FIRST, THE GOOD NEWS: NEW ORLEANS RANKS FIFTH among large cities for numbers of bike commuters, according to census data. The not so good news? Only 25 percent of those cyclists are female, according to urban planner Emilie Bahr. She hopes to change that with her new book, Urban Revolutions (Microcosm Publishing).
"The [gender] gap is not universal, and I wondered why that is," says Bahr, a Louisiana native who explored factors that influence bike transportation in her urban planning thesis. "I think women face legit obstacles in the way of appearance and dress, but part of it is we don't conceive of the possibilities until we do it. And we don't have great role models."
Bahr began biking in 2007 and wrote the book as a how-to guide and why-to manifesto, sprinkling essays about her own experience as a bicyclist among practical advice ranging from how to ride in traffic and what to wear to work to how to handle street harrassment.
"I wanted to provide a book that would address the whole host of issues women face and provide them with inspiration," she says.
Bahr says bike commuting makes her happy and helps her squeeze physical activity into a busy day.
"I listen to my co-workers complain about how they have to go to spin class after work," Bahr says. "When you see how much physical activity you get in, it makes the argument for bike commuting. ... It's really powerful once you try it out."