The construction of numerous cycle paths and lanes in European cities to reduce or eradicate car traffic is no longer enough; new perspectives are needed. Lyon’s Deputy Mayor Fabien Bagnon has announced the intention to design “gender-neutral and therefore inclusive” bike paths. This is probably a follow-up to the construction of genderless playgrounds for kids, for example, in Grenoble.
“What comes next? Division according to age? According to the size of your calves? According to the color of the wheel?” the Lyon right-wing opposition responded.
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“The deputy mayor of Greater Lyon offers you the genderless cyclist path. I do not understand it. I’m searching how sexist a road can be,” asked local journalist Emmanuelle Ducros immediately afterward.
“A reader with a normal understanding begins to wonder what exactly a genderless cycle path is and then be amused that this unidentified urban object is considered, in a random causal chain, naturally ‘inclusive’: ‘non-gendered THEREFORE inclusive,'” wrote Anne-Sophie Chazaud, a writer and anti-censorship fighter, in an essay response to Le Figaro.
“Inclusive seems to be self-evident, except that no one knows what it all means in concrete terms, nor how one could infer any meaning from an intrinsically meaningless proposition,” she added.
Chazaud wondered if the we had been cycling on gender-divided paths so far without knowing it, without realizing that we are leaving room for the restoration of despotic patriarchy and the most despicable sexism.
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“Should we understand that these non-gender spaces are to exclude certain types of materials considered more masculine than others? Do we mean that these routes will be subject to quotas so that female cyclists do not feel overwhelmed by the surrounding testosterone floating in the air? On the contrary, we should understand that neither men nor women should be identifiable as sexual entities in favor of some non-sex?” the essayist asked.
Genderless bike paths also have some strong supporters. “Stupid reactions as usual from anti-intellectualism when we talk about gender,” said one supporter of the project. “Urban planning is a vector of inequality/gender equality. It has been studied for 50 years.”
The whirlwind across social platforms and the media made the deputy mayor of Lyon think about what it meant. According to him, the mentioned inclusiveness is the possibility for sufficiently wide and safe cycle paths to allow people in wheelchairs to move on their modified bicycles or enable families to move freely with their children,” wrote Fabien Bagnon in his tweets.
When the deputy mayor speaks of the so-called gender-neutral development, it means we are trying to identify what may hinder its use from a gender perspective.
“Is there a problem with the night lights? Is the track monopolized primarily for men’s sports use?” he asked. The consideration, he said, includes “public bikes to be as acceptable and the same for everyone.”
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One of the women’s initiative activists, who is in charge of the genderless cycle path development, further clarified that the routes should be better separated, especially from roads with car traffic; wide enough for comfortable movement on courier bicycles or those carrying multiple children; and better illuminated.
One Bagnon supporter, geographer Matthieu Adam, argued that the scientific consensus on the practice of cycling encouraging gender inequalities is clear, especially since urban development, including cycle paths was proposed mainly by men for men. He cited studies showing that around 60 percent of cyclists in French urban areas are men, compared with almost 40 percent for women. “This is a very significant difference,” commented the researcher.
Bagnon’s explanation did not convince journalist Ducros in any way.
“Stop making fun of people. It’s all about the safety of the installations that everyone needs,” she said.