How to Encourage People to Ride Bikes

Posted by tan xiao yan on

This section brings some tips for encouraging people to ride bikes to create a better cycling environment for you.

Build better bicycle infrastructure

Many people in most of the U.S. don’t ride bicycles because it’s considered unsafe. While I don’t think it’s quite unsafe as some people seem to believe, but the perception of safety is often the vital factor, even for people who say they’re fond of bicycling. When there are no bike lanes of any sort going where you want or need to go, or when bike lanes vanish and reappear mid-block, or at major intersections, fewer people will ride. Most people, and especially women, won’t cycle unless they feel safe doing so, and that means “AAA” (All Ages and Abilities) routes that are separate from motor traffic. There needs to be a connected grid of such routes, not just a few here and there, and they need to go to all popular destinations like shopping areas, schools, hospitals, places of work, churches, community centers, etc. as well as serving residential neighborhoods. Without this, the built environment is heavily biased against cycling. Paint isn’t enough for many people to feel comfortable on roads with heavy traffic.

Significant research in transportation engineering has shown the lack of infrastructure to be the most consistent factor in cycling rates worldwide. Nothing else is nearly as important. Many of the world’s most successful cycling centers instead build dedicated trails, bike boulevards, protected bike lanes and intersections where the rider is separated from motor traffic by a physical barrier of some sort: curbs, planters, plastic posts, etc., and other very-low-stress options. For them to be used, these facilities need to connect to one another, and they need to go places people are really going. Make it safe and comfortable to ride, and more people will. The key to getting people to ride bicycles is to have the infrastructure available for riding. If you build it, they will come.

Build housing closer to jobs

In an area of low-density sprawl, with wide highways and ample free parking, people are unlikely to cycle even if there are high-quality bike routes and favorable laws. The distances between places are too great, and driving is just too darn convenient. The truth is that, in places where cycling is popular, biking is the quickest and least stressful way to get from A to B. In Silicon Valley, there is a group of people who commute by bike daily from San Francisco to Google in Mountain View, a distance of perhaps 40 miles. Far more people with long commutes feel they have no option but to drive. Allowing bikes on transit and putting good bicycle storage at transit stops lets people combine these modes, lengthening the distance people can go to reach transit stops. Putting adequate housing within about five miles of where jobs give people the option to reduce their commute and move by bicycle. Shops, schools, parks, libraries, and other destinations also need to be similarly close to homes.

Make safe places to store bikes

Bikes need secure storage at both ends of trips. That means that it needs bike racks outside stores, but also bike lockers, rooms, or cages at offices and other secure storage of some sort at apartment buildings. Enclosures such as bike lockers protect better from theft but also keep the sun and rain off the bike, and afford the opportunity to stash helmets, gloves, lights, and other items. The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition also sets up valet bicycle parking at many major events, including the Maker Faire, football games at Stanford University, and all events at Levi’s Stadium. There is no cost to park a bicycle. The person gets a numbered ticket, like a coat check, and the other end with the same number goes on their bike. The good news is, all of these solutions are vastly less expensive and more compact than parking an equivalent number of cars.

Help people figure out bike routes

The signage for finding ways, bicycle maps, and bicycle route-finding tools in GPS and online maps all help. The most direct routes for cars are often the ones most worth avoiding on bikes.

Exclude cars or make cars less convenient

Some cities create bike boulevards, which are streets where through traffic in cars is prevented or discouraged. Some cities go so far as to prevent any through traffic by motor vehicle in the city center or downtown. Davis, California, and the University of California campus there make driving and parking inconvenient and costly on and around the campus and instead encourage bicycling throughout the relatively compact city. Dedicated bicycle routes lead to neighboring towns including Sacramento and Woodland. It’s really not an advantage for most people to have a car in Davis.

Help people maintain their bikes

Various volunteer organizations fix up bikes to give, lend, rent, or sell at modest cost. Many cities now have a bike share or bike rental. Have bike shops with service counters and co-ops with volunteer bike mechanics around. Put bicycle pumps or “fix-it stations” (pumps with a built-in rack and tools on tethers) in public places such as parks and libraries, so people can perform basic repairs themselves.

Invite people

Guess people don’t get motivated by simpler and mundane stuff like ‘being healthy’ and ‘happy’. Organize friendly rides around the town of five to twenty miles on level terrain. Ride in a group gives newer riders confidence. The monthly bike party can be considered, which starts at 8 pm and makes about a 15–20-mile loop at a leisurely pace, stopping a couple of times to let people catch up. Various local food trucks meet the riders at the rest stops. There will be activities, food, and stuff to visit and explore all along the way, and especially in some of the parks, impromptu place-making, sprawled across town. These activities all provide opportunities to promote cycling through free workplace events and/or team participation in challenges and community rides.

Normalize bicycling

It is not to pass unnecessary laws to restrict cycling. Laws requiring bike helmets are the top offender here, as they have the double whammy of making cycling less comfortable and convenient, while also singling out cycling as being particularly dangerous, despite the stats that show otherwise. Bicycling needs to become something that everybody does routinely, not just people who have no choice, or people who are trying to be eco or athletic. Bikes need to be seen as transportation, not just a strange alternative to driving.

Offer incentives

People don’t get motivated unless you show them some face value of what they will get in return. It needs to show them real-life improvements and incentives which they can see. Incentives from the government won’t affect that much till they see the amount of their bank balance. Or else enumerating how much weight they have lost every day via a mail or weighing machine for cycling. Incentives can include a bike breakfast, an ‘earn-a-bike’ initiative, or a scheme that provides frequent riders with rewards based on either trips or distance cycled.