Wednesday 26 February 2014

"Interested but Concerned" potential cyclists need to take action themselves

Summary: Surveys in typical, car-centric cities reliably show that the majority of citizens are "interested but concerned" - they don't currently cycle for transport but would apparently consider it if it was safer (e.g. via separated cycle tracks). However, these "potential" cyclists need to take responsibility for pursuing the changes that are in their interests as well as utilising the opportunities that are already available.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Steven Vance
Related Posts:
Lessons from 7 years of Copenhagen Lane progress in Melbourne
Solutions to common barriers to cycling

1. Interested but Concerned residents are in the majority
- Portland was the first city to use the classification terminology in the diagram below. It advises that residents can be placed into one of the four following groups based on their relationship to bicycle transportation: “The Strong and the Fearless,” “The Enthused and the Confident,” “The Interested but Concerned” and the “No Way No How". See: > Four Types of Transportation Cyclists. Surveys in similar cities (e.g. Melbourne, London), have found these four classifications are consistent and that the "Interested but Concerned" group is around 60% of residents.

Portland Bureau of Transportation - Four types of cyclists

- Portland's Bureau of Transportation argues that "the number one reason people do not ride bicycles is because they are afraid to be in the roadway on a bicycle. They are generally not afraid of other cyclists, or pedestrians, or of injuring themselves in a bicycle-only crash. When they say they are “afraid” it is a fear of people driving automobiles." The PBT article describes these four groups:

- The “Strong and the Fearless” are the people who will ride anywhere regardless of roadway conditions.

- The “Enthused and Confident” are comfortable sharing the roadway with automotive traffic, but they prefer to do so operating on their own facilities. They appreciate bicycle lanes and bicycle boulevards.

- The "Interested but Concerned” residents are curious about bicycling. They are hearing messages from a wide variety of sources about how easy it is to ride a bicycle in Portland, about how bicycling is booming in the city, about “bicycle culture” in Portland, about Portland being a “bicycle-friendly” city, and about the need for people to lead more active lives. They like riding a bicycle, remembering back to their youths, and they would like to ride more. But, they are afraid to ride. They don’t like the cars speeding down their streets. They get nervous thinking about what would happen to them on a bicycle when a driver runs a red light, or guns their cars around them, or passes too closely and too fast.

- Very few of the "Interested but Concerned” residents regularly ride bicycles - a few will ride through their neighborhoods to the local park or coffee shop, but who will not venture out onto the arterials to the major commercial and employment destinations they frequent. They represent 60% of the city’s population. They would ride if they felt safer on the roadways - if cars were slower and less frequent, and if there were more quiet streets with few cars and paths without any cars at all.

- The “No Way No How" group is currently not interested in bicycling at all, for reasons of topography, inability, or simply a complete and utter lack of interest.

2. The safest cycling infrastructure won't be delivered by those who don't need it
- If you're one of the "Interested but Concerned” and are waiting for a network of separated cycling tracks to be built around where you live and your common destinations, you could be waiting a very long time.

- The "Strong and the Fearless" certainly don't need separated cycling tracks and actually prefer to use existing roads because they can travel faster and directly everywhere, and aren't delayed by slower cyclists or pedestrians. Some of them are even opposed to cycling-specific tracks or lanes if it means they might lose their freedom to use the roads instead.

- The “Enthused and Confident” prefer the widest spread of bicycle-friendly, direct and quick routes rather than separated cycling tracks if they are piecemeal, indirect and slower. Bike lanes, green paint, sharrows, traffic calming, lower speed limits, bike priority at intersections and de facto cycling routes (e.g. on-street parking creating a "lane" for cyclists but not cars) suit them just fine. I fall into this category and am most interested in expanding my safe cycling routes as quickly as possible. Life is short and I am not going to wait for the majority of the population to get on board and support building a network of high-quality cycling infrastructure.
See: > Lessons from 7 years of Copenhagen Lane progress in Melbourne

- The “No Way No How" group (33%) are either completely uninterested in cycling for transport or are actively opposed to it as they believe it detracts from their ability to get around quickly by car. Clearly, you can't rely on them to help deliver cycling infrastructure.

- The conclusion for the "Interested but Concerned” group is that if only the safest cycling infrastructure (like separated cycling tracks) will suffice to get them cycling for transport, they need to take responsibility for making it happen themselves. For the 8% already riding, separated cycling tracks are not essential or their highest priority.

- This point about differing needs, preferences and self-interest is probably best exemplified by the below diagram. The "Strong and the Fearless" and “Enthused and Confident” already have functioning cycling networks and want more of the same as quickly as possible. Clearly, we're not all in the same boat and those with unmet needs have to take responsibility for getting them addressed. As around 60% of the population are "Interested but Concerned” it is certainly feasible for this majority to change policy and funding if enough of them actively tried to do so.

SCI Study Shows Poverty of Existing Bikeway System

3. "Build it and they will come" is generally true but misses the point
- "Build it and they will come" is the slogan of urban cycling advocates who campaign for a quality network of separated cycling infrastructure. But no-one actually doubts that a network of safer cycling infrastructure would get used. The real challenge is getting the mainstream support to force politicians and planners to build this high quality network quickly and effectively.

- The "Interested but Concerned” are the main beneficiaries but generally aren't actively taking steps to get this network of separated tracks built. Instead they often support policies/politicians or take actions that are counter-productive, such as spending the transport budget predominantly on more car infrastructure or opposing traffic calming, speed reductions or constraints on car parking. See: > Trains not Toll Roads

4. There are many possible barriers and the "Interested but Concerned” need to actively try and resolve the relevant ones
- While sharing the road with cars is often a major inhibitor for the "Interested but Concerned” group, it is never the only significant one. Other important barriers include: not owning a suitable or easy-to-maintain bicycle, a lack of cycling confidence and skills, distance, hills, lack of time, weather, sweat, getting your hair messed up, not being able to carry enough, bike parking, family/friends not cycling, having to carry passengers and not finding it comfortable or enjoyable. However, there are solutions to almost all of these barriers for most people. See: > Solutions to common barriers to cycling

- The reality is that being interested or curious is just the start and certainly not sufficient. No-one else is going to figure out which specific barriers apply to you for any particular trip or how best to solve them. This is something everyone who enjoys the benefits of cycling for transport does for themselves. Unlocking the considerable benefits of urban cycling requires effort. It's a big adjustment to make with potentially major changes to your lifestyle required.

- Safety concerns are just one barrier and while separated cycling infrastructure is a key enabler there are also other solutions you can implement yourself to resolve this barrier for at least some trips. Of course, if you're just seeking excuses for why you can't cycle for transport for any trip, why stop at safety? There are many large-scale, societal issues you can also use like gender pay gaps and too much housework. See: > Bicycling's gender gap: It's the economy, stupid

5. Most people can start somewhere for at least some trips
- The majority of 18 to 50 year olds in cities like Melbourne can already cycle for transport to at least one regular destination (shops/cafes, train station, friend's house, work) and find it safe enough and cheaper, faster and more convenient than the alternatives. The onus is on the "Interested but Concerned” to take the opportunities that do exist (or are easiest to make feasible) and build up from there. This won't involve waiting for separated cycling tracks to be built first.

- If you are unwilling to break out of your comfortable habits and too lazy to give cycling a genuine try at all, then you aren't actually "Interested but Concerned”. You are more accurately: "Half-Interested but Too Lazy". As I've pointed out in another post:
"If a 30 year old in Melbourne's inner north won't use the bike sitting in their garage to ride 1km to dinner on a beautiful summer night on perfectly safe (but non-separated) streets like Canning Street when it's cheaper, faster and more convenient than any alternative, then is building a network of separated lanes all over Melbourne really the answer for people like this?"
Lessons from 7 years of Copenhagen Lane progress in Melbourne

Further Info:
1. Four Types of Transportation Cyclists (Portland Bureau of Transportation)

2. Bicycling's gender gap: It's the economy, stupid