10 Myths About Women and Cycling

This infographic “10 Myths about Women and Cycling” is making the rounds. As is this Atlantic article about how bicycling empowered women.

And then there is the Huffington Post piece: Yes! You can bike in a skirt!

I was given this jacket which had belonged to a family friend last Christmas. We took pictures to share with the gift-givers.

I was given this jacket which had belonged to a family friend last Christmas. We took pictures to share with the gift-givers.

I’ve said before that I’m not a cycling club cyclist. I’m not a “member of the cycling community”. I just use my bike for transportation because I hate driving and sometimes public transportation is inconvenient. I’m only in my office 3 days a week, but I bike to work, each of those three days, all year round, for the most part. Notwithstanding my failure to identify as “part of the cycling community”, I am visibly using my bicycle for transportation. People at the office notice my helmet, or other gear, and they make small talk about it.

One gentleman regularly asks me about the weather, the wind, the cold, sometimes wondering how I can ride in these conditions. One lady in the elevator once was quite taken with my lightning vest for riding in the dark winter.  I often get asked about my Basil pannier or my Walnut Studiolo custom holster. People love my bell.

Co-workers, colleagues and interns ask about the distance I ride each day, my route, whether it’s faster than taking a cab. I’ve had people remark that I don’t look sweaty or disheveled as they’d expect.

Have you ever actually put your foot on a bike pedal?

Yes, I biked here in these shoes.

Basically, all the “you biked here in this?” comments I have ever gotten are about weather and traffic. Rarely about convenience and exertion. Never about my clothes or my shoes. The former seems interested; the latter seems condescending. The first sometimes seems complimentary while the second seems reductive. I like my clothes and I do spend too much money on shoes, but I’m not my clothes nor my shoes. I’m not my bike or transportation decisions, either, really, but there is more effort in biking to a meeting than in choosing a pair of shoes.

I understand the argument that women on bicycles are an indicator species. I certainly support the idea that we need to remove as many cars as possible from urban centers. I get that the two are linked.

But, frankly, making skirts and heels an important part of the conversation is destructive. It’s important to “normaliz[e] cycling to the point where riding whatever bike you have wearing the clothes in your closet is not a huge deal” (Sweet Georgia Brown: Cycle Chic Shaming), but breathless wonder than you can bike in a skirt or exoticizing cycling in heels does not do that. It continues to mark as “other” the woman who can move independently in clothes which are supposed to feminize her and make her demure.

Of course, it would help if places like Outlier and Betabrand could offer more than a single pair of women’s pants in their “everyday cycling” clothes lines. Or if Levi’s would offer their cycling jeans in women’s cuts. There are things which make some clothes better for cycling than others. But in the end, it’s a really minor point.

The major point is improving roads, educating drivers, and offering decent bike parking.

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