Tuesday 24 December 2013

Solutions to common barriers to cycling

Summary: There are several common barriers and problems that people encounter which influence their decision not to use a bike for getting around. This post will list those barriers and advise of practical, immediately-actionable solutions to those problems.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Magic Madzik

Research has been done in many cities and provided common reasons people give as to why they don't cycle for transport at all or as much as they could. In Australia, the largest survey was by the Cycling Promotion Fund and produced the following results:

Understanding the fear of bicycle riding in Australia

Below I provide brief tips and links relating to the various barriers I've found mentioned. Please note that this blog focuses on advice that individuals can immediately implement to enable them to successfully cycle more often as their means of getting around.

This doesn't mean that improving cycling infrastructure and limiting cyclists interaction with motor vehicles is not important. Indeed, this is still the most critical contributor to actual and perceived safety and the mainstream take-up of cycling for transport. See this post: Not dangerous (As Easy As Riding A Bike) on how safe cycling is when cyclists are protected from cars. However, it will take time to deliver such changes.

1. Do not own a bicycle (or a working/suitable one)
- This is always resolvable as almost everyone can obtain and afford a suitable bike.
- Cycling is much, much cheaper than using a car and more affordable than even public transport. See the "saving money" tips.
- See the "buying a bike" category of this blog for tips on buying a suitable, affordable bike for transport.

2. Don't feel safe riding / Lack of bicycle infrastructure
- Find a safer route you are comfortable with and migrate to quicker routes later.
- Do some training (e.g. with experienced friends) on riding safely on roads.
- Where vital, use footpaths and shortcuts safely (break the law if necessary).
- Move to a part of the city with better cycling infrastructure.
- Educate yourself regarding actual safety (e.g. being hit from behind is rare) vs the feeling of cycling being unsafe.
- See the "safety" category of this blog.

3. Speed and volume of traffic is too high
- Use protected routes or those where the speed differential between yourself and cars is lowest.
- Use a lighter, faster bicycle and build up fitness so you can keep up with other cyclists and are closer to the speed of passing cars.
- Make sure you're highly visible using lights and reflectors. Read the stats on being hit by cars coming up from behind (<3% of car-bike accidents).

4. Don't feel confident riding on the road or interacting with vehicles
- Find safer routes that are off-road, separated, have bike lanes or slower and limited traffic.
- Ride routes popular with other cyclists at the same time and stick with other riders.
- Do some training (e.g. with experienced friends) on riding safely on roads.
- Build up experience slowly and learn how to ride assertively, predictably and signal clearly.
- See the "safety" category of this blog.

5. Don't like sharing the road with buses, trucks and heavy vehicles
- Learn the key risks from heavy vehicles (e.g. left hooks) and how to minimise them.
- Use routes with fewer heavy vehicles even if it takes longer.
- Slow down or stop when necessary to minimise your interactions with heavy vehicles.

6. Destinations are too far away
- Move closer to work and common destinations (or vice versa - change your destinations).
- Use a lighter, faster bicycle and build up fitness.
- If possible, break it into legs. Find good pit stops.
- See: Choose where to live with cycling and your commute in mind.

7. It takes too long
- Implement/track all of the ways to save time overall; then determine if cycling really takes too much time.
- Use a lighter, faster bicycle and build up fitness.
- Find more direct routes and shortcuts.
- Make changes so that your riding is enjoyable (routes, fitness, clothing).
- Choose trips to use riding as exercise; this can save time set aside for exercise (e.g. gym).
- Your no-sweat speed will improve with practice.
- See the "saving time" category of this blog.

8. It's too wet/windy/cold
- Get a rain/wind jacket and long finger gloves.
- Use a weather app to pick optimal riding times.
- Change where you live and work so that you have good public transport alternatives for days when the weather is bad.
- See: How to avoid getting wet when riding.

9. It's too hot/sweaty; Need a change of clothes; Can't shower/change easily
- Ride in less layers (e.g. a t-shirt) and carry the other layers.
- Keep the pace at a level you won't sweat as much.
- Ride in normal clothes and shoes and freshen up without a shower and change of clothes.
- If you need to change clothes find a way to carry clothing and keep outfits at work.
See: Solve the sweat problem without showers and changing clothes.

10. Don't like wearing a helmet
- Choose a non-sports helmet that you find more suitable and comfortable.
- Don't wear a helmet if safe and the chance of being fined is minimal.
See: When should urban cyclists wear a helmet?

11. I've got too much to carry
- Eliminate things you don't need.
- Use a saddle bag, rack and pannier bags.
- Use a backpack if necessary.
- Attach a bike trailer for the heavy loads.

12. There are too many hills
- Find routes to zig zag around the hills (e.g. see San Francisco's "wiggle" route).
- Use a bike with suitable gears to make climbing easier or a lighter bike.
- Build up your strength gradually.
- Use a power-assisted bike if necessary.

13. My friends/family don't cycle
- Lead the way and demonstrate the benefits.
- Help your friends/family take up cycling.
- Sell your car or make it harder to become the default option.
- Ride anyway and meet them at the destination.

14. No protected place to park/store my bicycle
- There are many space-efficient ways to store bikes in your home (ceiling/wall attachments).
- Using a U lock you can attach your bike to street signs or other street infrastructure.
See: Where to park if commuting to Melbourne CBD

15. There's too much risk of it being stolen
- Don't spend too much on your bike or equip it such that it is a desirable target.
- Always lock it properly with a quality U lock.
- Store your bike inside wherever feasible; otherwise U lock the rear wheel to the frame.
- Lock your bike in well-lit, well-trafficked areas; don't leave it unattended for long periods.
See: How to prevent your bike being stolen

16. The bike paths and surfaces are not cleared or hazard-free
- Look for alternate routes that avoid difficulties. Ask other riders for advice.
- If slippery surfaces are an issue get suitable tyres (e.g. studded tyres for snow/ice).
- Where necessary, develop the confidence to use the part of the road where cars drive even if it holds up motorists briefly.

17. Can't afford to live closer to key destinations and in a cycling-friendly area
- Seek affordable living not pseudo affordable housing.
- Rent instead of buying (at least during life stages that are most suited to cycling for transport).
- Live in a smaller house and use space efficiently.
- Combine cycling with public transport. Try a fold-up bike.

18. Can't find direct, convenient routes where cyclists are given sufficient priority
- Move to the part of your city which is most cycling-friendly and steadily invests in a connected up, convenient network of cycling routes.
- Choose to live and work in parts of the city that have efficient grid-pattern cycling routes and few major obstacles like rivers, car-centric intersections and cycling dead-ends.

19. Other road user's aggressive or unforgiving behaviour
- Learn about how to ride predictably, share the road and signal intentions.
- Take a "zen" approach to aggressive behaviour from others.
- Build up the experience and skill to ride more confidently and assertively.

Further Info:
Guardian Bike Blog: 10 things that put people off cycling

GuardianWitness: What's stopping you from cycling?

The Urban Country: Barriers to Cycling: Debunking the Myths