Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mainstreaming Bicycle Riding

This piece from says a lot about the behavioral and cultural issue in making bicycling a mainstream affair...


dale said...

What a great article! Interesting link on the bike chic clothing and bike subculture revolting against making bicycling a mainstream transportation mode.

I think cycling clothing is a barrier for mainstreaming bike transport. But destinations within 10-15 minutes are easily done in regular clothing.

Working off the business merchant thing, we need to get people to consider riding to the neighborhood retail/restaurant. Where I live, there are retail (life centers) at 132nd/maple, 144th/maple, 156th/maple, 168th/maple. Why not take a mile north/south (Fort/Blondo) and include best (least hilly) routes to these life centers? All 25mph neighorhood streets, the most comfortable to ride. Paint bicycles on these neighborhood routes to get people thinking about bikes. Talk with land managers to install bike parking. Have businesses join the merchant thing. Maybe a neighborhood education campaign through parent gatherings at schools? A multi-pronged approach in a concentrated area is likely to be most effective in mainstreaming bikes as transport.

Marty's mentioned the low hanging fruit. The short 5-10 minute trip is what non cyclists can do physically and with perceived safety. That is how to make cycling mainstream. As people become more comfortable in these short trips, then commuter maps and better cycling infrastructure come into play for longer trips - connecting destinations within 20-25 minutes.

Even in Amsterdam, once you go from less than 3 miles to over 5 miles, the bike mode percentage drops from 35% to 8%.

dale said...

"This is how to make bike transport mainstream" not cycling which is associated with the subculture.

dale said...

So, looking at Bike Omaha blog through mainstream eyes, our list of "bike news" blogs are all subculture. If we are to focus on one thing and do it well, maybe mainstreaming bike transport is the goal?

If so, maybe our current bike news should be listed under "Omaha Bike Subculture" and "U.S. Bike Transport" blogs like Pittsburgh, Louisville, other up and coming US cities be given top billing? Then an "International Bike Transport" list with Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Assen NL, etc? Then Omaha Bike Subculture?

AOJules said...

I second Dale's motion - a very good article. One interesting nugget to ponder:

"Many people who ride bicycles are generating bad press because of the way they're cycling and many other cyclists are getting branded negatively by association.

Generally, bad behaviour is a sign that cyclists don't have adequate infrastructure. Increasing cycling's infrastructure and profile is a good way to calm the traffic in more ways than one."

erik said...

dale, you're absolutely right on when you talk about needing to present cycling in a more welcoming fashion in omaha.

Changing this starts with recognizing on the forums we have control over that we should be using different diction. I definitely think relabeling the links to the side is a good first step for the reasons you've mentioned.

I also think our community, and our shops, need to step it up a bit and start to really work on presenting utilitarian advice and recommendations to those who are new to cycling. I think Omaha is in an unfortunate position where most serious commuters are also serious cyclists -- cycling is viewed as something for the athletic elite. Certainly, this was my perception before I began cycling, and this is something I often considered in watching how cycling was treated by the community. Perhaps this is because even our subculture in Omaha is fledgling... Regardless, this is huge.

Another recommendation I'd offer would be to encourage rides in regular clothing. The fact of the matter is that team kits, alien glasses, and 200 dollar helmets only work to marginalize the activity--especially in Omaha where the primary car-cyclist interactions are dominated by sport/recreation usage.

I'd up the ante on your "10-15 minutes" and offer than only after 10-15 MILES should cycling clothes enter the realm of consideration. There's really no need if you're riding a bike that fits you like it should--unfortunately, poor bike fit is a symptom that runs in spades right now as shops continue to use subculture sport sizing technique to put people on bikes, mandating the usage of spandex and all other sorts of unnecessary crap. No offense intended, but when I looked back through the history of the omaha bike route posts, and I saw someone at the inauguration in full team kit (including shoe covers!) looking like a clown, my only thought is that their attendance further marginalized public perception of cycling as an activity for the lancie/fred/nufred conglomerates--not as something for the masses.

This is an incredibly important perception to confront, and I'm so glad you're wanting to do that. Spread the good word!