Susan B. Anthony already said it back in 1896: “I'll tell you what I think of the bicycle. I think it has done more for women's liberation than anything else in the world." This statement, now in the 21st cent., it's a bit strange, since today we understand the bike in a very different way than how they saw it at the end of the 19th cent. Nowadays the bike is seen as a leisure object, for sports or as a 100% ecological means of individual transport, but at that time it was a true cultural revolution.
To begin with, you have to understand the strictness of social norms, when simply walking fast, talking too loud, or waving your arms when speaking was considered to attract attention and was very frowned upon. Imagine then a woman of the 19th cent. by bicycle... The woman who dared to do it was consciously breaking the established rules. It was a real scandal that was even greater when these women began to wear pants, the so-called “bloomers”. Many cyclists of the time were insulted and even attacked. But the bicycle offered them the possibility of moving freely and quickly in a world that condemned them to confinement in the family home.
Little by little the bicycle became popular. Women's clubs emerged to travel in company, doctors went from thinking that cycling was harmful for women to recommending it as a healthy activity, and the image of a female cyclist represented “the new woman”: The modern woman who broke with the conventions They began to change the role of women in society by working outside the home, fleeing the traditional role assigned to them by society, and politically active in the women's suffrage movement.
In spite of everything, with the passage of time the cycling world continues to be male, at least in Spain where 70% of the people who "often" cycle are men. In the US or England the figures are similar, but the center of Europe is different. In the Netherlands, where 27% of daily trips are made by bike, 55% of users are women, while in Germany (12% urban trips on two wheels) it is very even: 51% men, 49% women. The more cyclable a city is, the more women it has on its streets pedaling. And so it seems that the number of women pedaling is a good indicator of how bikefriendly a population is.
In cycling, as in feminism, we have come a long way since that time when women were attacked for riding bikes, but without a doubt we still have a long way to go.
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