Our roads need (psycho)analysis

The gender imbalance in cycle commuting (I had a look at last week) also happens over the age groups, I found out this week. The graphical representation is different compared to the one I adopted last week. The x-axis has now become the age groups. Women’s percentage contribution to cycle commuting and cycle share have moved to the vertical.

Cambridge (17,313 cycle commuters – 28.9% cycle mode share)
01Cambridge

York (11,143 cycle commuters – 11.2% cycle mode share)
02York

Hackney (16,411 cycle commuters – 13.8% cycle mode share)
03Hackney

Bristol (15,797 cycle commuters – 7.5% cycle mode share)
04Bristol

Newcastle (3,229 cycle commuters – 2.7% cycle mode share)
05Newcastle

Gateshead (1,316 cycle commuters – 1.4% cycle mode share)
06Gateshead
Note: Mode shares are lower here compared to the men-women comparison two weeks ago due to ‘work at home’ being included in the totals in this analysis.

Quite simply, comparing all the graphs shows the higher the mode share – in whatever age group –  the more equal the cycle constituent becomes. The blue line is pushed up or held up by the red blocks.

Looking at individual graphs, Hackney has a pronounced ‘hipster hump’ peaking at early thirties – whereas other cities, Cambridge and York, show a much ‘flatter’ or equal cycle share across the age brackets. Please be advised to disregard the figures for age group 65+ as these can be just a handful of individuals making it too small and sensitive to be generalised.

Newcastle, and Gateshead in particular, as shown in comparison to the other cities (the y-axis is left at the exact same scale), look negligible. And total cycling numbers definitively are (see graph titles). I might zoom into NewcastleGateshead data at a later time.

Correlation with the environment

It must be these kind of strong and clear correlations that have led Jan Garrard to go one step further and make this connection “If you want to know if an urban environment supports cycling, you can forget about all the detailed ‘bikeability indexes’—just measure the proportion of cyclists who are female” Source Scientific American

The article, which is from 2009, also features Jennifer Dill and Susan Handy. These three women are on my ‘classic cycle academic watchlist’.

It’s the environment what does it

On an (as yet) separate note – the more reading I do the more I understand just how much the environment (the space that surrounds and that we in between) shapes the way we act; and how surprisingly little we have investigated that to date.

A tremendously interesting paper in that respect was the recent Fiona Spotswood et al (2015) which talks about the sheer necessity and urgency of bringing psychology into addressing our complex interactions with urban spaces and beat some good sense into the tired-old punchbag that is our forbidding ‘road safety’ and incessant and obsessive talk initiatives.

The team state confidently that “Despite significant national and local efforts over the last decade to stimulate uptake of cycling in the UK, levels of cycling (particularly utility cycling) remain at around 2% of journeys” and you cannot argue with its interpretation. The researchers also put forward a more holistic categorisation idea “the practice of utility cycling is described according to its three elements;

  • materials,
  • meaning and
  • competences

and the potential benefits of this approach are discussed; particularly its ideological shift away from ‘victim blaming’ and its natural support of interdisciplinary intervention design.” [my bulletising]

Understanding our relationship(s) to and with our urban environment is key, I believe, in making the transport transition relevant, and bringing it alive to everyone. Psycho-analytically unpicking our roads and taking our reactions apart is vital to success in this matter. So, Gehl and Jacobs – here we come.

And ways to make women, as an indicator for the health in sustainable city transport, heard must be found.

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