What stops the 71 percent of Americans who say they would like to ride more from actually getting on bicycles to do it? The lack of good bike infrastructure is a major reason, but so are a host of other obstacles, many of which come down to simple questions about how to dress, how to lock a bike to a rack or which streets to take to get from A to B. Personal encouragement programs can provide the answers, as cities from Copenhagen to Portland have found out.
These campaigns start by urging would-be bicycle commuters to consider riding more often, especially people who may not have ridden bikes regularly since they were kids but still find the idea appealing. Transportation ambassadors then follow-up with personalized solutions to their specific concerns via one-on-one conversations. It’s like having a personal transportation coach.
Building confidence and skills for navigating the city
Portland’s Smart Trips campaign begins with fun community events and a mailing to households asking about their interest in biking, walking or taking transit. Anyone interested can meet with a friendly transportation ambassador who offers maps and can field questions about how to get started and choose the best routes. They will even escort first-time bike commuters to work, showing how easy it can be.
(left) In Portland neighborhoods served by the Smart Trips campaign, single- occupancy vehicle use dropped by nine percent. Photo: City of Portland