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Old 11-28-04, 02:35 PM   #1
closetbiker
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no magic way to get more people to cycle

In the Victoria (BC) Times Colonist there was an article, that I agree with. I know, the bottom line for me, why I ride, is because it's fun. Everything else is second fiddle.

Times Colonist

November 27, 2004

I sat down with the legislative health committee's new report and tried to analyse one aspect of my own behaviour in light of all the expert thinking in the document.

Most days, I ride my bike to work. It's environmentally friendly, it's undeniably healthy and it's economical.

But I couldn't care less about that stuff. I cycle because it's fun. No other reason.

There's no conscious decision on my part to save the Victoria airshed a few pounds of carbon monoxide, or save myself a few bucks in gas. It crosses my mind that it's healthy, but I have enough other shameful bad health habits that you couldn't say the health benefits drive my decision-making.

It's simply an enjoyable practice I got into years ago that turned into my standard method of commuting.

When the topic comes up in casual conversation and I am revealed to be a cyclist, I occasionally wax on about the savings to be had and the ease with which you can introduce a 50-minute workout into your daily life.

But I've noticed that mostly when you get into the topic, people's eyes tend to glaze over. I doubt I've ever convinced a single person to regularly ride their bike to work.

And that's one small aspect of the giant problem the committee is trying to grapple with. How do you convince people to adopt healthy lifestyles without expensive nagging campaigns that just turn into background noise?

People sometimes point to a generation of anti-smoking messages as evidence that such campaigns work. But it's not so much the blindingly obvious message that smoking is bad for you that cut the rate of tobacco use down from half to about 16 per cent.

The steady, incremental shift toward turning it into a ridiculously expensive social crime had at least as much to do with that drop.

Discussing public health campaigns of the past 30 years, the committee noted: "The initial thought was that if only people had the right information, the right lecturing tone, or the right scare tactic then they would see the light, change their ways and adopt good habits.

"What has become obvious, after repeated attempts to change individual behaviours, is that despite all the knowledge in the world, individuals' behaviours don't change."

Health decisions are like most other personal choices, the committee found. They are influenced by people's environment, their histories, genetic endowments, personal skills, education and income levels, their sense of control over their lives and "the ease with which a healthy choice is made possible."

So, I don't cycle to work because there's no provincial sales tax on bicycles, or even because provincial and local governments built the Galloping Goose. It's some random combination of all the factors listed above.

Which makes it very difficult for any government trying to cope with the terrible trend lines now firmly established in the B.C. population regarding diet, inactivity, obesity and diabetes. In fact, the committee found no proof anywhere of a successful strategy to reduce obesity and promote healthy eating and active lives on a population-wide level.

"Telling people how and why they need to change does not work. Healthy change comes from a complex, long-term and multi-layered process that enables people to exert control over the decisions that influence their health."

And any time you read "complex, long-term and multi-layered" in a recommendation, it always adds up to another adjective -- "expensive."

The MLAs recommend hiking funding for public health initiatives from three per cent to six per cent over time. That would mean adding another $375 million a year to the health budget, just for preventive measures.

And it would all have to be new money, rather than funds re-allocated from the acute care "sickness system," because diverting funds "could mean that someone might die today in order to save the lives of hundreds in the future." That sort of dilemma stops the prevention investment argument in its tracks.

So the idea is grab as much of the surplus as they can and demonstrate that any increase in preventive spending doesn't come at the expense of the acute care system.

The report is perfectly timed. There is a new federal provincial deal that guarantees $5.4 billion for B.C. over the next 10 years. And every time Finance Minister Gary Collins turns around, he discovers another unexpected revenue bonanza.

The committee said there's an argument to be made that a portion of all new funds and all future budget surpluses should be devoted to catching up on prevention "investments."

It's not finding money that's difficult at this point. It's spending it.

How to invest in the right combination of background factors to convince someone else to cycle to work is the big mystery.

leyne@island.net

Times Colonist (Victoria) 2004
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Old 11-28-04, 02:53 PM   #2
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Nice article.
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Old 11-28-04, 06:42 PM   #3
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I have to admit, I started riding to work because the transit system was exstreamly poor. It was only after riding in for a little while that I discovered riding the bike made me feel like a kid again. From then on, I was hooked.

So I guess that poor transit was an incentive that got me on a bike.

Could other incentives help others find the enjoy cycling?
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Old 11-28-04, 07:02 PM   #4
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It's tough to sell people actual fun, and easy to sell them bad times dressed up as fun. Cigarettes are a good example of this. Drives me absolutely crazy, espcially as I work on the creative side of advertising and design.
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Old 11-29-04, 11:28 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by closetbiker
I have to admit, I started riding to work because the transit system was exstreamly poor. It was only after riding in for a little while that I discovered riding the bike made me feel like a kid again. From then on, I was hooked.

So I guess that poor transit was an incentive that got me on a bike.

Could other incentives help others find the enjoy cycling?
Poor transit did not get me on the bike. In fact, poor transit made me move to another city where there was good transit. Today, my trip used to involve riding five miles to the rail station and now I only travel 10 blocks.

What keeps me using the bike is good transit. The lightrail I take during the week days makes me use the system on the weekends with my bicycle. Furtunately, more people don't think like me or the trains would be full of cyclists.
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Old 11-29-04, 01:41 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Laika
It's tough to sell people actual fun, and easy to sell them bad times dressed up as fun. Cigarettes are a good example of this. Drives me absolutely crazy, espcially as I work on the creative side of advertising and design.

I hear ya - that's my bag too.
What we need to do is get cycling awareness raised in Time Out New York.
Ya know how most TONY issues nowadays is "sexy____" in the city. I swear they tie it into everything somehow and the folks eat it right up. That's what we gotta do, and the trendchasers will be all over it.
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Old 11-29-04, 02:02 PM   #7
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Do you really want trendoids riding with you? Think about it
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Old 11-29-04, 02:44 PM   #8
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I think they just need more bikeways next to highways, or at least in view. THat way, when everyone is sitting on the road going 5mph home they keep seeing these bikers zooming past and getting home early!
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Old 11-29-04, 03:49 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by clancy98
I think they just need more bikeways next to highways, or at least in view. THat way, when everyone is sitting on the road going 5mph home they keep seeing these bikers zooming past and getting home early!
That's one way. Another way is to get non-riding adults onto bikes in the easiest way possible. I think providing multi-use trails is the best way to get nonriders back onto bikes.
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Old 11-29-04, 04:01 PM   #10
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Eh. I (myself) find Multi-Use trails to be frustrating. You can't enjoy a good ride on them because you're dodging 2 year olds on roller blades, mom walking a dog, dad pushing a baby stroller, rollerbladers, and every other form of pedestrian / recreationalist.

I don't think there's anything wrong with it, but if you're cycling and want to build up a semi-good head of steam, it's quite frustrating.
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Old 11-29-04, 04:37 PM   #11
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I don't think actively influencing other's behavior is part of my mission in life. When folks ask about riding I am friendly and entusiastic. Whether my example inspires others is not data which I log regularly.
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Old 11-29-04, 05:07 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vincenzosi
Do you really want trendoids riding with you? Think about it
Is this like everyone that's showed up on the roads in the last two years with an expensive Trek or Italian-made road racing bike and wearing a yellow jersey or USPS racing team gear? If so, the answer is definitely no...
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Old 11-29-04, 05:09 PM   #13
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I wear no obviously branded clothing, and ride a mid-level Trek. Guess I pass the trendoid test!
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Old 11-29-04, 08:27 PM   #14
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Clancy98; I love that idea! Have it visible but not accessable by car; and you bet people sitting in traffic and getting nowhere are going to notice bikers pedaling along with smiles on their faces! It could happen...
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Old 11-29-04, 08:30 PM   #15
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Clancy98; I love that idea! Have it visible but not accessable by car; and you bet people sitting in traffic and getting nowhere are going to notice bikers pedaling along with smiles on their faces! It could happen...
Highly doubt it. You would think someone would've thought oh gee maybe I could ride a bike instead of being stuck in this traffice. Nope. Same people in the same cars at the same time, day in day out. Sitting there in their family sedans carrying 0 passengers.

That's just great.
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Old 11-29-04, 08:34 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Moonshot
That's one way. Another way is to get non-riding adults onto bikes in the easiest way possible. I think providing multi-use trails is the best way to get nonriders back onto bikes.
Totally agree with your point and the subsequent point of dodging 2 year olds.

Multi purpose trails were fantastic for me when I got back into cycling. I was able to build up some fitness and more importantly, bike handling skills by using the trails. It wasn't until I became fitter that I started to get frustrated by having to continually slow down / look out for kids, dogs, learner bikers, joggers etc. That was when I hit the road, confident that I was able to ride skillfully in traffic and was fit enough to stay alert and in control during a long climb up a hill.
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Old 11-29-04, 09:37 PM   #17
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Highly doubt it. You would think someone would've thought oh gee maybe I could ride a bike instead of being stuck in this traffice. Nope. Same people in the same cars at the same time, day in day out. Sitting there in their family sedans carrying 0 passengers.
And trying to figure out a way to hobble those cyclists so they can't get to the same destination before they do, or make their riding either more difficult or more dangerous. Frustration and jealousy do strange things to people.
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Old 11-29-04, 09:46 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by clancy98
I think they just need more bikeways next to highways, or at least in view. THat way, when everyone is sitting on the road going 5mph home they keep seeing these bikers zooming past and getting home early!
OH, DON'T I WISH !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 11-30-04, 08:45 PM   #19
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--The most convincing inspiration that got me to take my bicycle out of mothballs was the PBS documentary about the US Army's 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps. Once I started riding again I discovered a huge benefit came when it was time to PARK. No more hunting for parking spaces. If I were charged with influencing the public to consider bicycling, I would focus on PARKING.
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Old 11-30-04, 09:39 PM   #20
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One post on this topic, and hoping to sum it up as briefly as possible. Fact is, as the title of the thread says, there is no magic way to get people to take up riding. People will only do it if: 1) They already have the desire to do so; or 2) [less likely], the other options become less desirable for one reason or another (money, convenience etc). Sure, a small number of people may take it up in the short term for other reasons, but if they don't have the underlying desire, it will merely be a short term thing.

Providing bike lanes or MUP's is not going to make people take up riding in greater numbers. I've seen people claiming to have seen x number of cyclists on a path or in a lane, but they never seem to be able to answer the question of how many of those cyclists were riding that route (or another) without the trail anyway. If one is really going to increase the numbers of people cycling, what is needed is a more literal interpretation of the word promote, and by that I mean a sleazy advertising campaign.
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Old 12-01-04, 12:35 AM   #21
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just jack the price of gas up to 20.00 a gallon. things will change real quixk (G)
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Old 12-01-04, 01:30 AM   #22
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All of us ride, now, because it is a passion of ours. Many of us started using bicycles for transportation, for other reasons. I quickly came to understand, in college, that cyling was much faster and less expensive than taking the bus. I continued to ride, once I had a job, because I was able to eat out once a week, and go to Europe every couple of years, with the savings over driving. Now, I feel dirty and lazy when I drive the car. And I get road-rage whith the mildest trafic slow-downs.

Many of my friends in college, saw the advantages of biking, and fondly reminisce about the days they rode everywhere. Only one of these guys, besides me, still commutes by bike. That's something I don't understand. I think they are a bunch of freaks, and you know what they think of me.
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Old 12-01-04, 06:36 AM   #23
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In the UK, we have some cities where its quite normal for people to ride a bike; no-one would comment if you turned up to the pub or went to the theatre on a bike. In other places, the only people who ride are sandle-wearing eco-nuts, Lance-a-like racers and weirdo bike commuters; normal people wouldn't be caught dead on a bicycle.
There is no correlation with weather or terrain or wealth, its a cultural thing.
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Old 12-01-04, 08:06 AM   #24
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In the UK, we have some cities where its quite normal for people to ride a bike; no-one would comment if you turned up to the pub or went to the theatre on a bike. In other places, the only people who ride are sandle-wearing eco-nuts, Lance-a-like racers and weirdo bike commuters; normal people wouldn't be caught dead on a bicycle.
There is no correlation with weather or terrain or wealth, its a cultural thing.

Note to self: I've just gotta visit the UK one day...
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Old 12-01-04, 08:20 AM   #25
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So, anthropologists & sociologists out there... how do we change the culture?
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