Did you know 91% of those employed in our highways departments are male? Yet women are three times more likely to do the school run or be travelling with children.
This piece I wrote for the Croydon Citizen is about how I think our roads (and my health) are suffering from this imbalance. We peddled for progress on #IWD2018as we'd like to see gender parity in both who cycles and who designs our roads for Croydon to become safer for all who'd like to cycle more regularly.
I became a mother of two nearly three months ago now. People want to know: how is it going? How are you coping? We’re ok. Not bad. But then I have a moment when I feel actually good again and I realise that most of the time I’m closer to ok than good. It’s becoming harder to ignore the fact that what I’m missing is just something very simple: getting out and getting my blood pumping. A couple of laps around the Country Park on my own feels like bliss.
Before I had children, I used to ride to work every day. People tell me Croydon’s too hilly for cycling but I sort of loved my slog up and over the Crystal Palace summit each day. Getting to the top (no matter how out of breath and sweaty I’d be) made me feel completely alive and like I’d totally earned the biscuits that might be waiting in the staff room that day.
On maternity leave, I imagined I’d simply be able to stick a baby seat on my bike and pick up where I’d left off, enjoying the vim and vigour just getting to work gave me.
I hadn’t counted on one thing though: how much more afraid I’d be riding with my daughter
I felt acutely the lack of space drivers gave me and after being knocked off last spring, I decided that I couldn’t face riding with her in rush hour again.
Now, my problem is that I am too lazy, busy, and tired to have to fit exercise into my life. Riding to work means I don’t have to swap a trip to the gym for the precious bit of grown up time I get with my husband over dinner once bedtime is done, and even walking to and from the station is not enough to burn off all those cookies I’ve gotten used to over the years. I read the statistics about how much healthier cycle commuters are and wonder how I’ll ever get back to feeling proud of what my body can achieve.
So do I turn this around? I know I’m not the only one who feels threatened by Croydon’s roads. Only 1% of us in Croydon cycle to work in our borough and of this percentage, only around a quarter are female. Why do fewer women cycle? Well, to me, the answer is clear: the school run and the fact that women are more likely to be the ones in charge of ferrying the children around. Or, as one twitter user described it, ‘the higher [safety] bar for women due to greater need to cycle with children‘.
The answer to me then is clear. We need to mobilise, we need to make it clear to our highways teams, our elected representatives and each other that Croydon’s roads are sexist
The fact they are too dangerous to ride on with children means that women are not riding full stop and until this changes, we as women are going to remain less likely to do enough exercise each week to keep ourselves healthy, both physically and mentally.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Push for Progress’ and the fight for gender parity, which at the moment is estimated to be 200 years away. Croydon Bicycle Theatre will be taking on this theme as ‘Pedal for Progress’. We want you all to join us in riding for equality on our streets and safe, healthy futures for all us in our community.