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  1. #1
    In the rear with the beer
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    New question here. How to promote bike usage/commuting?

    Given high gas prices, pollution and the 'obesity epidemic', it seems that bike commuting, or at least greater bike use would be a no brainer, but i think its pretty obvious to those of us riding the streets on bikes that this is not the case.

    What do people think could be done to promote fewer cars and more bikes on the road? Both short term and long term?

    I've just been pondering this lately and wanted to throw it out there to see what the bike community thought.....
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  2. #2
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    At least around here, Sunnyvale California, the number of people commuting on bikes does seem to be increasing. The bike to work day (http://www.sfbike.org/?btwd) was a huge success by all accounts.

    However there are still many things we can do to increase the number of people riding bicycles instead of driving. We have a $250/mo pre-tax parking credit, or a $125/mo pre-tax mass transit credit, lobbying for some sort of credit like that would be very useful (my numbers may be slightly off since I don't use either). The money could be used for bicycling related commuting expense. Okay, well that is a bit of a stretch, I doubt I even spend $50/mo on commuting expenses but I like the idea

    More MUTs would be a big help as well. The most common issue I hear about commuting is people feel unsafe on the street with cars. If they had a place to ride without cars they would be more willing to take the plunge.

    I guess the biggest step in the right direction would be more infrastructure (bike lanes, MUTs, etc...) and better education for motorist and cyclist.

  3. #3
    Nightriding rules SuperModerator
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    in the direction of credit...cyclescheme in the UK seems like a nice way to do it http://www.cyclescheme.co.uk/

  4. #4
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    I think before we really start promoting bicycle commuting, alot of communities could use better infrastructure to support more commuters. Most American cities can't handle a large influx of cyclists. Some random thoughts to support this.

    -Buses can't carry too many bikes. Same with subways.
    -There are "NO BICYCLES ALLOWED" signs at just about every major shopping center I've been to. Not that it's enforced but why is this the case? Kids? Insurance?
    -There are very few bike racks in my area.
    -Bike lanes here when they exist are full of debris and parked cars.
    -People on bikes ride randomly seemingly. People need to be educated on how to ride bikes on public streets.
    -People in cars react to bikes randomly. People need to be educated on how to drive around bikes.
    -The local bike shops cannot keep up with maintenance. My LBS has a 3 week waiting list for maintenance. NP for me but most people probably don't know how to work on their bikes. Having a broken bike for 3 weeks thus being forced to drive is a good temptation to quit commuting altogether.
    -Kill the perception that mountain bikes are the highest point of evolution for bicycles thus they are the best for every situation. Most mountain bikes that people will start commuting on are walmart specials. Big box stores sold much higher quality bikes when they sold simple road bikes without all the springs and crap. I lost track of how many co-workers have thought that road bikes were an 80s fad while they ride their NEXT mtb 1 mile with great effort assuming that all bikes are that hard to pedal.
    -Kill the perception that a good bike will cost $1000+. The used market is huge but it'd be nice if someone could bring back mass produced lugged steel road bikes. They can't be that expensive to make on a large scale can they?

    If you really want to get Americans on bikes...make bikes cool. Most Americans think people on bikes riding to work are poor or lost their license. This will be the hardest thing to do because Americans like expensive high tech things that make your life easier/more comfortable. Try to heavily promote bike commuting as a green thing to do. That angle might work since green is cool right now.

  5. #5
    weirdo
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    Bigdude, you`re asking in the wrong place- to get an accurae answer, you need to ask someplace that people DON`T already ride. Here`s my view, anyway:

    I think that saftey and misconceptions about how hard it is are the main things that stop people with short (up to five miles) commutes. Where I live, bike/car interaction isn`t nearly as bad as what I read from other places but it seems to me that education and police cooperation would be a big and relatively inexpensive help to that. I agree that a lot of drivers aren`t sure how to deal with bicycles on the road, leading to a lot of unpredictable driver reactions. It`s also true that a lot of cyclists aren`t sure how they should ride, leading to unpredictable cyclist behavior and the two situations compound each other. It would also be helpful for police to be more supportive of bike riders- unless they personally ride on a regular basis, they probably don`t give much thought to watching out for us or keeping an eye open for the guys trying to do us in. For the places with revenue to spare, MUTs would be dandy, but who can really afford that these days? Our school district can`t even afford to maintain the same number of school teachers from one year to the next even though we have more students. MUTs and bike racks a big commitment. Shopping centers with "No Bicycles" signs? Never seen that. It`s amazing how many differences there are from one region to another that I never realized before I started hanging out on internet forums.

    Yeah, it would be nice to see more people try riding a good used bike or a $400 new one rather than NEXT full suspension sixty pounders with frozen cables and stamped potmetal center pull brakes. About the only thing I can imagine to help that one with any real chance of actually happening is for us to try convincing folks we know. Maybe lend a bike here and there or try to talk people into going for a Sunday ride with us.

    Or maybe more DUIs. I wonder if anybody starts riding seriously because he (she) looses a license and just keeps on riding even after getting a license back.

  6. #6
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    You can lead a horse to water, but you can't force it to drink.

    Some people are simply just dead set against doing *anything* that involves physical effort whatsoever. Their minds cannot be changed via anything other than a gun to the head, and even then they might not go for it.

    Things will take their natural course. Concentrate on getting better cycling provisions in cities from local councils. Let drivers take care of themselves. As long as facilities are available for walkers and cyclists the cost of petrol and car tax etc will naturally make people consider alternatives. The key is to make sure that the facilities are in place to accommodate people who do decide to make the switch. From then on it is word of mouth from such people to their friends.

    Being an evangelist never helps. It just puts people off. Let people naturally make a decision.

  7. #7
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    I agree with Simon....

    the other night on the news they were interviewing people at a local gas statation. They spoke with a lady that was complaining about the $95 that she just spent to fill this hulking 4wd SUV that she was standing next to. The irony was there where 2 bikes in a hitch rack on the back!?!?!? Hmmmm...think maybe she just doesn't get it!? This interview took placing during the morning commute hours. Granted she may well have been headed to the lake or where ever after work. But the idea just doesn't seem to sink in. She could have left that tremendous over weight turd at home, road the bike to work, and saved a gallon or two on the commute. Things that make you go huh?

    The green angle won't work too well. It hasn't yet, the green movement has been in the news etc. long before gas prices started they're curren't upward spiral, many years in fact. Oh it'll work for some, but only those that have at least some sense of social resposibility. And then only those that can make the connection between using less fossil fuels and the good it will do for them, others, and the planet. For most people that's way to esoteric and/or inconvinient.

    The only way I believe you are going to see a signficant increase in commuting by bicycle is when things get to the point that people just can't afford to put fuel in the tank anymore. You get a persons attention a whole lot quicker hitting them in the pocket book than you do hitting them in the head!

    All we can do is be advocates with local government in pushing for the creation of a alternate commute friendly environment. Advocating bike lanes and paths, bike racks on busses and trains, safe route development, etc. And I mean routes that go somewhere and make useful connections. Not the silly bike path that wanders along beside the river but doesn't hook up to get you anywhere else. Though that type of recreational path does have it's place. That and advocating cycling (not just commuting) as a fun and healthy activity, and participating. You'd be amazed at how many people see you riding to work and actually notice you. You are an oddity, and an example. Keep at it and eventually you may well be the reason that the "light will go on" and the connection will be made.

    As Simon stated, being and evangilist or a rabid advocate only puts most people off. Being a constant visual example is much more effective. I used to get laughed at at work, I was the nut case that always road his bike to work. But most aren't laughing anymore, and some have made the connection and are trying it out.

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  8. #8
    weirdo
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    No matter what happens to gas prices, the economy, or the environment, I doubt it will have a huge impact on how many people bike to work or for errands. Some, of course, but I think most people who stop driving one per vehicle will sooner opt for public transportation or car pools or some other method. Just my speculation. When I think about it, the only reason I use my bike as transportation is because I enjoy it. It`s greener and could be cheaper than driving if I didn`t spend money on unnecessarry pedaling paraphanalia, but that`s just beneficial side effects.

    More musings: I like to see other riders and especially like to see kids out on bikes- even if they`re just cruising in circles in front of their houses. I`m generally pleasant and polite to all people I see around, but I always make an effort to wave and say hello to bike kids. Something along the line of making the connection you guys mentioned.

  9. #9
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    No matter what happens to gas prices, the economy, or the environment, I doubt it will have a huge impact on how many people bike to work or for errands. Some, of course, but I think most people who stop driving one per vehicle will sooner opt for public transportation or car pools or some other method.
    Thats true, but it also helps cyclists as well. More car sharing or public transport usage means less cars on the road, safer for cyclists, and a more enjoyable trip to work etc all round.

    I know that when a lot of people are asked why they don't cycle to work, many people have considered it, but cite reasons such as the roads being too dangerous, they wouldn't like it in bad weather, and lack of facilities at their destination such as secure cycle lockups, showers etc.

    As Squash mentioned, people notice when things hit them in the pocket. Environmental reasons will never really convince Joe public. Cycling, walking, and other alternative means needs to be sold to people as giving them a convenience, saving them money (especially with the Bike to Work schemes available in the UK).

    With petrol prices what they are I have figured out that including wear and tear, the car costs me around 50 UK Pence a mile. I have an activity I go to twice a week which is a 14 mile round trip. Cycling this instead of driving is saving me 14 UK Pounds a week (of course for accurate calculation I should include the cost of the bike and wear and tear on that too)

    In the UK at least I think there is another factor at work. Road tax and insurance. Now, insurance can't really be helped, but less car usage should result in lower premiums, which again could be a good selling point for cycling if insurance companies got involved. But car tax is fundamentally unfair because in the UK we pay 70% tax on all the fuel we purchase. The Government is trying to force people to buy smaller cars by clobbering drivers with a much increased road tax, and unfairly they are going to introduce the increases retrospectively.

    In my line of work I need my estate car to carry all my equipment around. But I am not on a job every day. A lot of the time I work from home. The Government is taxing me hugely because they say my car is bigger and more polluting and uses a lot of fuel. But my line is that my car isn't using fuel or polluting when it is sat on my driveway! A person in a much smaller car driving to work each day is causing far and away more pollution than me, yet they have to pay less car tax!

    Now, when people have to pay for expensive road tax they often think that since they have had to fork out for it that they should use their car as much as they can to justify paying for it.

    So, if the Government scrapped car tax or at least drastically reduced it and increased fuel a bit to compensate for the loss of revenue, people would see the real cost of using differing types of transport.

    Fuel is the fairest tax because the more people use a car, the more they pay. Simple and effective. So alternative transportation would be more viable because we wouldn't have to pay out expensive road tax only to be told by environmental people that we shouldn't use our cars!

    The Government and other organisations are not doing a good enough job of selling the advantages of cycling etc. They aren't selling the convenience. Instead they try to sell the health angle or the environmental angle, both of which many people unfortunately do not care about.

    The problem of useful cycle lanes does not just apply to cities. The countryside also needs a network. Unlike the US where quite often dismantled railway routes are often used, in the UK this doesn't happen very often so narrow, and often very dangerous, especially at night, country roads are the only way to get around unless you own a full on MTB.

  10. #10
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    My two favorite methods to get someone to do anything.

    1. Lead by example. Lots of people are scared they will be mocked if they are the first one to bike to work. They may be scared they aren't strong enough, traffic or whatever. The single greatest advertisement is word of mouth. "Aren't you scared of traffic?' I stick to less traveled roads, stay to the right, wear reflective gear and a helmet and watch the road for cars and i feel safe. "I wouldn't have the energy for that" Oh I didn't either when i first started riding but once i built up endurance faster then I expected and now i don't notice. "What if it rains?" Oh I love the rain, and with fenders and rain coats you really don't get that wet. Being honest, direct and unashamed of what your doing sets a precedent. Add in a "its nice to save money on gas or feels good to help the enviroment" and people whether or not they commute will envy you. They may even the a friend about how you bike it to work.

    2. Convince them it was their idea in the first place. This is actually not easy and doesn't work all the time. You Just got to be vocal about something and state advantages of it. "I don't really need coffee, the bike ride in the morning energizes me." "I saved a bit of money not driving the car, so I'm thinking buying my wife a bike so we can ride together." "I remember you saying you use to ride bike when you were younger, I am inviting some friends out on the weekend for a short bike trip and I have an extra bike if you wanna come along."

    No one likes being told what to do, and they usually don't listen anyway. I gave that up long ago and decided that I would instead tell them why i do what i do, why i like this and what works for me and i let them think about it. It seems both more rewarding and less frustrating.

  11. #11
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    No one likes being told what to do, and they usually don't listen anyway. I gave that up long ago and decided that I would instead tell them why i do what i do, why i like this and what works for me and i let them think about it. It seems both more rewarding and less frustrating.
    Exactly, yes. Selling the convenience of cycling is the way to go. Although the physical angle is one that is hard to overcome for many people. I went for a ride yesterday with a friend who doesn't cycle a lot. It was a road trip since my main MTB is in pieces and I only have slicks on my old Marin now.

    Anyhow he was often struggling and had to stop for a rest on some uphill sections which for me weren't that much more inclined than a flat! Like most beginners he uses the smaller rear cogs too much tiring his legs out and reducing power (do they drive up steep hills in their cars in top gear I wonder?) His saddle was also too low.

    Instead of taking my advice and spinning slightly faster and raising his saddle, he just ignored me and just kept on complaining about the hills. It seems to be a real issue for some people, and they don't have the mindset that tells them to keep going and the fitness will improve.

  12. #12
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    I agree with lifelesspoet on leading by example.
    Have fun while you are commuting, regardless of what you ride and what you wear.
    If you are happy and successful, others want to emulate you.
    I'm not sure that I'm projecting success by commuting on my 1970something
    Ron Cooper.
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  13. #13
    jrm
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    Easy..

    Price um out of there cars via cost and time.

  14. #14
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    I'll second the answers already given while adding a few suggestions of my own.

    First, I personally think, as has been suggested, that a great majority of Americans are never going to make regular, practical use of their bikes unless there are no other remotely viable options. It's too dirty, too dangerous, too much work and most Americans live in a sprawl that makes most meaningful trips (work, school, shopping) very time consuming even in a car. Then there's the practicality of piling that 20 gallon drum of chunky peanut butter from CostCO onto a rear wire rack. That's not what I think for my life, but I believe it's how most people perceive the subject.

    Furthermore, bikers continue to be their own worst enemy. While I'm the first one to defend cyclists against the nervewracking, perilous infractions routinely commited by drivers, if I'm objective, it's hard to overlook the startlingly bad manners of many, possibly most, cyclists. Here in Chicago there is a tremendous sense of entitlement and a really ugly militancy amongst a lot of bikers. It really does resemble that "We Are the Bikers" web toon, maybe worse. All this has done is turn public opinion against cyclists, and by extension, cycling.

    Every day, I see cyclists veer too close to pedestrians, talk on cell phones, listen to music players in traffic, ride the wrong way on one way streets or sidewalks, cut through stop signs and lights with cars near the intersection, slip between the corner and a car waiting to turn, ride without lights or reflective gear at night, avoid using helmets, cut in front of cars, and on and on. It ticks me off, especially knowing that it makes a lot of drivers more callous and aggressive. This isn't even factoring in groups that agitate on purpose, like Critical Mass, or the poster children for bad biking behavior, bike messengers.

    The remedy for some of this is for bikers to collectively take responsibility and become more cognisant of the effect we have on everyone around us. Just because other groups behave poorly doesn't make it acceptable for us to disregard both the rules and common sense. In my opinion, beyond just policing ourselves, it would be advisable to be more proactive and really push bike safety and training programs hard. There are scattered initiatives, but it could really be a winning public relations tool if it were done in an organized way.

    Otherwise, there are infrastructure needs. For one thing, shower facilities and secure lockups are definitely in short supply. Both of these needs could easily be remedied right now in the private sector with a little foresight. One, if most gyms would offer the use of shower facilities (Say 10 uses for $10?), they could recover costs and maybe even win some new members. Second, more parking facilities could easily install bike parking. It wouldn't cost them much up front and they could get a little green cred while they're at it. Generally, businesses should offer incentives like they do with transit and car pooling. They could also lobby for showers and bike storage in leased locations and install them in company owned facilities. More importantly, business should institute more flex scheduling. It is insane that the 8/9 to 5 schedule still dominates. If commuting were spread over four hours in the morning and afternoon instead of two, everyone would be better off. Finally, this country needs more forward thinking in terms of how bikes and pedestrians interact with cars. Better defined lanes, curb cutouts, dedicated lanes, grade separations, conversion of out of use railroad track, and smarter lights could all contribute to a more bike friendly environment. Putting changes like these into effect would at the very least eliminate many of the excuses people give for not riding.

  15. #15
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    Another good point. I think there is alot of confusion about bikes based mostly in ignorance. I didn't know what my state bike laws where til i looked them up online. I think this kind of thing needs to be taught in drivers ed classes and put in to driver tests as well.
    I think 2 things have happen. Some riders say to themselves im on a bike I don't have to follow traffic laws. I know i have done it, though im more responsible now. The other thing is they don't know and they make up rules as they go.
    This ignorance extends surprising far sometimes, I have had 2 friends a few years back get pulled over for riding their bikes on the road and not on the sidewalk. They had to argue with the cops about the rules of the road.
    I don't wish to advocate bike licenses, but its one way of improving bike traffic. I have a friend that has gotten 2 dui's on a bike and has never had a license. They keep revoking his non existing license but still keeps riding. There isn't much for discouragement for driving recklessly think it will evolve though, as more bikes get on the road, more regulation and infrastructure will be build, then hopefully things get safer and more bikes get on the road. If anything its something to hope for.

  16. #16
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    People do need to be educated as to the self fulfilling cycle (pardon the pun) of using bicycles or walking on more journeys.

    Like the convenience angle of being able to get places faster in a city, not having to pay extortionate fees for parking (or having to search for a parking space in the first place), there is also the crime angle too.

    If more people in a given community walked or cycled more people would become familiar with one another, communicate more, and as a result crime in some areas may well decline rapidly because of the sheer presence of like minded community members around.

  17. #17
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    Individually:
    Keep riding
    If you've got a good system, let people know about it
    Help make it "cool" -- I'm convinced that of the top 3-4 reasons people don't ride, one of them is just that it's considered weird.

    At the company level
    Showers
    Secure area with bike racks or other form of storage, at offices restaurants, etc. I know of at least one shopping center that managed to get the local bike shop to donate racks -- and there's usually a couple bikes parked there during the day.
    If you offer parking or metro reimbursement, also offer something for bike commuting, or if you've got enough people who are willing, provide gear or even the bike itself. Companies frequently spend that much on their employees transportation costs anyway
    Encourage it --- in some offices they treat the guy who bikes like he's annoying or weird or doesn't fit in, turn that attitude around
    Keep encouraging local stores to offer commuter bikes. I know my local REI probably has more hybrid/commuters than any other type of bike -- and you see quite a few of them on the roads and trails during commuting hours.

    At the societal level
    Make roads more friendly. Use signage, bike lanes, rail-to-trails (DC has a pretty good system there)
    Allow as much bus/subway access as is reasonably possible, and make sure there's safe bike parking at the stations

    Market factors -- I think gas prices DO make a difference. I'd say I'm seeing close to twice as many bike commuters as I did 6 months or a year ago. Granted, it's still a small subset of the population, but at least the growth rate is good. Also, if people continue to adjust their lifestyles to adjust to the gas price --- using public transit, living closer to the office, even buying smaller calls (makes cyclist more visible)-- it contributes to a better commuter environment and is likely to lead to more riding.

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