Women often shy away from cycling because of cultural tendencies that associate cycling with the male gender as well as other reasons which include accessibility and infrastructure. There has been an increasing number and professional cyclists in Kenya. My concern, however, goes beyond cycling as a competitive sport but cycling as a way of life.
Women and girls make up slightly less half of the world’s population.Despite this, cycling statistics given by Nairobi County Government in its Non Motorized Transport Policy of 2014 indicates that 96.9 % of the cyclists on Nairobi roads are male. One of the sustainable development goals is to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Some of targets of the SDG goal 11 by 2030, is to provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons and to also provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities.
To meet these goals it would be important if we actively involved women in all levels of discussion. Achieving these targets will also be necessary if we are to address some of the targets in SDG 3 (Ensure healthy lives) including reducing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which incidentally are the leading cause of death in women globally, killing a staggering 18 million women each year. Gender inclusive transport systems can help achieve the NCD target by providing safe, comfortable, and attractive places to walk and cycle. City dwellers can walk or cycle to destinations in order to meet the necessary physical activity that reduces their risk of NCDs.
To get more women into cycling, however, won’t be a walk in the park. It shall involve relentless efforts by civil society organisations, families, brothers, fathers and uncles, government and other relevant stakeholders. Key among the issues is to break into the existing cultural barriers that limit women’s involvement in cycling, promoting the accessibility of these forms of transport, behavior change among drivers and definitely the progressive development of infrastructure.
By having more women on the bicycle, we shall not only have aided in achieving the goal 3 and 11 which are highlighted here but also other sustainable development goals such as Goal 1 of Poverty Eradication, Goal 4 of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and SDG 5 of Gender equality by ensuring that we meet the unique needs of women.