Gendered Perceptions of Cycling Safety and On-Street Bicycle Infrastructure: Bridging the Gap

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Pictured Above: Cyclist riding her bike along a residential side street in Toronto, Ontario. Photo by Nicolas Zucco, 2021.

Authors: Matthew Graystone, Raktim Mitra, Paul M. Hess

Unsafe cycling environments are often hypothesized as a key factor behind a gender gap in bicycling. We examine gendered safety perceptions using data from street intercept surveys across 10 urban and suburban study areas in the Toronto region, Canada, five with on-street bicycle infrastructure, and five without. Results reinforce that cyclists who identify as women are more concerned about safety overall compared to those who identify as men. However, we found no gendered difference in fear of collision and injury. Instead, women reported more concerns related to verbal abuse/bullying, and with how drivers interact with cyclists. Significant gendered difference in the likelihood of having higher concerns of being bullied or verbally abused existed regardless of the presence of bicycle infrastructure. Drawing on feminist theories of performativity and embodiment, we conclude that safety perceptions are likely a product of social norms, expectations, and traditions related to a cyclists’ gender expression.