In the United States, women bicycle at significantly lower rates than men. One method of remedying this disparity is to ensure that women are engaged in bicycle planning and policy making through, for example, participation in bicycle advisory committees (BACs). No research has been conducted on women’s representation and participation in these committees.
This study attempts to fill that gap by examining women’s membership levels in and experiences serving on California bicycle advisory committees and bicycle/pedestrian advisory committees.
In addition, we explore some of the barriers to participation faced by female cyclists. A survey of 42 committees revealed that women make up approximately 24% of members on an average bicycle (and pedestrian) advisory committee in California.
Through focus group interviews with 24 women currently serving on BACs, several common themes emerged. Women on these committees are more likely than men to bring up women’s and children’s issues, and some aspects of the committees themselves may seve as barriers for women to become more involved. An online survey of 565 women cyclists in California provided insight regarding some of the common barriers women identify as reasons for not becoming involved with a BAC. Lack of awareness of the committees did not seem to be a barrier: 67% of respondents were aware of their local committee. Instead, barriers indentified by participants included: time; perceived lack of qualifications; lack of information about the committee; family and household responsibilities; and lack of interest. Recommendations to increase women’s representation on BACs include the following strategies: education about the committee; targeted recruitment efforts; and policy and procedural changes.