First it was Tom Vanderbilt arguing for “bicycle highways” in Slate, and now another prominent blogger is powerfully advocating for bicycle-specific infrastructure, this time in Bicycling. In his article titled, Adding Bicycle Infrastructure Creates More Riders, Bob Mionske, author of Bicycling and the Law, convincingly argues that providing more and better bicycle-specific infrastructure is the most effective way to increase bicycle ridership. Consider this excerpt:
And the absence of infrastructure discourages most people from riding. In Portland, Oregon’s Bicycle Plan for 2030, the demographics for Portland’s citizenry is broken down into four categories : (1) the 33 percent of Portland’s population which, for various reasons, will never ride a bike, “no way, no how”; (2) those who would like to ride a bike in town, but are afraid to ride with automobile traffic; this “interested but concerned” demographic represents 60 percent of Portland’s population; (3) those who are already riding in Portland, because of Portland’s efforts at improving bike infrastructure, despite the incomplete status of much of Portland’s bike infrastructure; this “enthused and confident” demographic represents 7 percent of the population; and (4) those riders who are “strong and fearless” and would feel comfortable riding in (and may even prefer) a complete lack of infrastructure; this demographic represents less than .5 percent of Portland’s population.
I’m guessing the regular readers of EcoVelo mostly fit into the “enthused and confident” minority mentioned above. Some of us are “vehicular cyclists”, while others are advocates for bike-specific infrastructure; either way, we’re already riding and need little convincing to continue to do so. The way Mionske sees it (and I totally agree), we need to focus on creating infrastructure that caters to the “interested and concerned” 60% majority who are not currently riding, but who might if the conditions were right. Providing facilities that assuage the fears surrounding sharing the road with motor vehicles is arguably the most effective way to increase bicycle use. Again, from Mionske:
As Portland’s research has shown, most people in Portland do not currently ride a bike because they have fears about riding in automobile traffic—but these same people are interested in riding, and would ride if they felt safe. And as European experience has shown, addressing this concern about safety is the key to getting more people on bikes. When cycling feels safe for everybody, from young children to the elderly, more people ride, and when more people ride, the roads transform from feeling safe to being safe—and not just for cyclists, but for everybody.
I think Mionske is right on target with this article. It’s worth a read…