Gorski Consulting has completed a review of 8 years of photos of cyclists riding on or adjacent to roads in London, Ontario. The years 2013 to 2020 showed the characteristics of the riders, their actions and the safety of the roads on which they travelled. For the purposes of this article we will focus on one aspect of the cyclist population: their gender. Following this we will make some general comments about the characteristics of cyclists in the the City of London Ontario.
Like many cities in North America London Ontario is embarking on an ambitious change in its roadway network which will include electric vehicles, greater emphasis on mass transit and a greater focus on active transportation, particularly cycling. With respect to cycling little information is publicly available regarding the composition of this population and if efforts to create cycling infrastructure will achieve a higher level of usage. In particular, no information appears to exist regarding the gender of cyclists and whether this may be a factor with respect to increasing the cycling population. Thus Gorski Consulting has reviewed its historical data of photos taken over the past 8 years along London’s roads to extract this cyclist gender data.
The table below shows the results of our documentation of 1351 cyclists who were observed riding on, or adjacent to, the City’s streets for these past 8 years.
There were 66 observations where it was not possible to identify the gender of the rider. This was because the photos may have been from a longer distance, the view was from behind the rider, the clothing and cycle characteristics were not clarifying, or other reasons.
Of the remaining 1285 observations it can be seen that 1091 riders were male and only 194 were female. This results in the observation that 84.9% of observed cyclists were male. This is a very large difference.
The City of London has come to the belief that it will be successful in increasing the cycling mode of transportation from its current value of 1% to a minimum of 5%, but ideally up to 20 to 25%. This may be difficult to achieve if only the male half of the City’s population is involved in cycling.
The difference in cyclist gender is even greater when examining the winter months. Below is a table that summarizes observed cyclists in the four winter months (December through to March).
Again, the smaller set of 275 observations where gender was possible to identify reveals an even greater gender disparity. There were 257 observations of males and only 18 observations of female riders. This results in observations of 93.5% male riders. Thus it would appear that very few females ride on London’s roads in winter months.
London’s city politicians and their staff are not ones to accept advice or data from outside sources. Yet an abundance of such help is available, often free of charge. An example of this was a very detailed report submitted by its Cycling Advisory Committee in 2019 which was initially viewed as a threat to the City’s cycling plans. One politician even claimed that the Committee had stepped out of its bounds. While critical in some aspects, the CAC report was well researched and professionally written. Whatever disagreements resulted, it was clear that detailed data were needed to understand what actions need to be taken in the future.
A recent option was proposed by the Ontario government which would allow cargo cycles to ride within those Ontario cities that allowed their operation. London’s decision on this matter would be helped if they had good quality information about how such cargo cycles would operate with respect to efficiency and safety. Without official clearance the City already has a wide variety of cyclists hauling various cargos within mini-trailers, and otherwise. However, provincial regulations would allow these units to be as wide as 2.2 metres. This is not much wider than a typical small car which might be about 2.5 metres in width. Would this be a problem? How wide is a typical cycling lane in the City of London and what problems could this cause? This demonstrates the need for detailed data. The Province of Ontario has focused on cargo cycles as a narrow group that would be employed by larger commercial entities without considering the wider scope of riders who might transport goods.
The provincial regulations would also prevent cargo cycles from being altered. What does that mean for current cyclists with mini-trailers. Will this regulation stop this segment of the population from using and altering their mini-trailers?
Presently the cyclist population can be divided into obvious categories of riders. There are those who ride for recreational purposes and who are often of a higher income. And there are those who ride because it is essential for their survival. The purchase of groceries and transportation of materials cannot be done with a motor vehicle because many of these riders cannot afford such a luxury. So they use their cycles in innovative ways. It is important to understand what those innovations are and if legislation will interfere with these essential travels.