Why People Don’t Ride a Bike
(and How to Get Them to Start)
A core function of Transportation Options’ work is to facilitate the individual and cultural shift from drive alone auto trips to more efficient and sustainable ways of getting around Portland.
One of the many distinctions that Portland holds is the direct result of our success - the designation of being the number one city for bicycling in North America by Bicycling Magazine.
The number of people bicycling and the number of trips taken by bicycle have risen steadily in Portland over the last 15 years. This homegrown trend runs in opposition to most US cities of similar or larger size.
So what is it that motivates people to bicycle in Portland? What keeps people from bicycling more, or at all? We know the doubling of bikeway miles doubled in the roughly 7 years leading to the year 2000 corresponded with an increase in bicycle trips across the Willamette River Bridges, but that’s not the whole story. What are the other factors at play?
As part of the Platinum Bike effort in Portland, Transportation Commissioner Sam Adams commissioned focus groups and polling to help tease out the reasons.
In January 2007, six hundred Portland residents, in one of three groups of two hundred each, participated in the polling. The three groups represented were:
Interestingly, the bicyclists and non-bicyclists agreed on many of the barriers to riding in Portland, and mentioned safety, weather, and the very practical issues related to bicycling as key. The non-bicycling groups noted that access to a working bike, and their current health or fitness level was a significant barrier. Current bicyclists underscored the need for more bikeway improvements.
The practical issues of bicycling such as; too slow/time, too far, or having passengers or packages dominated the list of barriers. Safety, while somewhat more important to potential rather than current riders and to women rather than men, was the number one barrier across all groups after the practical issues were accounted for.
Cars were the number one safety concern. Complaints of speeding cars, too many cars, and poor driver behavior were raised, as well as the fear of getting hit or injured or just not wanting to ride with cars topped this list.
People are motivated to bicycle by the pleasure that it can bring, however pleasure alone was not the only reason people do ride. Pleasure as a motivator was followed closely by exercise, and this response was consistent across all groups. More time and better weather were also noted as motivating factors.
Encouragingly, potential as well as current bicyclists want to see more bike lanes, trails and car free environments. Simple access to a working bike, and poor health or fitness level were significant reasons potential bicyclists are not riding currently.
A first glance the results from this effort highlight that there’s no ‘silver bullet’ for getting more people out bicycling more. It does show that Portland is on the right track when it comes to encouraging new riders.
We will continue exploring the results from this polling effort and the focus groups in our next issue due out in November. For more information go to www.GettingAroundPortland.org and click on Transportation Options, or contact Linda Ginenthal at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-823-5266.
Another first for Portland! In March 2007 Portland became the first government body in the US to acknowledge imminent peak oil as a reality and to release a plan for what the city should be doing to cope with the years ahead.
The Peak Oil Task Force Report recommended contingency plans for fuel shortages and price fluctuations that could last just a few weeks or longer. The recommendations focus on already established community goals such as clean air and water, livability, pollution reduction and economic growth.
While the report does not propose new initiatives it does stress the need to step up current efforts and sends the message that we should begin planning and preparing for major changes sooner rather than later. The report recommends stepping up strategies and policies relating to:
Although fossil fuels are woven into nearly "every thread of the fabric of society" the transportation sector is the largest user of petroleum products. Thirty-eight percent of the total fuel consumption each year is used for transportation, with electricity being the second at 28 percent. The transportation sector includes every gallon of gas used to power each car or truck used every day to deliver us from point A to point B, to school, to work, or for errands.
Of the eleven recommendations noted by the Peak Oil Task Force, the need for changes to our transportation network is mentioned specifically in three. The recommendations focus on infrastructure design as well as the promotion and encouragement of energy-efficient modes.
Transportation Options is well poised to help curb local dependence on fossil fuels. In fact, Options programs including TravelSmart, The NE and SE Hub, and our current SmartTrips programs have consistently shown the ability to reduce trips by up to 13 percent and we have achieved this at very low cost - about $10 per individual.
Transportation Options programs have proven successful in:
For more information or to read the Peak Oil Task Force Report go to http://www.portlandonline.com/osd/index.cfm?c=42894< /A>.
SmartTrips Downtown, the latest of Transportation Options individualized marketing programs, works with downtown businesses to make commute trips healthier and less expensive – both for employees and the bottom line. The SmartTrips Downtown program adds a new twist however by reaching the individual at their workplace instead of at home.
The program has the ambitious plan of switching 1220 daily, drive-alone trips downtown to healthier, less expensive travel modes over a two-year period. By conservative estimates, effectively switching 1220 trips can save participants a collective $1 million a year – money that can be spent at local businesses – and increase the road capacity of downtown.
SmartTrips Downtown follows a simple premise: give downtown employees free information on their transportation options and a lot of them will make healthier transportation choices. This simple premise has proved itself to be simply successful! Impressively, the individual response rate for the program has been more than 30 percent.
The participating businesses can expect to garner significant benefits to their bottom line including increased worker productivity and a reduction in overall healthcare costs. A Polytechnic and Cornell University study found:
Twenty-five downtown employers – including Davis Wright Tremaine, Merrill Lynch, NW Natural, Portland General Electric and Portland State University have participated so far and SmartTrips Downtown staff continue the work to bring more downtown businesses on board.
Participating downtown businesses agree to invite their employees, via company email, to order free and personalized transportation kits from an online order form. The range of materials available include carpool, transit, bike and walking information for Portland commuters as well as commuters from communities surrounding Portland. Participating employees receive their choice of a free meal coupon or TriMet Day Pass, from SmartTrip sponsors Qdoba Mexican Grill and TriMet, just for ordering.
For more information on the SmartTrips Downtown program, contact Steve Hoyt at email@example.com 503-823-7191.
Consistent with City goals to build a multi-modal transportation system and provide access and mobility for all, the City of Portland Office of Transportation embarks on a Streetcar System Plan. The Streetcar System Plan is part of a larger citywide transit growth plan.
Streetcar is one of the many tools that can help Portland achieve other desirable goals such as density, increased economic development, and more walkable communities. Streetcar has the ability to both shorten walking distances, especially for vulnerable communities such as the elderly, while encouraging more walking and more walk trips overall. Existing streetcar lines have demonstrated that they can enhance and encourage livable and vibrant neighborhoods.
Initial public meetings planned for September 2007, with additional meetings planned for January and April 2008, give residents several opportunities to participate in shaping the Streetcar System Plan. The goal of the process is to identify 3-5 recommended corridors to be built over the next 5-10 years.
To get involved in the planning or for more information contact Patrick Sweeney at firstname.lastname@example.org 503-823-5611.
1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 800, Portland, OR 97204