I came across a link to an article about working mums cycling that made my heart sink [pdf]
HALF of British working women would love to cycle to the office but don’t think they have the time, a new survey has revealed. Juggling children, changing into cycle gear, carrying everything in a backpack and securing a bike means employed women reckon cycling to work is just a dream. The poll by salary sacrifice firm Computershare Salary Extras (CSE) may help explain why only a quarter of regular cyclists on our roads are women. Exactly 50 per cent of women say “time worries” push personal image issues into a distant second. Just 26 per cent of the female respondents said a “fear of looking flustered at work” was their reason for not cycling. “This survey reveals just how stretched British working women really are,” said CSE managing director Julian Foster. “We know from the responses that many would love to cycle, for all sorts of reasons. “It’s such a shame that so many feel it’s too much time because, very often, cycling would actually save time.” He added: “The tone of the responses was ‘it would be perfect, but who’s got the time to mess about with bikes in the morning?
This shows why Dutch women do cycle to work – they don’t need to wear special clothes, or a helmet to cycle to work. They are safe with their kids on the bike dropped off on the way to work (there are more nurseries and day care set ups, usually smaller but in every neighbourhood too, both for wraparound care and for preschool/early years) and because it’s normal and every day, even the more matronly are already fit and don’t have to worry about looking stupid or “fat” in Lycra. The average bike ride to work might be 5 miles, taking about half an hour – 45mins at a very leisurely pace, on a bike with hub gears, chain guard, dress guard, kiddie seat on the back and a basket on the front for stuff for the day. You arrive at work, no more sweaty than if you had walked to work and with the benefit of a rain coat like this http://www.cambridgeraincoats.co.uk/ you could do so very stylishly even bad weather. When they get to work there is covered secure bike parking and quite likely a shower for the ones that do cycle further in lycra. I have a Dutch friend who cycles from Apeldoorn to Deventer which is 21 km (not so different to Ely to Cambridge) every day to work, and he’s not unusual, less women do this but they can if they chose to – I would, it’s not much further than the commute I used to do in London from Battersea to the City every day. Ely to Cambridge is beautiful fenland if it wasn’t for the fact I’d be cycling on the A10 being overtaken at 60mph.
The cold reality is that we in the UK have a society where women get paid less in general and therefore end up working harder in many cases. Then by offering no alternative to driving, you force them to pay for a car they then have to pay to run so they can work longer hours to pay for the car and in turn the childcare costs on top. I’ve met single mums who literally spend their entire working week driving just a few miles but in slow traffic to drop of their kids to work a long shift at minimum wage to sit in their car for another couple of miles but again waiting in traffic, and repeat. That’s their life.
The roads they use, like the A142 and the A10 are un-usable by a woman on a bike, especially one with kids. Journeys such as this would be made every day with kids and mums in the Netherlands by bike.
You can pretty much guarantee, as a mother approaches her 30’s and 40’s, she is fighting with her weight, spending hard earned money on gym membership or at best out running every night to shift the pounds (ruining her ankles and knees for later life) she will be on meds for high cholesteral or IBS or stress or simply pain killers for a bad back sitting in her crappy hatchback every day, or a whiplash injury from a previous run in with another car (All of this is based on conversations I’ve had with women I know who live round here). My mum is blighted with thrombosis and and varicose veins made worse by commuting every day to work by car.
That hour of stressful expensive waste of time, fuel and money, could be replaced with an hour regular exercise every day. What a miserable existence we women are putting up with when much of it would be different if only the roads were available for women and children!!!
If the roads were such that cycling was possible away from traffic and dangers, all people of all ages could cycle, they wouldn’t need to dress head to toe in hi-viz, or ruin their hair with a helmet. More to the point they could stop pouring hard earned cash into a second car, or running costs of any car. They would arrive to work awake, on time, relaxed, happy and alive.
Surely if you put it like this to every woman they would be marching with the other cycle campaigners in London. They can’t though because they are just too blimmin busy and tired.