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Old 11-21-08, 01:59 PM   #1
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The key to cycling's acceptance

Rather than ponder why cyclists are viewed poorly by drivers, I think it is more productive to speculate on how we can improve the image of cycling in general.

If Americans love one thing, it is an athlete. Thus, I think we need to make a greater effort to promote cycling as an ATHLETIC ACTIVITY. Joggers and long distance runners use road shoulders in many cases, just as cyclists do (sidewalks are Ok but not ideal, as they can be bumpy). As a runner i recall no instances of hostility from autos (though, to be fair, i have very few examples of hostility when on my bike either).

I would 'market' cycling as

(1) low impact/aerobic activity.
(2) more enjoyable than indoor gym workouts or dull training machine routines.
(3) inexpensive.
(4) racers/clubs should emphasize the athletic aspect/olympic aspect of the sport, and
(5) touring folks should emphasize its low cost, low environmental impact, and closeness to nature and native culture in foreign countries.

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Old 11-21-08, 02:13 PM   #2
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Um. That's been the American model of promoting cycling for 30 years.

If you want to improve the cycling environment, model other successful countries (define your own metrics for "successful"). In this post, I'm calling success high transportational ridership.

It's not rocket science. Countries with high ridership, and friendly treatment from drivers, have a lot of factors at play. Namely, infrastructure (distances, hills, bike-friendly street design), educated driving public (skilled, knowledgeable of laws), and economic motivators (cars or gas are very expensive).

You can watch areas as they become more or less bike-friendly to get more clues. As some of the big cities in China become for affluent, for example, cars have taken over. Which tells you that if you don't have artificial motivators in place (like police enforcing traffic laws) when the economic motivators fluctuate, so may ridership.
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Old 11-21-08, 02:28 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by zeytoun View Post
Um. That's been the American model of promoting cycling for 30 years.

If you want to improve the cycling environment, model other successful countries (define your own metrics for "successful"). In this post, I'm calling success high transportational ridership.

It's not rocket science. Countries with high ridership, and friendly treatment from drivers, have a lot of factors at play. Namely, infrastructure (distances, hills, bike-friendly street design), educated driving public (skilled, knowledgeable of laws), and economic motivators (cars or gas are very expensive).

You can watch areas as they become more or less bike-friendly to get more clues. As some of the big cities in China become for affluent, for example, cars have taken over. Which tells you that if you don't have artificial motivators in place (like police enforcing traffic laws) when the economic motivators fluctuate, so may ridership.

Well, many areas in the USA do have reasonable accomodations for bikes...broad shoulders, many roads with little or no traffic, few if any major intersections, nice scenery, etc. I don't think many people see cyclists as athletes at all....most people see bicycles in the toy section of stores, and think of them as something we should outgrow. Time to get behind the wheel, johnny....

I didn't define what i meant by success...good point. I would just define it as a larger number of people on bikes...person/bike-hours, you might say. I don't see transportational ridership as meaningful in any way. By any reasonable standard---person miles, ton miles, revenue miles, value-added miles, cycling's contribution to the overall 'transportation' matrix is very small.

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Old 11-21-08, 02:37 PM   #4
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I don't see transportational ridership as meaningful in any way.
So - you don't view a bicycle as a vehicle, you view a bicycle as an athletic "toy". You should get out more and see the world. Most people on this planet use the bicycle for transportation.
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Old 11-21-08, 02:59 PM   #5
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So - you don't view a bicycle as a vehicle, you view a bicycle as an athletic "toy".
I said 'most people.see...' I hardly view my bike as a toy since I have done over 300,000 miles on them over the years...probably as much as my car.

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You should get out more and see the world.
Well, 200,000 miles in dozens of countries sure puts me near the top of any league.

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Most people on this planet use the bicycle for transportation.

Yes, and the vast majority of them are in 3rd world countries who are transporting raw agricultural products to markets, often pushing the bike on foot while it carries the weight. Shifting to fossil fuel based transport is clearly a superior step foreward, which is why nation after nation--China just the latest example--- is doing it. As I said, by any reasonable measure...ton miles, revenue miles, value added miles, cycling's contribution to the transportation matrix is miniscule.

This of course sticks in the craw of those cyclists who think they are Gods gift to our sport---commuters, specifically inner city commuters for whom Critical Mass is their spokesman.

The more we allow cycling to be defined by its athletic contributions and accomplishments, instead of the anti-car ravings of a chosen few, the more accepted we are likely to be.

roughstuff

Last edited by Roughstuff; 11-21-08 at 03:03 PM.
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Old 11-21-08, 03:18 PM   #6
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People cycle for lots of different reasons. It's hard to lump it all together as "cycling", so it's hard to see how a single type of promotion is going to benefit all cyclists.

I primarily cycle for transportation, having started mainly for environmental and political reasons. Secondarily I have come to appreciate the fitness benefit and the community, but I still don't see it as a sport, for me. I'm not into sports. And I think that seeing it as a sport only is one reason that many motorists don't see us as having equal rights to the road, because they think we're just out there practicing our sport on the same road they are using to try to get to work.
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Old 11-21-08, 03:26 PM   #7
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Americans hate cyclists as athletes. That's like the worst kind to them. How often have you heard people disparage cyclists as Lance wannabes? And grow irate at the mere sight of Lycra?
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Old 11-21-08, 03:28 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Roughstuff View Post
Rather than ponder why cyclists are viewed poorly by drivers, I think it is more productive to speculate on how we can improve the image of cycling in general.

If Americans love one thing, it is an athlete. Thus, I think we need to make a greater effort to promote cycling as an ATHLETIC ACTIVITY. Joggers and long distance runners use road shoulders in many cases, just as cyclists do (sidewalks are Ok but not ideal, as they can be bumpy). As a runner i recall no instances of hostility from autos (though, to be fair, i have very few examples of hostility when on my bike either).

I would 'market' cycling as

(1) low impact/aerobic activity.
(2) more enjoyable than indoor gym workouts or dull training machine routines.
(3) inexpensive.
(4) racers/clubs should emphasize the athletic aspect/olympic aspect of the sport, and
(5) touring folks should emphasize its low cost, low environmental impact, and closeness to nature and native culture in foreign countries.

roughstuff
Close... but Americans love sport heroes... not actually participating in the sport.

And Americans have some strange aversion to skin tight clothes on skinny guys (women are OK... and dressed even more scantily, even better... hence cheerleaders and Olympic volley ball players are best viewed in little more than bathing suits.)

The real issue is that you have to remove the "dork factor" from cycling... so no stupid Styrofoam hats... and we should add shoulder pads and perhaps make it a contact sport... perhaps cyclists should take on cars mano a mano... anything for sport, eh.

Oh and last but not least, you can't use any European words... so "peloton" is out, as is "derailuer" and "grouppo" (heck those words sound French... and that really won't fly). You need tough words like "Pack" or "Platoon;" "Gear Grinder, or Shifter Set." Oh and above all the colors of bikes need to be jet black and chrome... and we need a beer sponsor or two.

TV coverage... We need massive TV coverage... can we arrange a few tours with some blood baths... maybe a Pikes Peak straight down decent where crashing your opponent is allowed? Hey how about Jousting.
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Old 11-21-08, 03:33 PM   #9
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I ride mostly for the health benefits. I'm not trying to lose weight or train for the Tour de France, but I do have a liver condition that, among other symptoms, include fatigue, lethargy, depression, inability to focus, and short-term memory loss. On days that I ride, I can counteract most of these symptoms without medication. The fact that I commute to work this way is a convenient means of finding the time. Other benefits such as financial savings, lower carbon footprint, etc., are merely added bonuses.
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Old 11-21-08, 03:35 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by mackerel View Post
So - you don't view a bicycle as a vehicle, you view a bicycle as an athletic "toy". You should get out more and see the world. Most people on this planet use the bicycle for transportation.
+1. The OP is basically negating his own argument.

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I said 'most people.see...' I hardly view my bike as a toy since I have done over 300,000 miles on them over the years...probably as much as my car.
Do you still recall what it was like to perceive cycling as an outsider? Do you think you have the ability to do so?


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Well, 200,000 miles in dozens of countries sure puts me near the top of any league.
Since you scorn the commuter, I assume these are 200,000 McMiles?


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This of course sticks in the craw of those cyclists who think they are Gods gift to our sport---commuters, specifically inner city commuters for whom Critical Mass is their spokesman.
So all commuters = fixed-gear pricksters? Come now - don't take your generalizations to an absolutely silly extent.

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Old 11-21-08, 03:37 PM   #11
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If I'm not mistaken, this is pretty much how cycling is already marketed. Hence the reason why drivers don't accept cyclists as equals (why should this recreational jogger/cyclist be on the road and screwing up my drive to work when they could just use the trail that goes to nowhere useful). If I go into a bike store or WallyWorld (the difference is quality, not marketing), my two options are a "tough" mountain bike that can take the hard trails or a "fast" road bike that can zip down the smooth ones. It's already promoted as an athletic activity, and I think it's pretty apparent that it receives about as much "success" with that marketing as a gym does. Plenty of bikes get sold and used for a few weeks as exercise, and then disappear into the garage. Most of the American public has a lot of aspiration to be a strong, healthy "athlete", but lack any of the motivation to do so. Until bicycles stop being marketed as exercise toys, I really don't think you'll ever see any acceptance. When Americans see Lance zipping up a hill, they get themselves a bicycle and ride it a few times to get some exercise... then their motivation slackens and they ditch it in the garage to collect dust. They do this same thing to their gym membership, and it's the primary reason why so many bicycles are sold in America and so few ridden.

It may help sales, but the last thing that will get cycling acceptance is to continue this failed strategy of encouraging New Year's resolutions to exercise more.
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Old 11-21-08, 03:37 PM   #12
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Thank you for the clarification, Roughstuff.
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Old 11-21-08, 03:39 PM   #13
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Hey, genec, how about something like this? That would be Americans off their butts and on their, err, butts.

Or this?



edit: More Bike-Beer labels.

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Old 11-21-08, 03:41 PM   #14
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Oh and above all the colors of bikes need to be jet black and chrome... and we need a beer sponsor or two.


It's a microbrew though, which might turn people off. Think we can get Coors or Bud to make jerseys? Maybe they could do Lance-yellow... that way it'd even look like the piss it tastes like.
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Old 11-21-08, 03:45 PM   #15
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It's a microbrew though, which might turn people off. Think we can get Coors or Bud to make jerseys? Maybe they could do Lance-yellow... that way it'd even look like the piss it tastes like.
Coors used to sponsor the Colorado Invitational... and there was plenty of bike clothing (I got a hat every year). Apparently that is not quite enough though...

Then again it was never broadcast, and there may not have been enough blood. Or cheerleaders.
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Old 11-21-08, 03:47 PM   #16
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America's new blood sport: Bicycle Jousting.

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Old 11-21-08, 03:49 PM   #17
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Hell, I'd watch bike jousting

The secret to bicycle aceptance is to create "weekend warriors." The steady rise of bicycling in my childhood home of Pittsburgh (form "top 5 worst" in a bicycling mag to #11 in bike commuting ) roughly corresponds to the creation of rail-trails in SW PA and other bike-infrastrcture investments.

Since bicycle commuting is only 1.1% here, they'll never influence motorist attitudes towards cyclists, esp as this 1.1% is least likely to actually drive a car. However, if you can create a (dare I say) critical mass of weekend warriors, they will be less likely to engage in the more egregious forms of anti-cycling driving or support pols who are anti-cycling.

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You can watch areas as they become more or less bike-friendly to get more clues.
My point exactly.

Also, comparing the US to european countries and deduce that ridership levels are predominantly influenced by infrastructure and laws is overly simplistic. First off, Europe was physically damaged post-WWII in a way that the US wasn't, and consequently many got into cycling due to financial limitations not present in post-war US. Secondly, the US is more geographically spread-out than any single European country; finally, exertion as a chosen activity took popularity only with the boomer gen: before that, the sweat on one's brow was something Andy Carnegie (going way back now) paid you for, and you'd be daft to do it for kicks-n-grins.
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Old 11-21-08, 03:52 PM   #18
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I don't think drivers will ever accept cyclists as long as we're "in their way" no matter what kind of marketing you do.
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Old 11-21-08, 03:56 PM   #19
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This of course sticks in the craw of those cyclists who think they are Gods gift to our sport---commuters, specifically inner city commuters for whom Critical Mass is their spokesman.

The more we allow cycling to be defined by its athletic contributions and accomplishments, instead of the anti-car ravings of a chosen few, the more accepted we are likely to be.
Now that you've decided to rag on commuters, I'd like to ask why the few places where cyclists are accepted on the road happen to be those few places where cycle-commuting actually exists as a significant share in the transportation network. I mean seriously, way to rag on something that actually works, is practical, and has successful increased the number of riders as well as driver acceptance. We definitely need more of the same "bike as a toy" marketing that currently exists. That way a few Lance wannabees can get even more of what they they already have, and we can continue to sell millions more bikes than people actually ride. And we'll continue to see the success story of people buying a bike for exercise, riding it twice, and then sticking it in the garage like the rest of their New Years resolutions.

I mean, seriously... is this OP actually serious? Does he actually believe that more of the same is going to produce different results?
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Old 11-21-08, 03:56 PM   #20
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I thought the key to getting Americans to do anything was convince them that doing it was "patriotic" and not doing it was "anti-American"
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Old 11-21-08, 03:59 PM   #21
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I thought the key to getting Americans to do anything was convince them that doing it was "patriotic" and not doing it was "anti-American"
I don't think you can call it "patriotic" unless a corporation stands to make a lot of money off it.
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Old 11-21-08, 04:17 PM   #22
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Also, comparing the US to european countries and deduce that ridership levels are predominantly influenced by infrastructure and laws is overly simplistic. First off, Europe was physically damaged post-WWII in a way that the US wasn't, and consequently many got into cycling due to financial limitations not present in post-war US. Secondly, the US is more geographically spread-out than any single European country; finally, exertion as a chosen activity took popularity only with the boomer gen: before that, the sweat on one's brow was something Andy Carnegie (going way back now) paid you for, and you'd be daft to do it for kicks-n-grins.
But one might think that after WWII the repairs and improvements would have been more conducive to the auto, as was America's 1956 Highway act... so Europe should not be dramatically different from America, unless there was some other motivation...

And the "spread out issue... " I really don't think that matters as cyclists typically don't go from city to city in Europe either... Yet we have east coast cities that date back to long before the auto that are European in density (think NYC, Boston, and others) that have somehow determined to make way for the auto... period.

Somehow the auto has taken precedence here in the US in a way that "killed" both bicycles and public transit. Could it be something more sinister such as a conspiracy?
http://www.1134.org/stan/ul/GM-et-al.html
Is there perhaps a more modern parallel???
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Kil...e_Electric_Car
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Old 11-21-08, 05:15 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Roughstuff View Post

If Americans love one thing, it is an athlete. Thus, I think we need to make a greater effort to promote cycling as an ATHLETIC ACTIVITY. Joggers and long distance runners use road shoulders in many cases, just as cyclists do (sidewalks are Ok but not ideal, as they can be bumpy). As a runner i recall no instances of hostility from autos (though, to be fair, i have very few examples of hostility when on my bike either).

I would 'market' cycling as

(1) low impact/aerobic activity.
(2) more enjoyable than indoor gym workouts or dull training machine routines.
(3) inexpensive.
(4) racers/clubs should emphasize the athletic aspect/olympic aspect of the sport, and
(5) touring folks should emphasize its low cost, low environmental impact, and closeness to nature and native culture in foreign countries.

roughstuff
I can't imagine a less productive way to promote bicycling to the public in the US. As zeytoun points out your plan has been the promotion scheme for 30+ years, except for the inexpensive point. Trying to ramp up a Lance Effect V2 will do nothing for cycling but raise the price of bikes that are offered and make the bikes even less practical for the majority of people.
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Old 11-21-08, 05:56 PM   #24
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I thought the key to getting Americans to do anything was convince them that doing it was "patriotic" and not doing it was "anti-American"
It's the other way around. We use "patriotism" to convince ourselves NOT to do something. (Don't think rationally, don't become educated, don't join the modern world)
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Old 11-21-08, 06:33 PM   #25
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It has to be a Fad... somehow we need to get Brad and Angelina to take up cycling and "get caught at it."

Then a few other celebrities need to be "caught" riding bikes... before too long folks will be taking up cycling all over.
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