Messages for Getting People to Bike Need to Be Revamped

Veronica O. Davis and Chris H

Veronica O. Davis speaks at the podium as Arlington County Commuter Services bureau chief Chris Hamilton looks on.

Veronica O. Davis thinks “bike to work” is the wrong message.

“Bike advocates need to focus on recreational trips. If you start off with, hey, you should bike to work, it becomes overwhelming for a lot of people. But if you start with getting people who have access to a bike to go for a ride with you on a trail, they might eventually start to ride to the grocery store or to work.”

TDM Takeaway Better data about all types of bicyclists could help planners improve bike infrastructure and allow people to be more knowledgable and confident about riding.

Davis said this to the 60 or so people in attendance at a recent staff meeting for Arlington County Commuter Services, the Virginia county’s transportation demand management (TDM) agency.

“We have pretty decent data on biking for commuter purposes. We really don’t have decent data on who’s doing recreational biking. We tend to take commuter data and extrapolate it out,” Davis added.

8410146194_a667ea42be_bBut Davis, who recently co-founded Black Women Bike DC and is a principal at consulting firm NspireGreen, knows that lots of people bike who are not being counted in the data. Commuters, recreational riders, and kids in neighborhoods are all people with access to bikes. And those without access may live near a bikeshare station or have one in the garage or basement that just needs fixing up.

She said there are also misperceptions about who bikes, including that African Americans and Hispanics don’t bike. But, in Washington D.C., for example, Davis said she’s seen 200 bikes parked outside of the E Street homeless shelter, which is largely populated by African-American men who bike. In Columbia Heights, she counted about 30 Latinos riding bikes to shift work around noon one day, which means they are not counted in bike commuter data that only looks at rush-hour rides.

As for messages to get people on bikes, along with focusing on recreational trips, people need to be reminded to try being multimodal – like taking bikeshare to work and the Metro or Uber home.

Davis said drivers don’t want to be told to watch out for bicyclists. But if, for example, people are driving too fast in your neighborhood, have the city put in bike lanes or markings, and the drivers will slow down without being confronted.

To address the barriers to biking such as its perceived danger, its inconvenience, and its difficulty, Davis recommends that there is lots city planners can do. Intuitive signage, visible parking racks and good apps for bike-parking, and fix-it stations in neighborhoods that don’t have bike shops are all easy options.

Photo by M.V. Jantzen

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3 Comment(s)

Steve O

“they are not counted in bike commuter data that only looks at rush-hour rides”

They are being counted if they are biking in Arlington. There are literally dozens of counters deployed across the county that count every bike, regardless of who is riding it and whether they are riding to work, for other transportation or for fun.

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Terry Nobbe

I agree with Veronica’s stance completely when she states that working to get non-cyclists to suddenly bike commute is not productive.

The folks at the LAB (League of American Bicyclists) tend to agree and I’m a former instructor of theirs.

The way that you introduce them to bike commuting is by making sure they have a proper bike for that task that they’re completely comfortable on.

Then you need to get them out on their bike more than a few times a year so they know “naturally” how to start, stop and maintain a comfortable cadence.

An effort of this type initiated in the spring or summer will more likely succeed than one initiated in the fall or winter.

Once they’re really comfortable, a proper route from their home to their workplace has to be developed and test ridden one or twice on a weekend or the like. Lastly, they need to carry on their commuter bike a tire pump/ tire inflator plus tire levers and a spare tube or two to handle the inevitable flat tire in a seat or handlebar bag and a sturdy lock.

Terry Nobbe
Beaverton, OR 97008-8612

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Terry Nobbe

One very important facet of cycling I neglected is helmet use. I’ve been told that the most common cause of cyclist fatalities is HEAD TRAUMA.
Wearing a comfortable PROPERLY FITTED bike helmet not only protects one’s scull, it also tend to show folks that witness your bike travel that you’re a smart intelligent person that desires to survive a collision with their eyes, eye sockets and cranium intact!

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