Wooing the Hesitant Cyclist

There’s an old debate in the bicycling community. Do bike lanes marginalize cyclists and de-legitimize them as road users, as the vehicular cycling camp claims? Or, as advocates of separate bike infrastructure argue, are they essential for mainstreaming cycling as transportation?

As more places install dedicated bike infrastructure and see big increases in cycling, the question in many cities is largely settled. Network blog Wash Cycle examines survey data from the Portland Bureau of Transportation (and links to one of our favorite graphics), to explain why bike lanes, and, better yet, cycletracks, are the surest way to bring about dramatic increases in bicycling.

For those who bike everywhere now, biking in the street is probably no big deal. But most of those cyclists probably fall within the two categories of “Strong and Fearless” or “Enthused and confident.” Together they make up 8% of the population. In the U.S., 8% is pretty good, but if we really want to break through, we need to find a way to get the 60% who are “Interested but Concerned” to ride a bike.

The “Enthused and Confident” group responds to bike lanes and other low level infrastructure and we need to continue pursuing these facilities. But the “Interested but Concerned” group is unwilling to bike on a busy street mixed with traffic. Maybe you think they’re irrational and that biking in traffic is totally safe – or safer when you add in the health benefits. Maybe you’re right. It doesn’t really matter. We can either try to convince people that they’re being irrationally fearful or make a roadscape that helps them leave their fears behind.

Bike lanes appeal to the “enthused and confident” and cycletracks appeal to the “interested but concerned.” The DC region will need to add lots of both to get more people to ride.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Baltimore Spokes reports that Maryland got the lowest possible rating for spending on non-motorized transportation in the recent report on state policies from Smart Growth America and NRDC. WalkBike Jersey ranks the Garden State’s top cities for biking, walking and taking transit to work. And Commute by Bike looks at data about cyclist behavior gathered from Lyon, France’s Velo’v bike share system.