Bicycles unite! How to strengthen and encourage women’s daily bicycle mobility in Bogotá

The international event “50/50 – More Women on Bikes!” in Bogotá brought together a variety of stakeholders: politicians, academics and most importantly also activists from Colombia but also beyond.

It sounds easy: women and men both ride bicycles and commute by bike on a daily basis. Consequently, the share of cycling trips should be 50/50, right? However, this is not yet the case. Although in Bogotá the use of bicycles has increased considerably over the last five years, there is an imbalance in numbers. Men cycle 500.000 trips and women only 130.000 trips a day, which represents only 21% of the total number of daily journeys in Colombia’s capital. The different behaviour of men and women in riding bikes is caused by several factors. There are structural differences and inequalities between men and women, which go far beyond the motivations whether to use or not to use the bicycle as a means of transport.

What does gender equality have to do with everyday mobility? Well, there are differences in how, when, where and why we travel in the city that have to do with financial resources, perceptions of safety, participation in the labour market and traditional gender roles. There is evidence that women tend to make more chained journeys (e.g. from home to work, to groceries shopping, to childcare, even in North American and European industrial countries, but mobility systems are not planned according to different gender needs.

Therefore, the international event “50/50 – More Women on Bikes!” in Bogotá brought together a variety of stakeholders: politicians, academics and most importantly also activists from Colombia but also beyond. On day one, participants reflected on the topic and shared successful initiatives, while on day two, participants were asked to be part of a role play. The game helped to critically reflect on key stakeholders in the topic of cycling and transport infrastructure. Predefined challenges were given to participants, who were asked to act in totally different roles, thereby getting to know inherent powers as well as mandates but also constraints of other involved interest groups. Working on a concrete example, different perspectives became visible and tangible. The “laboratory” and the role play improved the mutual understanding between different civil society groups, government institutions, academia and activists. It also strengthened relationships especially between young activists and city administration. It also highlighted the importance of citizen participation in early stages for infrastructure project implementation. The workshop itself also complemented the gender analysis for the 25km Quinto centenario (5C) cycling highway.

It thereby contributed to identify the issues that prevent women from using the bicycle as a means of transport. Based on this analysis, a draft action plan was designed for 5C. It guides the support to Bogotá provided by the C40 Cities Finance Facility (CFF, www.c40cff.org ) to prepare and finance 5C as a flagship project for the city’s urban cycling infrastructure.

Striving to become the “world capital of cycling”, Bogota has established the long term goal to achieve gender parity on the usage of bicycles. The 50/50 event put the topic on the public agenda and sparked discussions in the city administration, how to measure and achieve the goal. To not only make cycling more attractive, but also more accessible, CFF also supports the establishment of a public bike sharing system. Based on a fee for the public space usage, such a system is an attractive business case for both the city and operators.

Through enhanced availability of bikes throughout the city, the number of cyclists will rise, and in particularly women shall get attracted to try out the service. This way, Bogotá will be able to make use of the full potential of the population for a shift in mobility.

The 50/50 event managed to bring citizens with very different backgrounds and from different areas of society together and showed that the debate on gender equality in the sector of mobility has just started – uniting the city: “La Bici Nos Une” – Bicycles unite!” (click for video):

As one female civil society member put it:

“The role game helped me to understand the challenges that local governments have to face when citizens demand cycling infrastructure projects. We as citizens sometimes don’t see the full picture, and it is easy to complain that there are no actions taken.”

Contact: Esther Wegner, Martin Dirr

A critical barrier to sustainable urban development and the local implementation of the Paris Agreement is insufficient access to finance for transformative infrastructure projects. The C40 Cities Finance Facility (CFF) (www.c40cff.org) addresses this barrier to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase resilience in cities by supporting cities in developing and emerging economies to develop finance-ready projects. CFF strengthens relevant skills and structures within the city administrations and shares knowledge and experiences with other cities, project preparation facilities and policy makers. It aims to enable cities to independently undertake similar projects in the future.

A critical barrier to sustainable urban development and the local implementation of the Paris Agreement is insufficient access to finance for transformative infrastructure projects. The C40 Cities Finance Facility (CFF) (www.c40cff.org) addresses this barrier to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase resilience in cities by supporting cities in developing and emerging economies to develop finance-ready projects. CFF strengthens relevant skills and structures within the city administrations and shares knowledge and experiences with other cities, project preparation facilities and policy makers. It aims to enable cities to independently undertake similar projects in the future. 

Participants discuss at the ”LAB 50-50 + MUJERES EN BICI” in Bogotá

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