Chile Promotes Empowerment of Women Through Bicycle Riding

According to the article, Promoting Women’s Empowerment on Two Wheels, by Pamela Sepulveda, only 20% of Chile’s cyclist ridership is women which equates to a 1:5 ratio.  This is significantly lower than in the U.S. (and San Francisco) where women to men ridership is 1:2, which is still low, especially in comparison to some European countries where ridership in general is much higher.  Particularly in Scandinavian countries, where women ridership is about equal to that of men.

Macleta, an organization in Chile is trying to make an impact on these numbers, but more importantly, on the individual women they serve.

Sepulveda writes, “What does riding a bike have to do with women’s rights? According to the Chilean feminist group Macleta, which promotes cycling and a gender perspective on public transport, a bicycle is a powerful tool for social change.”

Macleta coordinator Sofía López sees women riders as just that, a demographic deserving recognition for its’ unique qualities.  To address low ridership amongst women the organization provides a series of classes and the opportunity to practice on a course which are, “aimed at teaching women to conquer their fears and move around the city with a sense of ownership.”

Credit: Pamela Sepúlveda/IPS "When you ride a bicycle it's like freedom itself." Magali Lagos

Magali Lagos, describes how she is 46 years old and was empowered by the program offered by Macleta.  She grew up with the paradigm that women don’t ride bikes.  Lagos has some insight to share.

“It’s hard to feel confident when you don’t know how, it’s pretty difficult,” [Lagos] confessed to Tierramérica. She is not afraid of being on the street, but she is afraid of failing. She views it as a personal challenge, and if she succeeds, she plans to buy herself her first bicycle ever.

As well as serving as a means of transportation and recreation, “when you ride a bicycle, it’s like freedom itself,” declared Lagos.

Contributing to increase women’s’ ridership not only addresses a social issue in Santiago, Chile, but reduces the barrier for women to affordable transportation, as the following passage describes Santiago’s current public transportation system:

“Cycling is also a highly economical means of transportation, “and that also helps us contribute to greater justice, because on a bicycle we are all equal and we all move around the same way, and this ultimately benefits those who have less to invest in a means of transportation,” [Lopez] stressed. 

Transportation and its association with the severe air pollution in Santiago are among the main problems facing this city of seven million people.

The 2007 inauguration of the public-private Transantiago system spurred a wave of protests, because it failed to meet the real transportation needs of the city’s population or to tackle the problem of pollution, in addition to the high cost of fares, roughly 1.5 dollars.

 Against this backdrop, bicycles offer enormous benefits for the city: they create no pollution, they help decrease traffic congestion, and they are silent. These advantages are recognised by the authorities.”

In doing research for statistics, I came across other articles from the viewpoint that ridership doesn’t need to be viewed through a gendered lens.  Stay tuned for this other perspective largely from the article, Statistics Alone Paint an Incomplete Picture of Women and Bicycles by Regina Hope Sinsky.  Five Bay Area bicycle coalitions, including the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, have women directors, and the article states, “Many of these women leaders don’t see gender, theirs or among cyclists in general, as having much to do with the coalition’s goals and projects. “


Full article Promoting Women’s Empowerment on Two Wheels by Pamela Sepulveda located here:

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