Cycling for Everyone
Cycling for Everyone

Cycling & Behaviour

Behavioral change is a vital part of transforming cities to more sustainable, liveable places. This change can be made in all demographics; from educational bicycle training for children, employer incentives to stimulate staff to cycle to work more, to programs that encourage the elderly to continue cycling.

The national government in The Netherlands has been stimulating behavioral change in favor of cycling since the 1970s, and continues to do so with their Tour de Force program, aiming at an increase of cycling of 20 percent from 2017 to 2027. 

National incentives to reach this goal include a travel allowance for cyclists of 19 cents per kilometer when traveling to work, and tax breaks when purchasing or leasing bikes. Dutch Cycling Embassy network participant 3pm is in charge of further implementing this incentive.

Cycling starts at a young age in the Netherlands, where most children travel to primary and secondary school by bike. This is the foundation that will lead them to embrace cycling as a means of transport for the rest of their lives. This does call for the need of cycling education, the widespread availability of bikes, and a safe school environment. Children in primary schools often take a cycle exam just before heading to secondary school, to prepare them for traveling further distances independently. Initiatives are currently in place to solve economical challenges preventing ownership of bikes for children, such as the Fietsenbank.

Awareness campaigns are another important part of behavioral change, where national, regional, and local campaigns are deployed to increase cycling and safety. Campaigns can focus on cyclists, for example incentivize use of lights when dark, but also on other road users such as car drivers, for example to be made aware of cyclists’ vulnerability.

  • One of the best ways to incentivize non-riders and employees to get on a bike is with a Bike to Work programs. It’s a manageable method for employers and Human Resources managers because it boosts the reach of organizations, leads to fewer sick days, and significantly increases focus and happiness. Bike to Work programs can be surprisingly easy to implement. Either establish a pool of common bikes for riders to share or subsidize individual bike ownership. Both systems have their strengths and weaknesses. Employers can incentivize to define a dedicated and secure bike storage space, like a garage, warehouse, or storeroom. If your employees choose folding bikes for commuting, let them store their bikes under their desks. Dedicate a shower for riders, with a change-room and personal locker area. Finally, invest in a rudimentary maintenance and repair station. These stations could be as little as a bike pump, multi-tool, bin of replacement tubes, or a complete setup with a truing stand and bike repair rack. Biking to work is easy. So is creating a Bike to Work program. Go out and build one. Your co-workers and boss will thank you.

  • Incentives and cycling programs that increase access are essential tools to allow the most diverse pool of non-cyclists to begin cycling or rediscover the benefits of cycling. Simultaneously, initiatives that deter or limit cars in the city are crucial to promoting active travel and improving urban health. Programs to shift behaviours can broadly be grouped under Software and Orgware defined as strategies to increase cycling through community engagement, stimulation, awareness building, urban activations, training and education. It is essential to recognize that Software and Orgware are far from perfect. Grouping under one umbrella category, all strategies that fall outside of “hard” infrastructure measures may even contribute to diminishing their valuation. These practices, by encouraging the development of social networks and cultural practices around human-powered transportation rather than relying solely on changes in the built environment, can instead be understood as programs to strengthen the human infrastructure of cycling.

  • Many approaches can be chosen to start from, discussing bike safety and awareness. Such as education and training, organization of policy and activism and behavioural change from both cyclists and others. Bike education and training should teach awareness of hazards and how to navigate them. Educating all ages to be good cyclists will eventually make them good motorists: learning to share spaces with all other road users and do it according to safety rules is fundamental to becoming a more respectful motorist. It is illogical to think that education can solve all problems; adequate infrastructures and urban planning remain crucial aspects; however, it is necessary to encourage a cultural paradigm shift towards sustainable mobility in general and cycling in particular. A key factor in improving drivers’ education on how to share the roads with all road users, especially cyclists and pedestrians. Actions such as passing a cyclist on the road, recognizing bicycle lanes, navigating intersections with pedestrians and cyclists, and exiting a vehicle without endangering pedestrians and cyclists should be a natural and normal stance for all motorists. In this respect, including safety cycling and pedestrian information in driver’s education courses, driver’s education manual and driver’s licence written exams should be a standard practice worldwide.

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Portrait of Shelley Bontje

Shelley Bontje

Project Manager