The new underpass at McIvor Road.

Less than 20 per cent of people who ride to work and school in Bendigo are women.

Many women say they do not feel safe when they cycle, and personal safety is the biggest factor.

The thing that astonishes me is the impression that women are not riding primarily due to vanity factors such as hat-hair, getting sweaty, wearing high heels, or getting their hands dirty changing a tyre.

This is derogatory and judgemental, and while gaining confidence and managing the practicalities of riding is important, there is a deeper issue to address here.

Women on bikes feel different to men on bikes both at night and during the day.

Women need to be hyper-vigilant, not only for cars, but for their own personal safety.

I do feel concerned and vulnerable like many of the everyday cycling community because of a lack of safe cycling infrastructure.

But I also feel vulnerable and scared and experience verbal abuse, and fear being assaulted, physically threatened, targeted and harassed because of my gender.

And just telling women to avoid dangerous roads and places we don’t feel safe reduces our options to engage in everyday cycling.

Good lighting, other women out on the paths and bike paths that are not completely isolated from other people are all important to us.

Planners and engineers: support us to ride.

You are vital to the planning and design of spaces where women feel safe to ride and walk.

The cities that are doing well in this space have strong leadership from all levels of government.

They have community advocating strongly for improvement, and have the planners and engineers on the same page designing cities for the whole population, not just men.

As president of Bike Bendigo, I am forming a coalition of local women who wish to provide their input and proactive ideas around women’s safety while riding a bike in greater Bendigo.

We are gathering solutions to present to planners, community development practitioners and engineers in October.

If you’d like to provide input into this work, contact president@bikebendigo.com

– Jac Torres-Gomez