Every day is like Skirt Day.

April 7, 2011 § 1 Comment

My friends are really up on suggesting things I should write about, which is good, because sometimes I abandon this blog for weeks at a time. But! It was requested that I share my opinion on the matters addressed in this Greater Greater Washington post, “Women: How comfortable do you feel biking?”

So, at first, I was like, “I dunno, I feel as comfortable as a person riding a bike can feel,” and then—upon reading further—I was like, “The hell is this Mary Poppins effect?”

It is, apparently, when “drivers seem to be more deferential to people riding bikes if they’re women, riding upright, and wearing street clothes” (per GGW). Here are some general thoughts on it; Tales from the Sharrows also snarked on the “phenomenon” in a post the other day (hey, I thought it was funny).

As for how I feel personally, being a woman cyclist myself and all, I might not be the best sample. I bought my bike in February and thus, have worn pants every single time I’ve gone out because it’s been cold. I don’t have a dress code for work, and I try to avoid skirts anyway. I’m just not interested in fussing around with my clothes. Additionally, because my office is a 15-minute walk from my apartment, I don’t consistently commute by bike. When I do, it’s often a very short ride, around three minutes.

But I do ride my bike more than I use any other mode of transportation, and I’ve never experienced the “Mary Poppins Effect.” Though I don’t ride in skirts, I’m rather small, and I’ve got longish hair…and I don’t think any drivers have ever been nicer or more considerate toward me because I appear more feminine.

With that said, I haven’t encountered that many horribly rude drivers, either. Perhaps this is because I wait for lights to change instead of running them. I slow at stop signs and stop completely if it’s a four-way or a similar circumstance, where there might be confusion if I rolled through. And I try my hardest to use hand signals when I’m turning. I think it’s those actions, not what I wear, that make me feel pretty damn comfortable when I ride my bike.

Lastly, I do resent the idea that wearing a skirt would make drivers be more considerate toward me. It smacks a bit too much of catcalling. I have to deal with that no matter how I’m dressed, but and it’s significantly worse if I’m in something a bit more ladylike. A skirt shouldn’t matter, and the fact that it might—even if my personal anecdotes don’t support it—irks me greatly. That’s compromising a lot of other people’s safety in the name of enjoying some leg.

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§ One Response to Every day is like Skirt Day.

  • Kate says:

    I agree. I don’t think ‘wearing a skirt with long flowing hair’ causes drivers to be more considerate of you. I think being considerate a cyclist causes drivers to be more considerate.

    Many of these women that experience the so-called ‘Mary Poppins effect’ are riding gigantic, heavy, upright Dutch or cruiser type bicycles. I know from personal experience that riding one of these types of bicycles forces you to slow down, take your time & obey the road rules because they are much less maneuverable than your typical road or or hybrid bicycle. You simply can’t be as much of a dick on a heavy bike as you can on a lighter one.

    I have ridden both types of bicycles, and even I notice the difference in the way I ride. When I’m on a lighter bike, I tend to want to go FASTER! So, I blow more lights and weave through traffic much more. And drivers tend to not like that sort of behavior and respond accordingly. But on my cruiser, I can’t go FASTER–it takes much more momentum to get going, so trying to cut a red light ain’t gonna work. I can’t weave through traffic as easily either. So, I have to slow down & take my time. And surprisingly, when you’re not riding like an asshole, people don’t treat you like one. Whoda thunk?

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