Encouraging bicycling requires first considering what issues and attitudes could be leveraged for support and what perceptions and realities get in the way of bicyclists riding more.
Environments where people want to and choose to bike have three main components:
- PLACE—people need room on the road or a designated bike path. They also may need other facilities that make bicycling more convenient, such as bicycle racks out side of businesses and shower facilities at workplaces. For more on making safe places for cycling, visit the Engineering section.
- CONSIDERATE MOTORISTS—riders are most comfortable around motorists who give room and watch for bicyclists. For ways to encourage motorists to drive safely and considerately around bicyclists, visit the Education or Enforcement sections.
- REASON—people need a purpose for riding, whether for recreation, physical activity, or utility. Part of promoting bicycling involves making the reasons to bike more apparent.
Below is a list of ideas that an agency, employer, or coalition may choose to help promote bicycling, often by making it more appealing or easier to do. If there is not yet an established coalition in your community, then find out more about how to build a coalition.
1. Spread the word: marketing campaigns
Campaigns get people thinking about bicycling. They can give the message that the community is a place for biking. Marketing campaigns can convey reasons to bike or include safety reminders for drivers or cyclists.
See how several campaigns around the country work:
- Houston, TX—Houston's "on a roll" program promotes bicycle use through informational material, city-wide bicycle maps, training courses, and public service announcements (PSAs).
- San Francisco, CA—San Francisco's program educates drivers of safety involving road bicyclists and promotes proper biking techniques.
- Charlotte, NC—The City of Charlotte has several active community bicycle organizations that promote cycling as part of their activities, including Bike Charlotte, the Charlotte Area Bicycle Alliance, and the Bicycle Commuter Mentor Program.
2. Provide guides: bicycling routes
Bicyclists appreciate being able to share routes and view recommended routes that indicate bike paths, bike lanes and other bike-friendly features. These maps can also include local attractions, connections to mass transit, as well as locations of practical amenities such as restrooms. Providing tools that allow bicyclists to map their own routes and calculate mileage is also helpful. Also, some regional transit organizations have trip planners that incorporate walking and biking to reach destinations. See the A Train link provided by the Atlanta Bicycle Campaign for an example. To see examples of bike maps, visit Find a Bike Map.
3. Capitalize on commute trip reduction programs
Large employers are being encouraged to reduce their employees' single occupant vehicle travel. Surveys of employees can reveal what might motivate them to ride to work and the necessary initiatives can be put into place. Employers can offer shower and changing room facilities as well as secure bicycle parking. Loaner car programs like Zip Car help employees get errands done without driving their own vehicle to work.
4. Support the carless commute
"Bike buddies" programs match experienced bike commuters with those interested in trying it out. For other examples of what can happen on a city or community-level, see Chicago's Cycle Center and the Bikestation Long Beach Case Study.
5. Seek group rides
Bicycle clubs sponsor weekly group rides that are a good way to increase comfort for less experienced riders and provide a reason to try out cycling. Group rides are also a good way to help newer riders learn their way around town by bike. Some bicycle clubs have partnered with cities to close roads to motor vehicles on certain days of the week. Cascade Bicycle Club in Seattle helps organize group commute rides. Search Bike Meet Up for group rides near you! Also, an expansive list of bicycle co-ops and other community groups can be found at Wiki's Community Bicycle Organizations page.
6. Conduct classes
Sponsor classes on bicycle commuting or bicycle handling skills. Search for classes or instructors near you!
7. For a cause: special events
Large bicycle riding events like the MS 150 and Ride for the Cure raise money for charities and provide motivation and an opportunity for cyclists to meet other cyclists and for novice riders to try out cycling in a supportive environment.
8. Celebrate bicycling
In May, Bike Month offers the perfect opportunity for people to try riding. There are many ideas for activities that can be borrowed from other communities.
9. Involve children and families: Safe Routes to School programs
Organize a Walk and Roll to School Day to encourage children and families to walk or bicycle to school. This event can also be a way to attract media attention and involve community leaders. Safe Routes to School programs sometimes include group bicycle rides—called Bike Trains—where adult leaders ride to school with students.
10. Jump on the bandwagon: partnerships with popular endeavors
Look for locally-popular issues and consider how they might relate to bicycling. For example, if environmental groups are active and successful in a community, it makes sense to find ways to partner with them to promote bicycling. For many tools on how to develop programs that promote behaviors that help the environment, go to the Tools of Change web site.
If there's an annual community event, look for a way to add a bicycle ride to the list of activities or encourage people to ride bicycles to the event.
Need more ideas?
For more ideas on how organizations (particularly employers) can encourage bicycling, visit the website for the Bicycle Alliance of Washington.
Or, check out the Portland By Cycle Bicycling Campaign for more examples of how bicycling can be promoted.
How do you make these ideas happen?
Having a group of people that care about increasing the safety and appeal of bicycling will help make this possible. There are different ways to find strength in numbers and coalitions and to organize an effective outreach campaign so you can get your ideas across-and generate solutions that support bicycling.
A coalition or group can be the most valuable tool in promoting bicycling in your community, through the strategies listed above or through policy change, infrastructure improvement, etc. Make the most of its resources and energy, and build working relationships with agencies, the private sector, and the media to gain support for your projects.