How Many Women Riders are Enough?
In one month, I’ve learned of the closing of two women-focused bicycling shops: Adeline Adeline in Manhattan and Hub and Bespoke in Seattle. Adeline Adeline sold both bicycles and bicycle accessories, while Hub and Bespoke focused on accessories and a broad range of apparel. Both approaches have their merits and were targeted towards the same goal of encouraging more women to ride. Unfortunately, it seems both retailers — after about four years of giving it a go — did not have enough volume to maintain their storefronts (though, fortunately, Hub and Bespoke will keep its e-retail site open).
Because I often dream about opening my own version of a woman-focused bicycle shop in my town, these two closures have given me more than a little pause and make me wonder: how many women transport bicyclists do you need to have a viable shop? How hard is it to move women away from cars or metro? What degree of infrastructure and city planning improvements are necessary? (And I ask these questions not just for my benefit, but also from an urban planning, sustainability, and general wellbeing viewpoint).
Having more options — especially local ones — undoubtedly will lead more women to bicycle. (And there are still options out there like Bicycle Belle in Boston and Eleanor’s in New York.) At the same time, it’s becoming clear that you can’t just assume that if you build it, they will come. The question is how to draw women in, while also trying to account for those things outside of your control (like poor infrastructure).
There are other avenues, as well, such as design and manufacturing. This is exactly what Hub and Bespoke plans to do, with an emphasis on clothing for women bicyclists that can be worn for everyday purposes. I wish them much success and look forward to seeing what they create. This still begs the question, though: how many women bicyclists are enough to sustain these types of enterprises and how do we get there?