Monday 3 October 2016

No, Camcycle, gritting cycle paths isn't a gender issue

I like Robin Heydon, he's a good bloke, and I think he's taken Cambridge Cycle Campaign in, generally, the right kind of direction.

There are a couple of areas I disagree with him though. One of those is his continuing belief that anything positive can come out of his writing articles in the Cambridge News. Its a newspaper with a long-standing habit of trolling for and thus encouraging, ant-cyclist hate, tucking a cycling blog away in its pages is more about maintaining a facade of decency than actually providing a decent, balanced news resource. Trolling sells advertising, its why journalists are now primarily content providers rather than gatekeepers of news.

Another is the content of his most recent post therein, in which we're asked whether gritting cycle paths is a gender issue. Lets delve through Robins reasoning:

There are 63,000 people who I think are being discriminated against in our city of Cambridge. These 63,000 are the girls, women, and ladies of our city. Our sisters, our daughters, our mothers and grandmothers, our partners, fiancée or wife. People we know and care about
You what now? Wow, I'm up in arms. They're discriminating against all the women? The girls? All of them? Thats not ok. Sort 'em out! Tell us more, Robin. Won't have this in my city, lets sort this out!

But can policies on roads be discriminatory? Could the councils be accused of actively discriminating against women? I would hope that we would not have politicians who do this, yet I fear that this is exactly what happens. Let's just take a couple of examples.
They're telling women they can't ride bikes in Cambridge? They're making it so they can't choose what to wear while riding? Thats fucking disgusting, lets storm Shire Hall and tell those bastards where to stick it.

 Does the way that we clear snow and ice from roads discriminate against women? Well, we know that women are more likely to ride a cycle or walk to work than drive a car. In Cambridge, for example, 46 per cent of people going to work are women, yet 49 per cent of women cycle or walk to work compared with 47 per cent of men. Ok, that is more women cycling or walking than men. Similarly, 28 per cent of women drive to work but about 32 per cent of men. That means more men are driving than women. So let me ask you a simple question: if you wanted to be equitable, wouldn't you clear the cycleways and footpaths from ice and snow before you did the roads? Wouldn't that be equitable?
What? You're saying that although within 1% of 48% of men and women ride bikes or walk to work here (pretty damn near the same number, such that its questionable whether there's any significant difference) we need to start treating active transport as a gender issue? Well, ok, I get what you're saying, but your data is wafer thin, and your claim to this being significant seems dubious. There's little reason to believe there is a significant difference between the two.

Your next data - 28% of women drive to work but 32% of men - we're looking at 2% either side of 30% then? Dude, how accurate is this data because 2% either side of a number isn't immediately convincing me of anything. I want to see a very low error figure for that data point to be convinced that the two numbers are statistically different.

I'm assuming that the rest of the people working have to get to work. You haven't cited data on how many work at home so I'll assume you've made a good, fair comparison and excluded that from your numbers. We can't compare mode of transport of people working at home so its probably best to leave them out of the figures here. If they're not going on foot, by bike or by car they must be getting the bus or the train, and that leaves 23% of women, 21% of men - and of course people getting the bus also need the roads gritted.

So for gender parity do we need to grit the roads to be sure that we're not disadvantaging women who get the bus? We need to grit the roads, rather than the cycle routes, because sexism?

Some of your other points (gritting cycle routes means people use them through winter and that those who ride on them don't get injured so often) are spot on. And I entirely agree that we should be ensuring the safety of those engaged in active transport - its a no brainer that more people driving rather than cycling or walking when the weather is frosty will make the roads more congested and more dangerous just when we need that not to be the case. But come on dude, this isn't a gender thing. There are gender related problems in cycling, but we need to view them in context. There are problems with how cycling is sold to men and women. But we need to keep our heads screwed on when looking at statistics.

Robin old chap, this is a specious argument. You're taking tiny differences in numbers that don't clearly show what you want them to show and making yourself look daft. Don't do this, please. Don't.

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