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More Women Signing Up for Divvy, But Not Necessarily Riding

Divvy use by women members
Many women signed up for Divvy annual memberships in months coinciding with promotions.

The rate at which women are signing up for new Divvy memberships is slowly increasing, but the rate at which female members use Divvy for trips is increasing even more slowly.

35.7 percent of annual Divvy subscribers identified themselves as women as of the end of August. This is the highest it’s been since Divvy started selling memberships in May 2013, and well above the low of 30.4 percent in July 2013.

Capital Bikeshare in Washington, D.C., began with a similar situation: at the beginning, only 40 percent of new members were women. After a year and a half of operation, the ratio flipped and 64 percent of new members were women.

Women made 27 percent of Divvy subscriber trips in August. That's also an increase from 21 percent during the previous reporting period (June to December 2013), but considerably less than the sign-up rate.

Surprisingly, the percent of Divvy trips made by women is still slightly lower than the 28 percent of Chicago bike commutes made by women. Divvy is convenient for non-work trips, which constitute a higher proportion of the trips that women make nationally – 86.2 percent, compared with 82.4 percent of men's trips.

In addition to tracking the current share of members by sex, Divvy also tracks new member sign-ups by sex. Women accounted for nearly half of memberships activated in February and in July, coinciding with the deadline to activate discounted memberships purchased via a Groupon promotion, and with the promotion of June (also Bike To Work Month) as the first "Women’s Bike Month."

Divvy’s deputy manager Elliot Greenberger said reaction to Women’s Bike Month was positive. Almost 43 percent of new members in June, and just over 43 percent in July, were women. Greenberger said "over 80 female riders wrote in to tell us why they ride bikes, and there was a lot of excitement about the idea of celebrating female riders."

Woman using a Divvy bike (cropped)

The steady rise in new female members correlates with women's increasing share of Divvy trips. Over the 13 month period, women made 20 percent of Divvy subscriber trips, but in July 2014 women made 27.5 percent of member trips.

Organizations around the country and locally are seeking to increase the share of women who bike. When women bike, families are more likely to bike, and women's comfort with biking is one good indicator as to whether Chicago is doing an adequate job of building bike infrastructure that welcomes a wide range of potential users.

In other cities, the gender gap is smaller among bike-share users than among bicycle commuters. In Washington, D.C., which launched the nation's first large-scale bike-sharing system 3.5 years ago, a majority of bike-share subscribers are women, and bicycle commuting among women has increased from 1.0 percent in 2007 to 2.5 percent in 2012.

Promotions like discounted memberships and encouragement events seem to help bump up the number of women riding bikes. This month, Divvy will announce a discounted, $55 membership for college students. Greenberger also said he is planning fall promotions and partnerships, and will repeat Women's Bike Month next year.

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