I often get asked why I bike commute. For me, there are multiple factors including getting exercise, having a smaller environmental impact, saving money, avoiding people (both other drivers and other transit riders), and having more control over my schedule. There’s other things too like getting outside and appreciating where I live in a more meaningful way.
Finding out why people bike and what their perceived barriers are can help us to encourage cycling and create better infrastructure. This is what Rérat (2019) looked at in Sweden. The motivations don’t differ from my own. But I thought it was interesting that Rérat framed one of the motivations as civic engagement. This is related to reducing environmental impacts.
It makes me wonder if framing activities like active commuting as being part of civic engagement would have an impact on how people feel about their own participation in different activities. Would it encourage other types of engagement as well or, would it discourage the original activity?
In terms of barriers, it does not surprise me that weather and safety come out as the biggest barriers. Weather is challenging, especially when you don’t have appropriate gear, but getting the gear can feel like too much of an investment until you feel the difference good gear makes. This makes it a challenge because how do you justify the investment if you don’t know if it will actually help your enjoyment.
Safety is pretty obvious, which is where infrastructure comes in. I’ve written before that I bike extra distance to take what I consider to be a safer route. But not everyone has that option.
Rérat discusses the limitations of the study and obviously focusing on a single country and type of commuter means that the results may not be generalizable. But, I think this is an important conversation. People have different reasons for biking or not and if we don’t discuss the reasons on both sides it is difficult to plan accordingly.
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