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How do we get more people on bikes?

by Commute by Bike

That’s quite literally the billion dollar question.

If you watched the video I posted last week, Tim Parr of Swobo makes the argument that it’s not about about telling people their fat, playing the environment card or anything else. We have to make cycling fun and cool again. Bring it out of the sport-only mindset that involves way to many men in spandex, and get people on bikes as part of their life style.

So back to my billion dollar question…

How do we get more people on bikes?

There seems to be so many barriers to it.

  • People ARE fat and out of shape. Getting on a bike seems very daunting.
  • Lack of cycling infrastructure.
  • Good bikes to ride and try. Most people don’t have a lot of extra bikes laying around for their friends to borrow and try out. How can we get people on bikes that aren’t $32 Bike Shaped Objects?

As we’ve seen, the bike industry is turning out more and more commuter/urban/comfort bikes but what’s happen to put more seats in saddles?

So I pose two questions to you…

What can us normal nine to fivers do to get more people on bikes?

What should the bike industry be doing differently to get more people on bikes?

Leave your thoughts and answers in the comments.

 
Burley nomad 229

79 Responses to “How do we get more people on bikes?”

  1. nacho says:

    Difficult point….. but “the” point.

    I’ve been thinking of that during these days, one of the main problems that i see is the
    lack of showers in the offices.

    Hard to say, but i believe this is the principal issue for the people, at least here in Buenos Aires. They don’t accept to arrive at the office with a little of sweeping and after that have a clean up in the bathroom for five minutes (as i do).

    I think this benefit would help a lot. I don’t know….. maybe in other cities exist “mobile showers on trucks” or something like that…. i’m just wondering………… all the best fm here.

  2. Big Monkey says:

    Hmmm like others have said the 1st question is hard to answer if people could see that the cost of bikes to cars is cheaper but that has been beat to death, the lack of showers and places to park your bike. In places like Chicago and such there are stations that have showers, lockers and such perhaps more places like this are needed.

    As for the 2nd question, well if you look at what is out there today it all looks and feels the same not to mention the fact that the prices are out of reach of many people and that is why they go to wally mart and such to get a one size fits all bike then after they get it they do not work the way the want. If the bike companies could come up with a cheaper commute bike under the 250 price maybe that would help.

  3. joel says:

    Nine to fivers – ride, and ride a lot. There’s no better way to encourage other people to ride than showing that it’s safe, fun, and can be a normal part of life. Commuting on a bike, weekend rides, it doesn’t matter. Personally, I also feel that the less lycra (used here to indicate ANY special bike-specific kit people use) you can wear to show that cycling is easy to do and all that you need is a decent bike, is best.

    Industry – keep up the expanded focus on “dutch” or “city” bikes. The simpler machines that are made for utility or path riding a re a great way to go. They don’t look as intense as a full-suspension MTB or a racing bike, many have racks or other ways to carry stuff, they are comfortable without padded shorts. As Big Monkey mentioned, keeping the prices reasonable for simple, “normal person” bikes is also key.

  4. rick says:

    We have to lead by example. We can’t change other people only our own behavior. If people see the change in you, weight loss, more energy, physically fit etc they will be more inclined to want to know what it is your doing. Be the person that leads the way in your work place and your commumity. I don’t think prices are out of reach at all. How much does it cost to buy and maintain a car?? I think Swobo has the right idea, make bikes look cool. Do a google search for ‘commuter or city bike’, you’ll get 100s of hits for bikes that are BUTT ugly.

  5. Badgerland says:

    Also along those lines of the city\dutch bikes would be for to implement a “rental” type program similar to how airports rent out carts to carry your luggage. These bikes could be in urban centers where folks have easy access points for pickup and drop off located throughout the city. This could be an alternative to using cabs, cars etc.

    I think if bike companies really put effort into this type of utility bike and folks found out that they (bikes) are indeed useful for more than just recreation, that they (people) would be more inclined to use bikes – get into our sport – and ultimately buy more expensive bikes that can lead to recreational pursuits.

    Off the soapbox…

  6. Big Monkey says:

    No stay on the soapbox it is the only way to get things done. We need programs like city bikes that is in France and well most of Europe, this would be a great way for people to get around without the costs, heck they do it with share a car programs why not bikes as well…

  7. Nikromatt says:

    I read a local blog the a few days ago that addressed this very subject. The blog stated how the guy had been attending meeting after meeting and how sick he was of nothing coming of it.

    This blogs suggestion was to put it partly on the bike manufactures in the way that automotive makers have used the media. So should cycling. People are sheep and if you sell them with slick glossy ads they will buy.

    Here is the blog in reference.

    http://jaxblaspheme.blogspot.com/2008/01/making-change-or-ads-that-work.html

  8. Mike says:

    1. Most people live too far from where they work. As housing price rose, people moved away to “affordable” areas.

    2. While most companies are making really cool, fun, neat, functional, reliable…commuting/urban bikes, they are cool to us bike folks. Non bike folks don’t understand why they are so cool. And, they are usually priced fairly high. What the industry needs is one of these bikes for $400 – not $1000. The industry denizens have decided that aluminum is the material of choice and that simple hi-ten steel is taboo, but fawn over how cool a 30 year old Raleigh 3-speed is?

    3. A couple of years ago, I talked to the German owner of an American bike company who mentioned that one of the reasons he sees why Americans don’t ride to work is they are afraid of sweating and getting dirty. American culture has deemed it that thou shalt not stink and that you shalt have a sweet perfumey aire about them. There’s nothing wrong with a little human smell.

    4. It’s scary out there. US roads are chock full of monster trucks and drivers multi-tasking with cell phones, coffee, reading GPS units…

    5. Well, I guess that’s it … laptop battery just informed me to same my info….

  9. Practical Cyclist says:

    I like the dutch bike idea, I think that simple, good looking bikes can go a long way toward getting more people on bikes, but I also believe that people are sheep. In this case, the herd moves around in cars, and until they see an attractive alternative herd, that is how it will be. So now it is up to those of us who ride to show others how appealing it is and to be a support group once they begin.

    It is true that there are many things that can happen to make cycling to work appealing to those around us. I work for a company that is very pro-bike and pro fitness. We have showers, lockers, and secure, covered bicycle parking (requires a special key fob for access, and records all access). However, since the snow flew, I have been the only one riding to work, and even in good weather, only about five bocks are locked up outside.

    As I see it, the bike industry can best help by making simple, attractive, easy to ride bikes that don’t say, “I eat rocks on weekends” or “my other suit is spandex” and which are priced at a point where they don’t scare off a new rider. The dutch style makes sense to me, because these are simple, functional bikes, and the people who we are trying to get into the lifestyle probably don’t plan ride as far or as fast as I do and don’t need drop bars or 8 inches of suspension travel.

    My main point in all this rambling, however, is that it is up to us to lead the way. We have to make it look good. If we keep riding, soon more will join us.

  10. danielo says:

    I agree that leading by example is a strong promotional tool. When coworkers see you arrive regularly, happy and smiling, and when they hear you mention how much you enjoy riding, it sinks in over time. Being friendly, and available to anyone wanting practical advice, also helps.

    I also think employers could do more — providing facilities, acknowledging the benefits of cycling to employees and the company (which assumes a company takes a moment to understand how it helps their bottom line when their employees cycle), and generally treating cyclists as something good.

  11. Quinn says:

    This article makes me think of the last guy I lived with, this guy was a little over weight, but a construction worker, grew up in SoCal, and really likes Electras, BUt he lives on a road that rose 300 ft in elevation in less than a mile. no matter what I did, , won’t change either the house or the bike, I finally gave up after months of conversation.

  12. McAngryPants says:

    Some excellent points raised in the above comments. Yes…people live far from where they work. Yes…good bikes are too expensive. Yes…we have a culture of clean. But really…we Americans are just too fawking fat, lazy, and selfish. That is at the heart of all of the items getting in the way of bike advocates.

  13. Mike says:

    Back on power…

    “…really likes Electras, BUt he lives on a road that rose 300 ft in elevation in less than a mile” – And by virtue of Electra’s laid back riding geometry, climbing is not as easy as on a bike with more traditional geometry.

  14. Quinn says:

    Mike- wha??

  15. Practical Cyclist says:

    My daily commute is 27 miles each way. I am by no means advocating that we try to promote that everyone rides nearly 60 miles a day. On many days, including EVERY day this time of year, (I’ve gotten lazy, more than cold) I do a multimode commute, taking advantage of a commuter bus service with a rack on the bus and which saves me 20 miles of pedaling . For many who live farther than is comfortable to ride in to work, there are other options to make parking the car feasible.

  16. Len says:

    I have a 1968 Raleigh Sports that has made riding fun again. My mountain bike was never good on the road, and most “road bikes” are designed for the weekend racer, or more likely, the racer-wannabe.

    The 2008 version of a Raleigh Sports is what we need. Fenders, chainguard, internal hub, solid, reliable steel frame, rack and basket friendly, upright position. The bikes you see in the US like this are very very high-end expensive because they are custom or semicustom. $1000-1500 for fork and frame is way too much.

    These bikes are made today, even by Raleigh, but you have to be in Denmark to buy them!!

    http://www.raleigh.dk/Default.aspx?ID=438&M=Shop&PID=657&ProductID=2168

  17. Len says:

    biking is work whether it is for commuting, fun or sport. I figure $5 a gallon will make them start to reconsider.

  18. Knuckles says:

    People are not going to start biking/walking/exercising until the fat epidemic actually begins killing people in large enough numbers, at startlingly young ages, to notice.

  19. Practical Cyclist says:

    Len makes the perfect point, but with some problems. The Ideal bike for most Americans is probably exactly what he describes in the form of his Raleigh. It has been mentioned before in these comments that the industry just keeps pushing Aluminum and carbon, not good, old steel. That is not just because they would rather sell aluminum. Americans want new, high tech, and flashy, even if it is not really what they need. An old Raleigh sport or new Manhattan Green may be perfect for most people who just need to commute a few miles to park the car, but they certainly dont look as cool a a specialized Allez or Kona Dawg, or for too many, a GMC Denali road BSO or Next FS mountain BSO from X-Mart. The simple, upright dutch look doesn’t sell well, yet. If I lived in town, I’d be pedaling to work on a simple single speed bike like the Green, but I’d hate it on my current 25+mile highway commute.

  20. Mike says:

    Quinn – it sounded like your roommate wanted to ride an Electra, but the hill made it prohibitive??? My comment was that the laid back geometry of the Electras makes pedaling uphill a little more difficult.

  21. gazer says:

    1.) Change local municipality ordinances that require x-number of parking spaces for x-square-feet of retail space. (Reduce the number of spaces required, or eliminated the ordinances entirely).

    2.) Replace these ordinances with ones requiring bicycle parking. Preferably right next to the handicapped spots… covered would be ideal in many areas.

    3.) Modify driving laws and enforcement to make non-motorized users of the public roads even more protected.

    4.) Increase the gas tax. It hasn’t been indexed to inflation after all…

  22. Len says:

    I don’t think a single speed coaster-brake Electra is the answer. It has the look, but not the function.

    The “25-mile commute” is right at my point about the internal hub. Get a 3-to-9 speed internal hub for that 25 mile commute. It’s low maintance, deals with weather better (ice, mud) and doesn’t require much adjustment. I can ride my 3-speed on longer rides and I am not a “biker” or in great shape. I don’t ride to work, but take my bike in, then ride to lunch, coffee, or errands during the week and take it home on Friday for the weekend. If I had a Sturmey 8 or Nexus 9, I could do bigger hills.

    Another coworker rides every day from home on a single speed (no car), a second rides his mountain bike to the train, takes that, then rides from the station to the office.

  23. Practical Cyclist says:

    Gazer, while I admire the intent of your comment, I do not think that incresed regulation and taxation is the answer here. Education by example, by advertising and by careful dedicated activism is. I do like the parking idea very much, however. I believe that the way to get these reforms, however is to get more two-wheeled transportation on the road, not to force drivers out of their cars with higher taxes and unwelcome traffic laws that will cause the majority to further resent cyclists.

  24. Mike says:

    Even the 3 speed internal hub doesn’t have enough low gear range (unless the cog and chainring were changed, the ring is typically too big and cog too small) – especially for the beginner. The 8 and 9-speed hubs do have the gear range – but then those push the prices back up to the $80-$1000 range.

  25. Big Monkey says:

    Yup about the hubs which is really sad as you can buy one for 180.00 or so so why do the bike companies raise the price so much? Right now I’m in the market for a new bike and I’m hitting a wall as I can not fine what I’m looking for I can in England, and such but not here. But I do agree with others we need some slick ads and BAM everyone will want to ride…

  26. keith says:

    Man I’m lucky to work where I do. Although I don’t have a shower at work, I don’t have a long commute and no one cares how I smell. Or further maybe I don’t care what other people smell!
    A shower at work would make a lot of sense though, I might even use it.

    Seriously though, cycling will become a serious alternative, or maybe the only alternative when gas lines are around the block and people are paying $5-10 a gallon. People at work are curious about cycle commuting, but not serious, because they’ve been given no serious reason to consider it. Gas even at $3.00 a gallon is still viable. Everyone will have their breaking point I think. When that breaking point comes, people will consider it, move closer to work, cities will become centralized and cyclable (is that a word?). If sea level really starts to rise, water is short, gas is expensive, and things really are dire, then things will change. Until then no one has any reason to change. Of course I hope for the best, but for now there are still realities such as jet skis, powerboats, motorcycles as third or even fourth vehicles, and people who won’t even walk to a store around the corner.

  27. danielo says:

    What if, instead of CHANGING the ordinance requirements for parking associated with building space, you REPEALED them. It would leave it up to the developer to decide how many to make, and perhaps the economic incentives of encouraging more bicycle facilities vs. car spaces would tilt the scales….?

    Or maybe it’s just the anarchist in me talking.

  28. Practical Cyclist says:

    Len, I like the efficiency and feel of my current road bike, and I doubt I can make the kind of speed that I currently do on a hub-geared system. although I do assure you that an internally geared winter commuter is something likely for next year.

  29. Practical Cyclist says:

    danielo,
    I like the way you think, less is more, especially when it comes to legislation.

  30. Quinn says:

    Mile-

    Correct, a 30 lb, ss/3spd cruiser is Not conducive to that much of a hill climb.

  31. Practical Cyclist says:

    When I was a kid, I rode hills like that all the time on my BMX. Mostly so I could come back down. I could pass cars and stuff. I also lived in a VERY hilly neighborhood.

  32. Mike says:

    Welp, I’ve got to go pedal my 0.4 miles to work.

    Excellent topic of discussion – one that I hope bike industry folks take to heart and work on getting more people to ride instead of just trying to sell as many bikes as possible.

    Oh, another thing, there are just too many choices for new folks. Walk into any bike shop and the number of bikes is just astounding! How do you pick just one? Too many categories. Simplification would help get new riders on bikes.

  33. doug says:

    i’m not sure there’s even a point in trying to convince people directly. i feel like there’s a lot of automatic hate towards bicycles — they’re viewed as expensive toys for wealthy, liberal elite types. most people view themselves are salt of the earth working people. sensible. and, unfortunately, cars are the “sensible” choice. of course they’re not actually, since they are totally insane when you think about it, but to most people the car is the sensible, practical, and reasonable choice.

    i ride my bike twenty miles a day to work in a mostly conservative, very rural part of northern California. no matter how much i emphasize how i love it, how much it’s changed my life for the better, how totally fucking sweet riding a bike is, people just can’t get over the “it’s hard” part. they simply cannot wrap their heads around the concept of doing something for fun that takes effort. fun is easy. fun is sitting on the couch watching tv. so i’m the crazy guy who rides a bike in the rain at night.

    also, the streets are scary. if you do something as infuriating as, say, riding in the street, you will be harassed where i live. people die every week in drunk driving accidents where i live. people think their cars are the safest option, so frequently ask me, “aren’t you afraid?” sixty years of car- centrism cannot be undone easily.

  34. Tim Grahl says:

    The problem with looking forward to higher gas prices to get people to park the cars is it’s very short sited. We are a very resourceful people and as soon as gas is no longer viable an alternative fuel will quickly happen. Sure, this is great for the environment, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Bikes solve way more problems than getting the US off oil.

    On the manufacturer side, I lean toward agreeing with Nikromat (comment #7):

    “People are sheep and if you sell them with slick glossy ads they will buy.”

    This is where I believe the fault can by found inside the industry where money is continually dumped into marketing to people that already ride. I give three cheers to John Burke (watch this video) as he’s calling for things to be different.

    In the discussion on creating laws and legislation, I can see good things here as well. There’s something to be said for “if we build it, they will come.” If the roads weren’t so dangerous and there were places for people to park/shower/etc then I believe it would become a more viable option.

    As far as creating a commuter bike that is cheap enough… I again don’t think this is the problem. Look at all the crap Americans gladly spend money on. $30,000 cars. $2000 TVs. The problem we are talking about is the perception of cycling in the US. If you change people’s way of thinking on the subject then dropping $500 or $1000 for a new bike isn’t that big of a deal.

    Last thing… I think us nine to fivers should keep leading by example. Ride our bikes instead of drive our cars. Wear normal clothes instead of lycra. Invite friends to go for a ride. These are things we can do as part of our everyday lives to get more people on bikes.

  35. Tom says:

    Stop selling the dangers of bicycling. Get people, especially kids riding for the sheer joy of riding.

    Orthodoxy has us wearing all sorts of special clothing and protective gear so we won’t get killed on the bike. I’ve read too many “guides to bicycle commuting” that focused more on the dangers of the road and less on the joy and freedom of riding a bike. I afraid that the public safety professionals have our society convinced that it is better to avoid the small chance of a bicycle accident, by increasing our likelihood of a heart attack

    That said, I would get rid of the helmet laws. This will help people get over the irrational fear of head injuries. I believe this alone accounts for the decrease in day-to-day use of bicycles. Go to Amsterdam. You’ll see bicycling as a normal part of life. They hop on their bikes in regular clothes as a regular course life. They don’t wear helmets or any other “please don’t hit me” clothes. Biking is cheap, convenient and efficient.

    I’m in my fifties. I grew up riding a bike everywhere like all the kids in town. A two-wheeler meant freedom and the opportunity to go to the next neighborhood and downtown on my own. I didn’t have to wait for a parent to act as a chaperone. Kids today don’t look bikes that way.

    I now have a one-speed Dutch Simplex model with a coaster brake. I ride it to replace the car for errands to the store and short trips around town. I tell my kids that I do it because I’m “green”. Because they wouldn’t understand the real reason: its fun.

  36. Franky says:

    I think the only way to get people on bikes is to promote it on a big scale. It’s true, every one can do their part by riding and by being out there on two wheels, but it’s not enough. It’s all about brand recognition (I work in advertising).
    The bike industry should get together and start a nationwide advertising campaign with commercials, ads, some kind of well-known figure/mascot with local bike shows/tryouts of different kind of bikes with the help of the LBS.

  37. Quinn says:

    I read this post before my morning commute, thought about it on my morning commute, and realized something about getting people on bike and bike advocacy in general, a point was brought up about helmet laws and safety gear, on my commute this morning i was thinking, “i have questions about the law, myself’ As a cyclist”. , “motorist have NO idead what the bike laws are!” NO wonder there is a lot of advocacy for helmets and safety gear.

    We need to get the motorist to understand the law!

  38. charmed_baryon says:

    Start easy. Don’t focus on commuting to work. Instead, show how fun and useful bikes are for the sort of trips people do all the time to their local grocery store or to pick up a video, etc.

    Most people make many of these 1-3 mile trips every day. In fact, most trips in the USA done by car are less than 5 miles. So start with a “Do errands by bike this Saturday” type of program. Promote it as fun and light exercise.

    For these sorts of trip any old bike laying around, as long as it is operational, will do. You can wear your street clothes. All you need is something to carry your purchases. For most of these trips a front basket would be enough.

    And quit promoting facilities. This reinforces people’s false perception that bicycling is dangerous. Emphasize that bicycling is safer than walking ( according to all the stats I’ve seen). Most people have perfectly adequate streets for their trips.

    Once people see the fun and utility of bicycling for these short trips, many will start thinking about using their bicycle for longer trips and commuting.

  39. Matt says:

    “People ARE fat and out of shape. Getting on a bike seems very daunting. ”

    I’m a doctor, and recommend cycling to everyone who asks how to lose weight and live longer.

    I’ve had 3 people actually do it. One is overweight and the other two are obese. All have multiple medical problems including diabetes.

    One lady with back problems lives on the beach, got a used beach cruiser and loves riding along the boardwalk.

    Another man has severe back problems, is on oxygen, and walks with a cane. He got a three speed tricycle and loves it. He’s more mobile than when he walks, and he can stroll around the neighborhood much easier than with a wheelchair.

    The third lady takes a mountain bike down a local rail-to-trail.

    If these folks can get on a bike anybody can! They all say riding is easier on their backs than walking. It just takes the right equipment!

  40. Shanyn says:

    For us middle aged professional gals: a step-through frame geometry, with racks and fenders. Dress professionally (skirts and heels) and pedal to work and meetings. I guarantee that other people will see that cycling for transportation is doable and sensible. Plus, you get known as “that cute lady on the bike”…

  41. JiMCi says:

    How do we get more people on bikes?

    There are so many ways, the problem is more “where do we start”!
    ” We need cycling infrastructures such as bike lanes.
    ” We need to integrate bikes into the urban transit system.
    ” We need bike parkings at stations and workplaces, racks on buses, subways and trains.
    ” We need bike sharing systems like the French Velib’ and Velov’.
    ” We need good solid simple low maintenance bikes.

    Masses don’t create trends, they follow them. Use your bike as much as you can, commute to work on them, go out on evenings and weekends. People will notice and it will slowly work its way in their minds. One day, sooner than you think, they will try it. And then they will understand. No traffic. No congestion. No more listening to traffic reports. Just pedal, smile and live :-).

    For those not familiar with the French urban bike rental system, check these links, in ze engliche:
    Velib’ (http://www.en.velib.paris.fr/comment_ca_marche)
    Velov’ (http://www.velov.grandlyon.com/Index.1.0.html?&no_cache=1&L=1)

  42. Fritz says:

    Tim, we have miles and miles and miles of bicycling infrastructure already in every American city. One of our challenges is going against the dogma that this existing infrastructure is unreasonably unsafe to use.

  43. Tim Grahl says:

    Fritz: Depends on where you live. Our “miles and miles and miles” is about 8 miles of paved trail that is an out and back trail. Can only be used for recreation as it doesn’t get you anywhere. To actually get anywhere I’m on the road which was built by people who had never heard of a bicycle.

    From the mountain bike side of things… when more trails are built more people take up the sport. The same thing is true to a certain extent in cycling in the city. If there’s nowhere to ride people won’t ride. You build it and it’s now an option that many will consider.

  44. CJ says:

    I personally really liked the answers from Tim Parr. It seems that people in all communities across the U.S. need to see biking to work as a valid ulternative to driving. I am sure there are lots of bike lanes and rails to trails around the nation that get little use.

    I do think that rising fuel prices will force consumers to consider other modes of transportation. And from the research that I have done, I don’t think alternative fuels are the wonder thing of the near future. There are serious problems with the current ways of making ethanol and biodiesel. Science may well find ways around the issues we have right now with bio-fuels, but at this point the only way bio fuels survive is with GOV funding. So, I am cool with 5.00-6.00 dollar per gallon gas. Maybe we could get a few less cars in total on the road. Think about it. If you doubled your fuel costs, and it was going to cost you 200.00 bucks to fill up your SUV that you needed to fill 4 times per month. I think that would make most drivers rethink how they got to work. Many would probably choose to car pool. Many more would rely on public transportation. And many more would sell the big Escalade and buy a smaller car. But some would choose to buy a bike and start commuting that way.

    I hope that bike advocacy groups can find inovative ways to rejuvinate the bike commuting cuture here in the U.S. But I think more then anything it comes down to the almighty dollar. I welcome all of you reading this message to travel to Europe and tell me how many Escalade sized privately owned vehicles you see on the road. Trust me, it is far less then here in the U.S. Why….um becuase fuel does cost 7.00 per gallon there.

    In the end, I just would love to see many more people on bikes because the pay off in reduced oil usage, better overall health of our nation, and decreased health care costs could be immense!!!

    Peace out

  45. Jett says:

    Great topic.

    I’ll start with one of my favorite quotes: “I am the change I want to see in the world. I ride my bike to work.” Leading by example helps in a number of ways.

    Each encounter with motorists and non-motorists reinforces the notion that cycling is viable. Once a geographical area has a sufficient number of cyclists, the motorists become aware of your presence and give you tons of respect. It doesn’t matter if there are bikes lanes or not, although good routes do help concentrate cyclists.

    I lead a couple of bike trains. One runs every Wednesday and the other is the 3rd Friday of each month. The monthly train includes a social breakfast at a favorite commuter’s diner. The trains have been a great way to get publicity and are simple to organize.

    I’m leading a Kids Fun Ride this coming weekend. Our Sunday morning cycling group happens to have a number of kids in middle school, so we’re introducing them to the streets of Atlanta via a group ride. We want to show them that cycling is safe, fun, and doesn’t require expensive clothes or bikes.

    The Atlanta Bicycle Campaign is organizing a Bike Buddies program. They’re helping new cyclists make contact with experienced cyclists. I’m interested to hear of other’s experiences with anything like Bike Buddies.

  46. Jennifer says:

    I personally think we need to lay off gushing about the fitness benefit. I’ve seen people jump on bikes and expect to instantly lose 30 lbs, and when they don’t they get discouraged and give it up. I’m not sure if putting more emphasis on the fun factor will counter that, though, because nothing is “fun” that’s also “work,” and “working out” usually counts. Rather, I’d say we “normal” (heh, we’re normal!) nine-to-fivers are in the best position to really sell the utility of bicycling. Perhaps when coworkers start gawking at our superhuman ability to ride dozens of miles every day in the snow while wearing the world’s most obnoxious colors, that might be a good opportunity to say something like “Yeah, it’s so much easer to just bike casually to the grocery store down the road from where I live every warm and sunny Saturday like a normal person. What, you don’t do that?” And then hopefully go from there.

    And then the industry needs to follow suit, of course. For starters, stop with the bullshizzit like $20 extra for a kickstand. No one will buy a bike if they find out at the last minute that they’ll also need to buy a hundred dollars worth of accessories in order for it to be useful. In a similar vein, when people start getting squeamish about the cost of a really good urban cruiser kind of bike, they need to be reminded that the fenders, lights, basket, etc. are included. Just look at all this great “extra” stuff that comes with it! You’re really saving X dollars over buying all of it separately and then paying for installation! Throw in a free bungee cord or something, anything to get people to think they’re getting some kind of really great deal on extra gizmos. Why else do crappy full-suspension mart bikes sell so well?

  47. mb says:

    I started riding to work on a whim, six months ago, and then it became a habit. Now I am still riding for fun AND commuting daily.

    In Singapore, gas was already more than US$5 a gallon long ago, and our love of cars has not abated. Plus we pay three times more for our cars than Americans do.

    People will pay any price if they want it badly enough or if they think the status symbol and/or convenience is significant.

    So I wouldn’t count on gas prices to drive people towards biking.

    I have realised that actually cycling and enjoying it, without making it seem like it takes a lot to do so (I don’t own a single piece of lycra so far) helps convince people to try it too. So far six friends have bought bikes and two of them are commuting on theirs. Another two are going to the bike shop this weekend.

    I hardly flog the exercise angle (but the weight loss is obvious to everyone around me).

    I think the important thing is to make it fun (cool helps too, but I am not that cool). Road safety, hygiene and the need for showers, and the health benefits are the mundane givens that people will work out for themselves once they get into riding.

  48. Fishbones says:

    1. Stop selling to me. I have five (or is it six?) bikes. Sell to my neices and aunts.
    2. Start selling useful, affordable bikes. With baskets, fenders & back seats.
    3. Send more drivers to gaol. Be righteous about it too.
    4. Start modelling behaviour. Get the beautiful people doing their shopping on a sensible bike or commuting by train with their folder. And splash it all over the media.
    5. Ensure that the facilities, rules and market default choices result in desirable outcome. Allow “enlightened laziness” to work.
    As others have posted, once critical masses are achieved, it will be the obvious, normal thing to do.

  49. Kevin in MD says:

    I started cycling a few months ago and have lost 20lbs. Initially, I started mountain biking as more of a “I have always wanted to do this” type thing. I was hooked from day one and ended up buying a cyclocross bike to ride when the weather was nasty. Now, I am thinking about biking to work.

    The problems I see, at least in my area, are:
    you have to commute through areas that have higher crime rates
    Lack of bike lanes in the area
    Lack of shoulders on back and main roads

    My main hurdle in commuting to work is the 20~ miles each way as well as the things listed above.

    What would get more people on bikes?
    More “bike roads”
    More bike lanes
    More facilities for storage
    Showers at the workplace
    Incentive programs in the way of tax breaks
    More laws aimed at increasing bike usage

  50. charmed_baryon says:

    http://tw.youtube.com/watch?v=K1nYWIfwm7k

    Transport for London video encouraging bicycling.

    Great approach, bicycling on an errand as fun and spontaneous, like in your youth. Although I think the emphasis on bike lanes is wrong

  51. Seamus says:

    Apologies for the long submission.
    I can only speak for myself.
    I offer my own experience “converting”
    to bike commuting as one source of information.
    I don’t doubt there are hundreds of stories like mine.
    Perhaps a collection of and study of them might
    show some common threads that would help
    get more seats on saddles?

    When fuel prices hit $3.00 I decided to bike
    commute and so got busy “training” for it
    this past June. Spent a month doing that
    mainly proving to myself that I could do it
    I guess, and then began commuting in July.

    I live in the rural mid-western U.S.
    Cows outnumber humans 2:1 & hogs 3:1
    My commute is 13.6 miles one way
    over narrow, poorly maintained county roads
    with no posted speed and no lane markers.
    My “co-commuters” are pick-ups, grain trucks,
    combines, etc. until I get into town when the
    college student traffic dominates – but that’s
    only for about 2 miles. The trip takes about
    50 ~55 minutes when the wind doesn’t fight me.

    My commute used to be the usual 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
    but is now midnight to 8 a.m. I have not
    ridden since November-ish when
    concerns about bike-sizing/knee pain
    and winter weather combined to sideline me
    but I am getting antsy to get “back on the bloody bike”.
    Commuting at night has not been a problem
    as traffic is non-existent and I’ve gone
    out of my way to make myself visible.

    What got me to commute was
    1) Fuel prices. I simply cannot afford to fill the tank of a v-8
    pick-up once a week. It has been wondefuel to let it sit there
    and only do what I got if for – haul loads.
    2) concerns about health

    What has kept me biking is
    1) enjoying it – when I get to work I am
    invigorated when I get home, same thing.

    My obstacles in getting started were
    1) cost of new bikes
    2) ignorance of the topic
    3) questioning if it was realistic
    or even possible for a middle-aged
    person who had not been on a bike
    since maybe junior high and was never
    involved in sports of any kind to do this

    What would have made the transition easier?
    1) a mentor
    2) Greater accessibility/lower cost of something like the
    Breezer Uptown or a Raleigh Superbe with an 8 or 9 speed
    hub, lights, baskets & racks & fenders. That Swedish or Norwegian
    army bike? That looks good. Those bikes the folks in St. Augstine
    are importing but cost way more than I can afford, etc.

    Where I live I am semi-isolated. There’s not a lot of selection
    or availability of bikes, bike stores & folks knowledgeable about
    bikes with the time and inclination to help a total novice.
    Yeah the internet is a great resource but it’s not the same thing
    as being able to go to the LBS and ride 3 or 4 different bikes in
    your frame size.

    One thing I find interesting – as far as I can tell there is really
    no need for my purposes for anything like indexed shifting
    and the other innovations that have occurred since I was a kid.
    Down tube friction shifters work fine and I really only use
    two “gears” on my ride. But then again I don’t live in the mountains
    either.

    I started commuting on a Trek 820 because it was on consignment
    at the LBS and I could afford it. I was amazed at the difference
    when I switched to a generic 80′s UJB road bike that I got free
    from Freecycle. The Trek has way too many low gears and the wide
    fat tires are a liability on my trip. In short IMHO as others have said
    an affordable version of the Raleigh Superbe with the Nexus
    or Sram 8 or 9 speed hub and those thin road rims/tires
    would be something I could get really excited about
    if I could afford it. As it is I am riding 80′s road bikes
    I got free from Freecycle or dumpster dived.
    I have yet to get a pair of bike shorts or bib tights
    because of the horrific prices.

    I am fortunate at work as they let me bring the bike into the building
    and park it in my cubicle – something apparently unheard of in Gotham
    and D.C. I leave work clothes there and change into them. It would be
    very nice if the “Recreational Sports” facility at work had a membership
    fee for access to the showers/locker rooms only as I cannot afford and
    will not pay a years membership for the sole privilege of taking a shower.
    They have a health & wellness program for employees but the showers
    are not available when I need them (big surprise). A simple key card
    system combined with security cameras would remedy any security issues
    I would think.

    Anyway. There it is. I have learned a lot in the last 6 months and am
    glad I’ve done it. Can’t wait for it to warm up enough for me to
    re-build the free bikes I’ve acquired over the winter and get back on
    the road. I am out there by myself but my co-workers do not cease
    to be interested that I am doing it.

  52. Megan says:

    I’m a 50 year old woman who’s been commuting by bike for 30 years, starting in Seattle, then Wisconsin, Texas and now in Augusta, Georgia. While some areas have been more bike friendly, it’s always been a fun way to get to work, parties, shopping, etcetera.

    My incentive: FUN! I love to ride my bike. I keep a dedicated commuter bike, which is outfitted for the season. I ride a nice road bike because I want to enjoy the ride. I choose a route that takes me through the beauty of nature, and then I hit city riding for a few hip-hop miles. I smile, make eye contact, and hopefully inspire others to try riding instead of driving.

    I ride to work in my lycra, and when I get to work, I clean up with baby wipes (I shower before coming in) and brush my hair, and change into scrubs. . I have a blow dryer and make up at work, if I need to freshen up more.

    As a nurse, I am a positive influence on my patients, who see a happy healthy nurse who comes in ready to charge into the day. Every postive thing we do while on and off the bike is a way to promote others to try the same. I feel so dedicated to bicycling…it keeps me young!

  53. anakcu says:

    The justification for biking to work is neither merely rational or visceral–it is genetic. When you bike an hour to work, gene expression mirrors that of our ancestors hunting for game on the savannah. What does the gene expression of an SUV commuter mirror–our ancestors starving on the tundra.

    Biking to work is about more than feeling good, loosing weight, and having more energy. It is how we thrive with a genetic code that is maladapted for an environment where an abundance of food can be acquired with little effort.

  54. Heather says:

    I don’t commute to work on my bike, since I am on a ship and all I have to do is walk a couple of feet from my stateroom to the engine room. However, I do have a folding bike onboard and I ride that to get around town when I have time. I do get a lot of comments and questions about my folding bike (mostly cost). I do smile at people, and try to act like normal traffic. There are exceptions to this, I ride on the sidewalk when going to the doctors since it is along a three lane road. I also ride on the pedestrian bridge going to downtown Norfolk, since legally I can’t ride on the interstate to cross. I have also gotten some questions about it when we were at little creek amphib base from sailors, since they saw me fold it up and walk through the security turnstyle. I guess I try to show by example: commuting for errands.

  55. -dan says:

    the more people ride bikes… the more people ride bikes.

  56. Oakrider says:

    I recently started biking to work. The most influential factor for me is my father. He is in his late 50′s and bikes to work (14 mile round trip). He has done it now for about 4 years. He now has several of his coworkers biking to work, some take the same route.

    I have had several bikes over the years, but they have all been recreational. Changing my mindset that this new bike would be a vehicle rather then a toy was my first hurdle. Once I saw the bike as a vehicle, my hunt for a new bike became more like shopping for a car. I road at least a dozen bikes to find the one I felt was the most comfortable to me.

    My second hurdle has been adjusting to the various weather/riding conditions and wanting to get back in the warmth and comfort of my car on a cold morning. Again it was a mental block to overcome. Finally the challenge of changing for work. Each day I learn something new, and it is now becoming first instinct to get on the bike to run my errands.

    I agree with Dan…the more people ride bikes…..the more people ride bikes. Several coworkers are looking into biking to work and are always asking how my ride was. It takes one person to start. Once that person is doing it, they can influence others. I also believe in teaching children to bike or should I say cycle. When we were kids bikes were the toys we got for Christmas or birthdays. We didn’t see them as vehicles or anything more then how fast we could go or how far we could jump. Most of the world views bikes as a means of transportation, while we have been raised to view bikes as toys.

    The long and short of it is that our society doesn’t understand biking as well as they understand driving. I know many people who feel more comfortable buying a $40,000 car then they do buying a $500 bike because of lack of knowledge, awareness, and other people biking.

  57. Mike Myers says:

    This is a complicated issue. America, by and large, is not designed with bicycles in mind–AT ALL. I read stories from folks who live in NYC, Portland, Seattle, SF, etc, and I am envious of the accomodations they have.Bike lanes, networks of MUPs, bike parking, etc. I live in a semi-rural town on the Florida Gulf Coast. This, like many areas, was once agrarian and grew up quickly in the past decade. Now we have triple the traffic the two lane roads were designed to handle. I do my ride a couple of times a week and regularly have to deal with aggressive drivers. I’ve been hit and then I returned to riding the same route, but how many people will even attempt riding on a 45mph two lane with no shoulder or bike lane? The other bike commuter I know just had a car turn left in front of him, causing him to T-bone it and shatter his shoulder. Since he’s an oral surgeon, that’s not good, and surely didn’t make his staff or wife happy. He’s hardcore, but this is the third time a commuting crash has jeopardized his livelihood. I think he’ll quit doing it.

    Most people DO live too far from work, but how many people can really live within 10 miles of work? I’m not concerned with the people who live 50 or 60 miles away from work. They are never going to be able to do anything but drive or take a train. How do you convince someone who lives 15 miles away to go through all the prep needed to do an hour + ride in the morning and evening? Health benefits? No, because it’s easy to stop by the gym on the way home. 45 minutes in the gym is easier to do.

    Some think gasoline prices hitting a certain price would do it. I don’t think so. Most people would just cut back on other expenses.

    Can we target the youth? I don’t think so. Parents are SO paranoid about kidnappers and molesters that their children are treated like fragile little treasures and never allowed any independence. I ride by an elementary school on my route. This school has bike lanes leading from connecting streets to the street it’s on, and a HUGE bike rack. How many kids ride to school? None. Zero.

    I grew up in a small town in south Louisiana. From the time I could ride I was pretty much turned loose. Never felt scared. Traffic was light. I wouldn’t turn my 10 year old loose in Citrus County, FL on a bike. He would likely be run over.

    It’s a sad situation, and I hate to be a downer, but converting even 1% of drivers to bicyclists would require MASSIVE infrastructure upgrades. If people could ride to work on dedicated bicycle paths, never have to interact with automobiles, receive a tax credit for doing so, have their health insurance rate plummet, and have showers at every jobsite—maybe. :-)

  58. Patrick says:

    I agree with #8 Mike, a little smell won’t kill anyone, and showering *before* your ride does help a lot. That’s what I do, and quite frankly, I sweat, and it dries within the 1/2 hour after I arrive. Just bring a towel to work to sit on while you dry off.

    People don’t realize how much money goes into making a good bike. If you want cheaper, be ready to accept a Chinese or Taiwanese-made bike. Not that these are all cheap (http://www.rivbike.com) or cheaply made, but consider who is building your bike. In china, it might be some 12-year-old boy or girl. Buy used on craigslist!

  59. Patrick says:

    Also, regarding #57, most people live within 8 miles of their jobs, or closer. Now, where’s that study…

  60. Big Monkey says:

    Morning all, Patrick makes a great point but what he does not see is that almost every bike under 2000 bucks these days is made in China that means TREK, GIANT and the rest, they make them for nothing yet charge us as if they are still made here in the usa

  61. Patrick says:

    It is a sad state of affairs, definitely. All the more reason to just get an older bike fixed up by your LBS and resist their efforts to sell you a Giant. I think Trek still makes most of it’s bikes here. One reason to buy Trek, though:

    from the Trek site:
    “Is my bike made in the U.S.A?
    The majority of the bicycles are manufactured in the U.S.A. All models are designed and engineered at Trek’s world headquarters in Waterloo, Wisconsin, but entry level models for road, hybrid, and ATB lines (including all children’s and BMX bikes) are produced by Trek specific venders overseas. These vendors are hand picked by Trek and following the same standards as our domestic manufacturing facilities. Regardless or origin, all Trek bicycle frames (and rigid forks) carry a limited lifetime warranty.”

  62. Big Monkey says:

    Trek designs in Waterloo but I was told by a trek dealer that they only make their high end road bikes here the rest are made by china which is sad as we use to make great bikes here

  63. Practical Cyclist says:

    The area I live in is increasingly bike friendly, although the only place with any real bike infrastructure is the local University. I am unsure if bike lanes would go over well with Joe Taxpayer around here. What has made the difference is the people who ride. As I am in the mountains of Northern Utah, I am one of an elite handfull that still ride in the winter, but we still ride. In the warmer months, there are many more of us on the roads.
    The local clubs and shops make a big difference by promoting commuting and by promoting club participation. These local entities keep themselves in high visibility and this helps keep others aware of bikes on the road.
    Another thing that helps promote bicycle awareness is the fact that this area hosts America’s longest single day road race, the Lotoja Classic.
    All we can do to let those around us know that we are here, we ride and we enjoy it makes a difference. People will see it as an option when it is time to tighten a belt or flatten a stomach and then become hooked. I started riding to save on gas, but I also found a passion and felt more fit than I had in years. I dropped 20 pounds and found myself able to do more for longer and just plain felt good. I was hooked. I am sure I will stay hooked.

    The point is that the horse must draw the cart. If we build the infrastructure but nobody uses it, what is the point? If instead, we promote cycling wherever and however we can and get involved in groups and events that increase the visibility and awareness of cycling as a pastime and as a lifestyle, more people will become interested and involved in cycling. As more people start riding, the lack of bicycle oriented infrastructure will become glaringly obvious, and movements will be made to change it .

    Just as we would not want bikes to be legislated off the roadways, we should not advocate or support legislation that is aimed at forcing people out of their SUV’s We should let a natural course of events draw them out. Maybe rising fuel costs will do it, maybe health, perhaps one of us will start a trend at our workplace or along the daily route. It is a gradual change, not an overnight one, and our best bet here is to keep riding and making it look good.

    What has been said here about commuting in clothes that look more “normal” is a great idea. Lycra has its advantages, but does it scare people away?

  64. Heather says:

    Cannondale builds in america.

  65. Mike says:

    Please, let’s not turn these great ideas into a “where it’s made discussion” because that is irrelevant in this discussion.

  66. Kim says:

    My commute is not long, (about 5km each way) and I commute in my work clothes when it’s not ungodly hot. I think the lycra is something that puts some people off- especially people with bodies they feel are not fit to be seen in lycra by the general population. I have riding clothes, but I leave them for touring- days of several hours of riding. With a bike that fits well and my split seat I’m able to comfortably ride in blue jeans.

    Here in Korea people are big on having the clothes to go with the sport- hiking, biking, or whatever it may be. And I think that idea of cycling as a sport is exactly the biggest part of the hump. As long as cycling is primarily viewed as recreation, it will not be primarily transportation, which is the goal here.

    I think what others have said is right- Biking needs to be cool (Loved the Miller High Life ad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=beF_gjnwU5E), and getting ad companies to portray it that way might be some of the best use of advocacy efforts by advocacy groups (a bit of stream of consciousness, here). PSAs and whatnot will also help. Biking needs to be re-branded as fun, cool, accessible, and above all NORMAL before people will pick it up. (most) People believe what you tell them to believe.

  67. Anonymous says:

    …how do we get more people on bikes ?…

    …redefine the culture…

    …& in this vast country that was defined by transportation, that is not an easy task…

    …the majority of our innovation has gone towards making everything easier, more accessible…

    …put that creative energy into sustainable concepts & teach people to think for themselves…

  68. bikesgonewild says:

    …sorry, that is my post @ #67 but i hit the button to soon…

    …short term, ya make cycling more fun but there is a bigger intrinsic problem at hand involving the environment & natural resources & while numbers of people are already addressing it, education will make all the difference in the world…

  69. chunkymonkeybiker says:

    I think when people see more of their friends die from heart disease, lung disease, etc., then maybe people will commute more.

    Also, people could at least ride more if they made riding a life decision. You don’t have to commute to work to get a ride in. You could ride during lunch, park 10 blocks from your work, just figure it out.

  70. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    When I lived in Georgia just south of Chattanooga, I tried to get people who lived close, very close, to work to bike instead of drive. Over three years I could not do it. They saw me ride every day and never had to watch my weight, still they had it in their head that they are above bicycles. Several of those people had weight, heart and other major health problems that biking would help. I even contacted the GA DOT and had them send me bicycle guides and handed out dozens of them. I rode my bike through neighborhoods and shopping centers so they could see it was easy to do. Still, pulling my own teeth would have been eaiser than getting one person to even try.

    It will take a major shift in our culture for changes to happen. That is something that would take the big corporations to participate in, and they are too greedy. They make money by keeping people slaved to their car. If I am not wrong, our car-culture is the worlds largest business.

    I moved to Minneapolis where I am not harresed by motorist or police like I was in Georgia and lots of people ride bikes. I still promote bikes as a way of life. If enough people chip-away at the car-culture maybe we can change it over time.

  71. Seamus says:

    Just came across this article in The Times
    My apologies if posting it is redundant
    the blog search didn’t pull anything up

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67fFDiPRsrk

  72. Seamus says:

    Well that was clearly the wrong link

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article2500754.ece

    From The Times
    September 21, 2007
    Ride a bike? You must be rich

  73. (undisclosed) says:

    For four years Ive worked for a well known mountain bike manufacturer, and it is a crime how few of the employees ride bikes to work. Eventually I was able to get a bike to work incentive program implemented, but the numbers never really increased that much.
    Of the 60+ employees, easily 45 of them lived within five miles of the facility.
    It was a regular bone of contention between my comrades and me, to say the least.

  74. Bedlam in Berkeley says:

    Ho boy, you got to realize that we are talking about an addiction fueled by a multi billion dollar auto marketing machine.
    The car and gas and tire companies successfully created a company to pull up all the electric train and street car track on the west coast of California and convinced people it was for “public safety”. How twisted is that.
    They have bombarded the whole country with concept that if you don’t drive a car you are: poor, a looser, you will never get a date, life will pass you by, you will not be complete until you have a car. We all know the imagery on TV, billboards, etc.

    OK, that’s on their side. For my part I have a Taoist approach. I don’t try to convert, I just am. I’m on my bike, I’m showing up to work, I don’t smell bad, I talk about my bike commute when it is appropriate, how it is an aid to my health, I don’t try to force the issue, I offer aid and assistance to interested persons when they ask, I hope I look like I’m having fun and enjoying life on my bike because I am.

    When the weather is good, the bike cage at work is pretty full. It’s a start.

  75. Tom says:

    74 replies and nobody mentions electrics….I just test rode a few models and every problem addressed above on why people are reluctant to ride is solved by providing pedal assisted biking. In my case, 40+ y/o with a couple of big hills that I need a day to recover from are no problem with the technology.

  76. Jerry says:

    A lot of people, including myself, live too far from where they work to bike to work. But having just bought a new bike (a Brompton folder) that rekindled my love of riding, and being eager to find more opportunities to ride it, I came up with a great idea. Just because I live too far from work to ride my bike there doesn’t mean I can’t at least ride PART of the way! So, I drive to work but park a couple of miles short of my destination, pop my folding bike out of my trunk and ride the rest of the way to work. It’s a perfect way to get exercise into my daily routine, it invigorates me, and having my car parked a couple of miles away from work “forces” me to ride back to my car after work, ensuring that I get my full exercise every day. I hate to exercise, but this is really enjoyable to me. So what do you call this? Multi-modal commuting using your own car and bike!

  77. Jerry says:

    PS, Tim – please change the “their” to “they’re” in the 2nd paragraph of your original post – it’s “telling people they’re fat,” not “their fat.”

  78. fitnessbikes says:

    I would like to say this is a matter of interest. If someone has interest in biking they just need a push through these kinds of articles….nice try.

  79. Completely agree with your comments on this , thanks for taking the time to post.

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