Sunday, November 15

Propaganda - or Not?

This morning, I happened across an article entitled "How to Conquer Bikephobia" in the Toronto Star. Occasionally, puff pieces such as this have little nuggets. This one had the following, hidden amongst the usual stuff:

"We Canadians, however, aren't doing so well at a 30 per cent bike share for women, and maybe a 2 per cent commute share for bikes. (The trend is similar in the U.S and Australia.) In Toronto, just 1.7 per cent of the population rode to work in 2006 – just 35 per cent of them female. But we're not the worst city, laughs Pucher. "In Dallas, Texas, 95 per cent of bicyclists are men. Which is disgusting!" (emphasis added by yours truly)

Where do numbers such as this come from? 95%? Maybe so, and I can't say I've been counting, but 1/3 of the regular bike commuters in my building (there are three of us so I'm pretty sure this is accurate data) are women - which is greater than the overall fraction of female workers in the building. Maybe Dallas really IS a lot different than Tarrant County, but apart from the temptation to engage in a little Dallas-bashing, I can't believe that things are all that much different than Tarrant County.

I did a little more checking, and this claims it came from Scientific American, though I could find no mention of it there. It also cites "Bike Pittsburgh" as a source, here. It doesn't really seem to have very high fidelity data, though it does claim that St Louis has a 1.4% bike share amongst men but a zero share amongst women. Tulsa, on the other hand, achieved parity with 0.4% share amongst both sexes. Amazing!

I don't know, this one sort of seemed a little too far beyond the pale to ignore, even if it WAS a Canadian paper. Does Pucher just make these things up out of thin air or maybe they just twisted something completely around and have no editors awake at the paper?


ChipSeal said...

If Pucher just makes up statistics during an interview, can we trust the "data" he provides in his published papers?

He exemplifies the modern "bicycle advocate"; Just make stuff up as you go along, and to hell with advocating things that will actually benefit the average rider on the street.

Steve A said...

This morning, 100% of people I saw on bikes were female. That'd make the Tarrant County Sunday morning split 50-50. Boy, things must be really brutal over in Dallas! If I believe BFOC, all the female bike riders around Dallas hang around Oak Cliff or the Katy Trail. That leaves nothing left for White Rock Lake. PM Summer, what have you wrought now?

Is Puch pronounced the same as "puke?" No, that'd be ugly talk...

Filigree said...

People seem to have a God-like respect for "Statistics", which is why I do not trust them in articles, as they are often misused or misrepresented. Statistics have to be looked at very carefully and the sources of those statistics examined. Glad to see you doing that.

Doohickie said...

As long as I can ride my bike, I don't much care what numbers people claim.

Rantwick said...

What Doohickie said!

whareagle said...

USA Cycling offers a Press Folder every year, with lots of industry data that may or may not contribute to misinformation. I studied a lot of this in Grad School, and the numbers that come to mind (this is year 2000 or 2001 data) is that among competitive cyclists, the ratio of men to women is 9:1. I don't see that trend changing much over the decade.

Several informal gender counts at local rallies, however, leave me thinking that there are plenty of female cyclists, and that they're roughly 40% of any rallying population. That said, every effort I've made to get more women involved in cycling tends to fall upon familiar concerns about safety and solitude. It's also difficult to press, because some women just don't want men around all the time.

I seriously doubt the 95% claim.

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