31 October 2011

Ferrara's Fantastic Female Cyclists

Ferrara Cycle Chic Couples (5)
The City of Ferrara - Italy's leading bicycle city with 30% modal share for bicycles - is rather extraordinary in many ways. One of the sure signs of a healthy bicycle culture is the so-called "gender split" featuring an equal number of female and male cyclists. In cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen there are more women on bicycles than men and in Ferrara, the statistics match those two cities - 55% women and 45% men.

While Ferrara has over 20,000 students at the university and the nightlife is suitably lively, it was amazing to see so many "older" bicycle users in the city. Men and women alike. In fact, I've never been anywhere in the world where I've seen so many elderly bicycle users in one spot. Dutch and Danish cities would be hard pressed to match Ferrara on this point.

This has been the case for many, many years but having influential female politicians certainly helps maintain it.
Cyclelogistics Ferrara_27 Cyclelogistics Ferrara_26
We met with the vice-mayor of the city - at left - and the president of the Province of Ferrara - at right - while in the city. The vice-mayor joked that they don't have a female quota in their politics - but rather a male quota.

Here are some photos of Ferrara's healthy and fabulous bicycle users over "a certain age". Brava!
Ferrara Cycle Chic_24
Impeccable style in traffic.
Ferrara Cycle Chic_13
Red rush with splendid hat.
Ferrara Cycle Chic_25
Still going strong.
Ferrara Cycle Chic_36
Heels and wheels.
Ferrara Cycle Chic_35
Brilliant coat.
Ferrara Cycle Chic_34
Rolling to the market.
Ferrara Cycle Chic_19
Flowers on the basket.

16 comments:

GuitarSlinger said...

Being of ' A Certain Age ' ( over 50 ) myself , I found this photo essay to be both brilliant and encouraging

As Alex Moulton ( who's bikes I ride ) has been quoted to say ;

"I may pedal a little slower and a little less distance : but I'm still pedaling "

I'll end with the Logo from a US T shirt manufacture ;

" Old Guys ( and gals ) Rule "

or this one from the US Motorsports scene;

" Old Age and Guile beats out Youth and Enthusiasm ... Every time "

Thanks again for this one !!!

Kristin Tieche said...

Nice! How long has it been this way, Mikael? Have women of any age always felt comfortable riding bikes in the city streets there?

Mikael said...

The city has been bicycle friendly in its current state for 30 odd years. Same journey as Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

She Rides a Bike said...

As I approach 50 in the next few years, this is what I aspire to, Mikael. So much for the notion that you only post leggy, blond 20somethings. :)

Peter said...

My nephew was studying last year not far from there in Ravenna. He said the same thing. Everyone was on these strong upright bikes and you were totally safe on the roads there.

TN said...

I loved this - its so inspiring to see this - biking is NOT only for the youthful BCBG set.

kfg said...

I must say that I honestly don't understand the whole, "Over 50? Wow!" thing. I'm over 50 and if I ride a bit slower and shorter it's only because I've learned to relax more; and I ride bigger hills with fewer gears. That'll slow you down a bit. I put on a bit more muscle every year, rather than losing it, that way. I'm stronger now than when I was 20, racing and overtraining. Kids can be such idiots.

My mom still rides at least a few miles nearly everyday. On a one speed. She doesn't live in a mild climate flatland.

If she keeps it up another 10 years I'll start to find it impressive. Bicycling is easier than walking.

'Xander Labayen said...

what a wonderful town...i'll be retiring in Italy and hope to live in proximity to a town like this.. we've been looking between Pesaro and Ravenna but Ferrara is now on the list!

Mike Gordon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike G said...

This evidence from Ferrara is of course fabulous. But your post leaves one wondering - what specific measures has Ferrara taken to encourage cycling, and specifically, to encourage older women to cycle? There's nothing obvious in the photographs - no sign of infrastructure, or even painted bike lanes. How has Ferrara handled the conflict between motorised vehicles and bicycles? What has the city done to follow the "Same journey as Copenhagen and Amsterdam"? Clearly chic, but comment ça s'explique?

Joseph E said...

Re: "What has Ferrara done?"

While we will have to wait for the author to answer for certain, I took a quick look on Google Maps.

The center of Ferrara has Really Narrow streets, where most "traffic" is people on foot or on bikes. It was built as a medieval city, where 99% of trips were on foot. See these photos for example: http://g.co/maps/zgw8x - narrow, lots of bikes and people, 1 car
http://g.co/maps/4rzwq - lots of people, bikes, 1 car. Cobblestones and treatments make it look like a plaza for people, not a parking lot or speedway.
http://g.co/maps/um6rc Really narrow; fine for bikes, but cars go slow.

Outside of the city center, the main boulevards are wider, and cycletracks are provided: http://g.co/maps/wv9qp

Mikael said...

Ferrara's journey is similar to that of Copenhagen and Amsterdam. It's a small city, sure, but most of the traffic calming and infrastructure has been implemented since the 1980's. Before then the city centre was clogged with cars.

The city centre doesn't have a congestion charge - it has a congestion ban. Cars are simply not allowed in, unless they are delivering something or it's a resident's vehicle.

There are eight points with cameras scouting for 'infiltrators', who get a €100 fine if they enter.

The city outside the old city walls is, as mentioned, boulevards and wider streets. Some infrastructure is in place, yes. As well as 30 km/h zones.

lagatta à montréal said...

I love this and of course, the men as well.

No, nothing particularly impressive about cyclists over 50. I'm over 50, my sweetie is a bit over 60, and Robert "Bicycle Bob" Silverman, co-founder of Le Monde à bicyclette alongside the late Claire Morissette, is still pedalling at almost 80.

But sadly, there are a lot of places where the modal split is greatly skewed to youngish adult males (not even many teens) and a very specific breed of middle-aged man, the MAMIL (Middle-Aged Man in Lycra).

And even in La Petite-Italie de Montréal where I live, if there are many Italian immigrant gents a generation above mine, there are very few elderly signora types on bicycles... Of course most hail from the South, probably societies with greater gender restrictions than the Ferrara area.

I visited there in the 1980s, when I was studying in Italy, specifically to look at the bicycle situation. It is very impressive by Italian standards - Rome is still a horror story and no, it is not because there are some hills. Even flat areas are far more bicycle-unfriendly than in the postwar setting of "Ladri di biciclette".

nancy said...

Honestly and truly, having seen the city of Ferrara first-hand when I visited in winter 2004 inspired me to stop whining about getting on my own bike in NYC. The ladies, young and old were so stylish on their bikes. No need for messenger gear or serious lycra outfits. Go in your fur and heels. Who cares?! It was wonderful to see with my own eyes. Thanks for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

My grandmother cycled in and around Munich until her mid-80s. She never learned to drive, which was typical of her generation. Did most of her grocery shopping, mushroom picking, and excursions with her solid Miele single gear bike.

Anonymous said...

Det er i hvert fald vigtigt, at man har det helt rigtige cykel-udstyr parat :-)