Communications Update: Protected Bike Lanes are the Future

According to a survey conducted by the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA), the number of people riding their bike at least six times a year declined 8% from 2000 to 2010. Despite the fact that adults rode their bike more often, children rode less. This data is concerning considering the fact that children are the future drivers of our roads. And as we all know, more bike riders means fewer drivers and fewer drivers mean less road congestion and pollution. It is up to governments and grass roots campaigns alike to communicate the bicycle friendly infrastructure available as well as the environmental importance of this alternative mode of transportation.

Bike Lane Pic for blog post

Protected Bike Lane In Minneapolis, MN Source: http://www.mplsbike.org/a_two_way_protected_bikelane_on_26th_street_how_you_can_help

A public opinion poll in Vancouver showed that 38% of men are likely to oppose the creation of bike lanes compared to 28% of women. This is surprising, considering the fact that data shows men are more likely to ride bikes than women are. When building a marketing campaign, it is important to understand the values of your audience. A Minneapolis campaign called “Bikeways for Everyone” understood just that. Their goal was for their city to create 30 miles of protected bikeways by 2020. To accomplish this, one of their strategies was to get people on the roads to actually experience how protected bike lanes can enhance the riding experience. For only $600, this campaign set up a pop-up protected bikeway and intersection section demo that helped citizens visualize their community as a bike inclusive one. The community response was very positive. Andrew Knucle, one of the leaders of this movement said, “When they get to the end (of them demo) you basically get them to sign any type of petition. It just makes sense”. Demonstrations like this show how valuable on-the-ground work can be for raising public support.

Another successful strategy to keep bikers and car drivers safe can come from individuals themselves. Joe Mizereck is the founder of the “3 Feet Please” campaign. Joe’s strategy is to distribute bright yellow jerseys that say “3 Feet Please.” Bike riders wear these jerseys so car drivers see their blatant message and hopefully give them three feet of clearance before passing them. This tactic also normalizes bike riding. As the campaign grows and more cyclists wear these jerseys, car drivers will begin to take notice of all the people who support bike-safe streets. They will perceive bike riding as a social norm and possibly make the switch, depending on other barriers to a bike commute.

Although some studies like the NSGA’s survey show a recent decline in bike riding, that doesn’t mean there is a lack of effort from organizations and governments to make roads safer and more accessible for all. People for Bikes recently released its survey results from Portland and San Francisco residents and overwhelmingly found that the biggest barrier to people riding bikes more often is their concern over safety. When asked to rate the amount at which they were “concerned about safety when riding in your city,” 75% of riders said they were “very concerned” or “extremely concerned.” These results, although not surprising, will allow governments and organizations to better understand cyclists’ mental barriers when they promote ridership and infrastructure investment throughout their cities. Whether it is a larger campaign like Minneapolis’ “Bikeways for Everyone” or a more individual effort like Joe’s, “3 Feet Please” movement, one thing remains clear – understanding people’s habits and values and showing them the possibilities of bike friendly communities through creative communications campaigns is much better than just telling them about them. While cities still have a long way to travel to make their streets safe for all, we are certainly moving in the right direction.

By: Jonathan Keiles