How do we get more cyclists?

I read with interest a Chain Gang article on how bike sharing is taking off in Europe.  While I was thinking about how this might work in certain American cities, it was the last paragraph that really caught my attention.

“The critical mass of bikes on the road has pacified traffic,” said Gilles Vesco, vice mayor in charge of the program in Lyon. “Now, the street belongs to everybody and needs to be better shared. It has become a more convivial public space.”

Does this mean that cycling is now safer in Lyon than it was prior to the bike sharing initiative?  I’m not sure of any statistics coming out of Lyon specifically, but there has certainly been research that has concluded that increased cycling numbers can mean a lower chance for an accident to occur.  The main conclusion was that motorists adjust their behavior when confronted with an increased number of cyclists (or pedestrians).  I would extrapolate that this comes from more awareness of cyclists in general and speed reductions from automobiles — i.e. pacification or traffic-calming.

SO ……….

How do we increase bicycle ridership (so as to start the traffic-calming effect here in Orlando and hopefully make things safer)?  Should that be a goal for the City/Orange County?

How do we sell this concept?  Like to hear your thoughts ……………..

24 replies
  1. andrewp
    andrewp says:

    I originally had this article heading in a different direction — it was how I felt that the reason most people said that they did not cycle on the street was fear of traffic, and that the City’s reaction (with approval from non-cyclists) to this fear was to create bicycle lanes. My guess is that this probably has not increased bicycle modal share very much here in Orlando.

    I don’t think bike lanes is the solution to traffic fear and I think it is a cover-up for those who really have other reasons why — legitimate (no facilites at work) or not so(inconvienient and don’t want to get sweaty). Bike lanes can work in some situations, but alone I do not believe this will sway many people to take up (transportational) cycling.

    So what will?

  2. Eric
    Eric says:

    “So what will?” Money or time.

    High fuel prices seems to increase ridership more than anything else. I have noticed a large increase in traffic the last two weeks since the commodity speculation was stopped by the banks refusing to lend to the speculators.

    Here is an example of how money influences behavior: Go into the parking lot of Aldi in WP or Big Lot’s in Casselberry and look for the shopping carts. They are all in a nice row near the store, not strewn all over like at most stores. And they are not rolling and colliding with the $50,000 Mercedes, either.

    That’s because both of these stores charge a 25 cent deposit on their carts. For most penny pinchers (and that is why people are there) that’s enough to get them to bring the carts back. And if it isn’t, there will be other people happy to roll a cart on their way inside to use the cart for free, then get a quarter.

  3. Keri
    Keri says:

    To echo Eric, I think the primary motivator is when motoring becomes inconvenient and expensive. We saw that here with gas prices, and, like Eric, I’ve noticed a lot more traffic since the prices went down.

    One thing the facility-lovers forget to point out about Portland is, it totally sucks to drive and park in the city. Traffic congestion is terrible and parking is expensive. There’s a convenience factor to cycling and they have an environmentally-conscious population.

    Europe has a multi-modal culture, short trip distances in urban areas and mass transit for long trips. A car is not necessarily the most convenient choice. Fuel is expensive and parking is difficult. Their urban roads aren’t engineered for high-speed throughput. Europeans are not car-centric and do not have the speed-dominant entitlement attitudes Americans do. Using a bike for transportation is not considered weird, even in the countries that do not segregate bikes from cars.

    We live in a car-centric culture. Orlando reflects the land-use patterns of cheap fuel and convenient motoring and a lack of environmental consciousness. Those land-use patterns decrease the convenience of bicycle transportation with increased trip distances and high-volume, high-speed roads.

    Andrew, I think you’re right about bike lanes not really addressing fear. They don’t address the other cultural issues or practical impediments either.

    I know people who aren’t afraid of traffic but don’t commute because they don’t have a shower at work. They don’t do short trips because their bikes can’t carry anything and it’s just easier to get in the car… not to mention the lack of bike racks.

    Creating behavior change requires normalizing the behavior you want people to adopt. So, how do you make a minority behavior appear normal?

    My strategy is to try to teach the minority who are using bikes for transportation to behave as if they are normal, legitimate vehicle drivers. This will improve their safety, and may improve the profile of transportation cyclists. It will certainly make them more visible than sneaking along the margins.

    But the one thing I know I can control is the image I create with my own presence on the road. A critical mass of one. Confident, cooperative, respectful and assertive.

  4. pmsummer
    pmsummer says:

    You simply cannot compare levels of bicycle ridership in Lyon or Antwerp or Amsterdam (or Portland) with Orlando.

    The three key ingredients to increased bicycle usage rates are:

    1) High Population Density,

    2) Readily available public transit (both local and regional),

    3) Favorable demographics.

    Without all three elements in place, you will never see the level of cycling that results in traffic calming.

  5. Eric
    Eric says:

    “The three key ingredients to increased bicycle usage rates are:

    1) High Population Density,
    2) Readily available public transit (both ocal and regional),
    3) Favorable demographics.
    Without all three elements in place, you will never see the level of cycling that results in traffic calming.”

    I don’t think it’s that way. Look at NYC. First two on your list, check and check. Not sure what you mean by “favorable demographics.”

    The problem in NYC is all sorts of double parking, something we never see down here. The parking there is just dreadful, yet cycling still hasn’t much caught on there.

  6. Keri
    Keri says:

    There’s a lot more cycling in NYC than here.

    And the lack of roadway civility makes Orlando look like Mayberry. (except that pedestrians have established right of way, unlike here)

    They also have problems with secure bike parking. I remember reading something about a fight with building owners refusing to allow bikes inside. In a city crawling with professional bike thieves, it’s not an appealing thought to lock up a bike on the street all day. Better just to use the transit system.

  7. andrewp
    andrewp says:

    So …. is there any benefit or advantage (economic or otherwise) to the City or County to try to increase transportational bicycling?

  8. Eric
    Eric says:

    “So …. is there any benefit or advantage (economic or otherwise) to the City or County to try to increase transportational bicycling?”

    In a growing area like ours, less street widening and fewer parking garages comes immediately to mind.

  9. Keri
    Keri says:

    So …. is there any benefit or advantage (economic or otherwise) to the City or County to try to increase transportational bicycling?

    Yes. There are economic, environmental and cultural benefits for communities that support active living and human-powered transportation.

  10. Keri
    Keri says:

    More ads with bike laws! More bike cops that follow them!

    Interestingly, one of the things we learned from the social marketing experts is that laws don’t really motivate people to change their behavior. What they need is a tangible fear of loss or a better offer (a tangible positive reason to change).

  11. Eric
    Eric says:

    There is a fellow out there who claims that more Bicycle Cops = legitimacy for space on the road. He argues that when people see more things done on bikes that used to be done in cars, this changes people’s attitudes.

  12. Keri
    Keri says:

    That might work if the bike cops used the road. But the nature of the way they use bicycles to do their job actually dictates that they don’t ride predictably on the road the way transportation cyclists do.

  13. eddie
    eddie says:

    great blog, you guys. especially the comments.
    It seems to me that more butts on seats improves the individual cyclists safety, but that might just be my cycling evangelism shining through.
    That’s as good a goal as any, for a number of reasons, but the question is how.
    I know that a well done bike lane makes me feel safer. Some of them are disasters, but some are very useful. Road infrastructure is a very important part of rider experience.
    I like your message that training is the best way to increase your safety, but I still want for good urban design. cyclists are to the urban environment what divers are to the reef. I don’t want to ride down kirkman no matter how much training I have. Especially with my 20 month old son.

    What I find interesting is, IT IS HAPPENING, to steal Clever Cycles tagline. Bikes are showing up all over the place.I don’t live in Orlando anymore, but when I come back and visit, I can see the increase of cyclists. New York has had a great increase in cycling. Portland wasn’t always famous for bikes. Seems so unlikely considering the weather. Or San Fransisco with all those hills. Or Bogota! But the meme of cycling as a lifestyle is ringing true and cities are being changed because of it. It will be good to look at these places and try to see how they went from being regular non cycling cities to cities where cycling is part of the culture.
    The fact that I’m reading this blog means that Orlando’s cycling culture is growing.
    keep it up!

  14. pmsummer
    pmsummer says:

    “The three key ingredients to increased bicycle usage rates are:

    1) High Population Density,
    2) Readily available public transit (both local and regional),
    3) Favorable demographics.
    Without all three elements in place, you will never see the level of cycling that results in traffic calming.”

    Eric said: I don’t think it’s that way. Look at NYC. First two on your list, check and check. Not sure what you mean by “favorable demographics.”

    OK. Show me a city with a greater than 5% mode share for bicyclists without all three of those ingredients in place.

    Favorable demographics are dependent upon the type of cycling that manifests itself. Low income levels produce “cycling by necessity”. Bike Advocacy groups like LAB tend to ignore the poor and the immigrant poor, because they don’t support the bike industry with expensive purchases and memberships.

    High quantities of 20-30 somethings who view themselves as “progressive” adopt cycling to a much higher level than does that same demographic who view themselves as traditional and conservative. A good question is, “why?”

    Cycling really takes off in “car optional” environments. Is owning a car realistically an option in Orlando? Not technically, or for the highly motivated, but realistically? If not, why not?

    Manhattan has the ingredients in place, but it also has other issues. In many ways, it’s one of the world’s most complex cities (rivaled by London). Nevertheless, utilicycling™ is quite high in NYC. One of Manhattan’s (and London’s) biggest problems is the presence of huge numbers of out-of-city motor vehicles. London’s working on that, NYC, not so much… yet.

  15. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    Economics and car parking. We’ve spent decades making auto use cheap and easy. If there’s no place to park your car, will you drive there? So, how to make cycling grow:
    1. Higher gas prices ($4.00 isn’t nearly high enough)
    2. Reduced parking supply and increased parking fees
    3. Stop widening roads
    4. Increase rail transit (huge numbers of European cycling trips are to and from trains)

  16. eddie
    eddie says:

    we could also look at zoning laws that mandates private property owners to supply parking and bans mixed use areas.

    some deregulation of transportion industries might bring about more options than the private car. in many countries with great public transportation, it isn’t public, but private. I’m thinking about combi taxis in latin america, or the great bus service in taiwan or thailand.
    I think it’s better to repeal a dumb law before you try and raise gas taxes or start building a train system. or at least include that in your plan.

  17. andrewp
    andrewp says:

    I think more people could end up using a bike for “errands” if we made it eaiser for them to do so. I think it’s harder to convince people to bike to/from work due to issues of changing clothes/showers, etc. But finding ways to link communities (to other communities and ) to shopping areas would be an immeadiate way of increasing the number of cyclists using bikes for more than just recreation.

    I also agree with Mighk — if you want to de-congest areas (like downtown) then there needs to be all the things he said — higher costs for using an auto (e.g. lack of and expensive parking) and alternative ways to getting close enough to your work location that you could just take a bike to/from the (for example) hi-speed transit sytem stops ……..

  18. Keri
    Keri says:

    A good example of a community linked to a shopping area is the Tuscawilla community and the Publix shopping center on 434 and Tuscawilla Road. The Seminole Trail and the bridge over 434 makes it easy for people (and their children) to ride bikes to run errands. With the infrastructure in place, though, we still need to find a way to encourage people to actually do that. I know LisaB rides to the Publix with her kids, but how many others do that? How do you encourage them to think differently about going to the store when they are so automatically accustomed to getting the car for that 1 mile trip? Hmm… maybe we could encourage LisaB to write a post about it… nudge, poke 🙂

    This is the time of year for promoting this type of bike travel – the weather is ideal for doing errands by bike.

    On the transit note: Imagine if we do get that commuter rail and it has bike cars like these. The bike could be a perfect connector between the station and home or office, making a 25 mile commute into 2 or 3 miles and a chance to read the paper on the way to work.

  19. andrewp
    andrewp says:

    Great idea!! I just purchased (for $25) a bike I am planning to convert into my “errands” bike. Back rack and baskets, maybe a front rack too. Eric did a nice feature a while back on a bike he converted. I also may look into building my own utility cart. Of course as I do all this, I’ll post results …. these are the kinds of things people will want/need if they use bikes for errands …

  20. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    Wait a few years. We’re at “peak oil” now and the market will increase cycling share for shorter trips regardless of governmental meddling to accelerate or slow the trend.

    If you feel advocacy coming on, lobby for fair laws, secure bike parking, & shortcuts that’ll connect suburban developments together.

    In the meantime, anybody actually getting a cycle commuting subsidy will see it eaten up pretty quick by subsidies to auto manufacturers. Latest I’ve heard is that, besides the big 3, Honda & Nissan have applied for their share of boodle.

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