It is a commonly used figure in the world of New York City cycling: Male cyclists outnumber female cyclists three to one. But that number has transit experts in a lather as they argue that this ratio, arrived at through census data, misses out on most of the cycling world.
Caroline Samponaro, director of bicycle advocacy at Transportation Alternatives, set out last week to come up with her own calculations. She arrived at 8 a.m. at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 25th Street, which has a separate bike lane, and counted exactly how many women on bicycles passed by, compared to men.
Ms. Samponaro, who had help from a fellow Transportation Alternatives bike advocate, Aja Hazelhoff, gazed steadily at the oncoming traffic and pressed on her metal counter each time a woman passed. There were plenty of distractions as a parade of fashionable cyclists steadily rode by, and cyclists tried to navigate around thick Manhattan morning traffic. In two hours, 28 percent of those counted appeared to be women.
But Ms. Samponaro knew that traffic along Sixth Avenue didn't tell the entire story. So she set up other counts. At Seventh Avenue and Charles Street, where there are no bike lanes, only 14 percent of the cyclists were women. At Second Avenue and Ninth Street, where there is a dedicated and protected bike lane, the proportion of women cyclists jumped to 31 percent.
While the data was not groundbreaking and did not show much variance from the three-to-one ratio, Ms. Samponaro felt her data reflected a more simple equation.
"The safer the streets, the more bike riders reflect New York as a whole," she said. "More women ride when bicycle traffic is protected from motor vehicles because bike lanes keep bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers out of each other's way."