fears, or anything else,” Monroe said.
Through its outreach on social media and at community events, the group has grown to have just over 2,000 members on Facebook and continues to grow.
Members swap success stories and vent frustrations, and give and receive advice about the ins and outs of urban biking. How the survey came about is a good example of the group’s sense of community in action.
Monroe met Christine Wegner, the survey’s lead organizer, at a Bike To Work Day happy hour event. Wegner’s team does surveys like these for similar groups promoting physical activity, so her research and Monroe’s interest in learning more about Women Bike PHL members came together well for the project.
One piece of info that Monroe found helpful in planning out how to build the program was the demographic data. According to the study, the majority of Women Bike PHL members are well-educated, employed full-time, are between the age of 25-34, single, with no children, and Caucasian.
“Those numbers are not particularly surprising to me, because that describes me pretty well, and I started this program. But I am really looking in 2016 to find more ways to make sure we’re offering a diversity of programming that’s appealing to lots of different women in Philadelphia. To do that we need to tap into both new and existing leaders in Women Bike PHL. It will need to be a true community effort,” Monroe said.
One statistic which was especially alarming to Monroe was the amount of respondents who had experienced crashes since they began riding in the city.
Of the survey’s respondents, 50 percent of them had experienced some sort of crash. Of those, 26 percent were involving motor vehicles and 33 percent involved trolley tracks.
This is an area in which Monroe has some experience. Her 2013 crash at 11th and Reed helped push the City/SEPTA to pave over some of the dangerous abandoned trolley tracks throughout the city.
Notably, more than half of all members say that Women Bike PHL has given them the tools to overcome their own barriers to cycling, and more than 80% say it has helped them become better bike advocates and encourage other women to ride.
The full report is available below.
If you’re interested in becoming part of Women Bike PHL, reach out to Katie Monroe at Katie@bicyclecoalition.org, or post your thoughts on the Women Bike PHL Facebook page.