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'To get more people cycling - ignore the ones that already do'...

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  1. chdot
    Admin

  2. cc
    Member

    It sounds silly but it makes some sense. (As long as they do listen hard to those who would like to cycle but don't.) We're massively outnumbered by people who don't cycle. And a lot of them don't cycle not because they're Jeremy Clarkson but because they're terrified of the traffic.

    One of my colleagues would have a much easier journey into work from her home in Livingston if she cycled to the station, got the train to Edinburgh and cycled to our workplace. She says she'd love to do that but wouldn't dream of cycling in Edinburgh traffic, it'd be terrifying.

    For most people cycling in traffic just is a non-starter. Even if we think it's relatively safe - that doesn't matter. It has to look and feel safe too. (Three types of safety.)

    Arguably what would make most sense would be to learn from people who've managed to build mass popular cycling cultures with 60% of journeys by bike, not car.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  3. Min
    Member

    That is an extremely bizarre statement to make, especially when his conclusions are pretty much exactly what existing cyclists have already been saying for ages. I guess he is just ignoring us. Just like governments and local councils.

    If he really wants to see what ignoring existing cyclists and pedestrians would do he only needs to ask drivers about the quality of existing so-called infrastructure. The answer will be that it is "perfectly good". And so this is what the new policy will be based around.

    Of course the really weird thing is that it isn't. His conclusions are the kind that could only come from listening to both groups. I suppose it gets him publicity which is the main thing. While reinforcing the notion that cyclists should be ignored...

    Posted 9 years ago #
  4. cc
    Member

    @Min: the headline is kind of provocative and just has half the idea, not the whole idea. It's not "don't listen to existing cyclists", it's "don't listen to existing cyclists, but instead listen to would-be cyclists and do what would get them cycling". There are hugely more of them than there are of us, and once you get them cycling you have a mass cycling culture.

    As the article says, we're the rare intrepid ones who've successfully battled our way through hostile conditions to cycle in our cities. Most people just aren't going to do that. So what would get them cycling? Let's find out, and get them cycling.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  5. Dave
    Member

    Methinks the CTC (and some of our local respondents) have built a bit of a straw man to attack here.

    It shouldn't be controversial to suggest that we need to engage with the people we want to change in order to understand how to change them.

    Where cyclists suggest that X is needed but non-cyclists have no interest in taking up cycling as a result, what's the point in doing X (if your aim is to get non-cyclists cycling)?

    That last bit is the important point, by the way. Increasing cycling participation does not mean improving the lot of cyclists (unless that would result in more cyclists, which is not a given).

    Posted 9 years ago #
  6. spytefear
    Member

    @cc (although they should ignore you) Try pointing out to your colleague that Edinburgh traffic never moves that fast as there are so many traffic lights stopping them you often end up filtering past stationary vehicles

    Posted 9 years ago #
  7. chdot
    Admin

    "the headline is kind of provocative and just has half the idea, not the whole idea"

    Well it's certainly got CCE active this morning!

    Haven't read whole report (yet...), but last bit of executive summary is worth reading (I would paste here but PDF is in some format that won't copy - for me at least - except as ␣␣␣ ␣␣␣ )

    It includes "must tackle broader social, economic, cultural and legal factors".

    Which is obviously more important than 'infrastructure' (good or bad), but is certainly what most 'cyclists' are well aware of - so 'don't listen to them' is a bit of a foolish assertion.

    The report may or may not say that.

    I don't suppose many politicians and transport planners will read even the executive summary, but I expect a few will see the 'headlines'.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  8. carltonreid
    Member

    My headline is not a misrepresentation of what Professor Pooley wrote.

    This sentence is stupid: "Our message for policy makers is, do not base policies about walking and cycling on the views and experiences of existing committed cyclists and pedestrians."

    There's a lot in the report that makes perfect sense but that one line kills it. As policy makers ignore cyclists already, why make it a virtue?

    The health professional gets it right: we have to listen to *all* users and non-users.

    I know what the prof means, but he's gone about it in such a cack-handed way. Three years of study? Oi!

    Posted 9 years ago #
  9. chdot
    Admin

    "I know what the prof means, but he's gone about it in such a cack-handed way. Three years of study? Oi!"

    Yep

    Posted 9 years ago #
  10. Instography
    Member

    It wouldn't be such a bad thing to say if you could point to ways in which the existing cyclists were continuing or exacerbating the problems that represent barriers to new cyclists. If, for example, existing cyclists were calling for a law making helmet-wearing compulsory and non-cyclists were saying helmets are naff and reinforced a perception of cycling as unusually dangerous, then they'd have a point. But they don't.

    And much as it might be true that traffic segregation would make cycling appear like one long Flake advert, you'd think that there would be a dose of reality in the report. A massive infrastructure programme is decades in the future even if they started now so in the meantime the job of persuasion and support for would-be cyclists is smaller scale and more personal. For instance cc's friend needs a friend - someone to cycle with, someone who confidently rides in traffic to ride with them for a couple of weeks. People who want to cycle need to learn to ride in traffic, at least for another generation. Not acknowledging that makes it a profoundly disappointing report.

    Two other things. It's worth going through the research methods section of the summary report just to see how little data they've used to construct this report. They have 150 questionnaires from postal surveys in each town. The surveys have 10% response rates, making them hopelessly biased (and if you read the quotes you can tell that they're not 'ordinary' quotes - the language and concepts are not those of ordinary citizens). The interviews are drawn from the surveys, compounding the biases, and there's only 80 in total - 20 in each town - and 5 "ethnographies" in each town. It looks to me like the data is fundamentally biased. Let me give one example. They state: "Approximately 40% of respondents sometimes or often were unable to make a trip on foot or by bicycle because of the presence of a child." But only about 20-25% of households have any children aged under 16 and a good proportion of the older children won't constrain anyone so either the data is biased - massively over-representing households with children - or the respondents are, let's say, 'mistaken'.

    Finally, there is a real problem with just listening to the public (or anyone else) because we know they make excuses for themselves, constructing narratives that express the desire to do the right thing but also explaining why that right thing would be tremendously difficult. It's a natural human thing to do when faced with someone who has come to talk to you about something they think is important (hello, I'm the walking and cycling researcher. Oh, yes, come in, sit down, yes, I'd love to cycle more but it's just so difficult...). Researchers need to probe what people say and tease out the real barriers from the excuses.

    Sorry, I'm ranting. It's depressing to read this kind of stuff.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  11. kaputnik
    Moderator

    “Our message for policy makers is, do not base policies about walking and cycling * on the views and experiences of existing committed cyclists and pedestrians... ...It is ** necessary to talk to non-walkers and non-cyclists, potential cyclists and walkers, former cyclists and walkers, recreational cyclists and occasional walkers to determine what would encourage them to make more use of these transport modes.”

    I would agree with that statement 100% if the word "only" was inserted at the first asterisk and the word "also" at the double asterisk.

    We have to design cycling infrastructure to be useful to both existing cyclists (the people most likely to use it and benefit from it) and also to encourage more people to cycle. However we don't build and engineer roads in a manner that's designed to encourage more people to drive. It's the same group of people - councils and civil engineers - who are charged with being the providers and designers of cycling infrastructure. So if the statement above was re-worded as I suggest I think it's a perfectly reasonable conclusion.

    However without the change we might as well have me as a non-driving, non-car owning person consulted on Motorway design! (perhaps we should. I'd put bollards across them not quite wide enough spaced to fit a Range Rover through without scraping the paintwork, chicanes that LGVs can't fit through withough disconnecting the cab and trailer, signposts randomly in the middle of the lanes and make it mandatory to get out the car and push when approaching any junctions)

    Posted 9 years ago #
  12. carltonreid
    Member

    With friends like these who needs enemies?

    Posted 9 years ago #
  13. carltonreid
    Member

    I've emailed the professor (and Dave Horton - who ought to have edited the offending line, and is normally good at spotting such schoolboy errors).

    -----

    So much of this report is excellent, but this line - "Our message for policy makers is, do not base policies about walking and cycling on the views and experiences of existing committed cyclists and pedestrians." - is not helpful. For a start it's what happens already. And it's why we get crap cycling lanes.

    The health professional quoted in my piece gets it right. We have to listen to all users and non-users.  Non-experts can bring much to the table, but sidelining experts is folly. The doctor I quoted was hopping mad about the line above. She sees this sort of thing in the NHS all the time. Outside designers create consulting rooms without asking doctors what they want: and then the consulting rooms have to be changed at great expense when they don't work. Obstetric equipment has been designed to work from a certain direction without consultation with obstetricians who, in the UK, work from the opposite direction. Equipment all trashed: millions of pounds wasted, all for the want of including the views of experts.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  14. Morningsider
    Member

    Instography - good analysis, not a rant at all. I can obviously see the point in listening to non-cyclists, particularly those in groups where there are is already substantial proportion of cyclists (e.g. young adults in high density urban areas) to understand what could tip the balance to make them cycle. I would also focus on recent new and returning cyclists - what made them make the switch?

    However, as Instography says, people will justify their own travel choices and it very easy to say cycling, walking and public transport are dangerous, inconvenient, smelly etc. People are not rational in making travel decisions - most city based, single occupant rush hour car drivers have made a "sub-optional" choice. Why? Factors such as status, sense of self, comfort, familiarity all come into it.

    I understand that reserach carried out for Cycling Scotland shows that highlighting the health benefits of cycling is pretty much to only thing that gets through to non-cyclists - appeals around money saved, climate change, fun etc all fall on deaf ears - and even that has a very minimal impact.

    I'm not sure how you make cycling more attractive to the vast bulk of non-cyclists, but ignoring the views of people who already cycle and walk seems an odd suggestion. I can't think of another polcy area where you would recommend proceeding without consulting with users and experts "Oh that health service, don't listen to those crazy doctors and nurses, and as for those patients..."

    Posted 9 years ago #
  15. chdot
    Admin

    "I would also focus on recent new and returning cyclists - what made them make the switch?"

    THAT would indeed be worth doing - and relatively easy to find people - e.g. ask for the help of CycleScheme, Halfords, EBC, Evans and other big companies that organise Cycle to Work schemes and ask them to e-mail people who have bought a bike in the last year and ask them if they could fill-in a well constructed on-line questionnaire.

    OK - like any sample it would be flawed - ignore people returning on their oen (previously abandoned), borrowed, s/h bike, exclude those without email etc. etc.

    But would produce some interesting stories.

    Or would they just be rejected as "anecdotes"??

    NEW THREAD - Are YOU new (or returning) to cycling?

    Posted 9 years ago #
  16. wingpig
    Member

    "I'm not sure how you make cycling more attractive to the vast bulk of non-cyclists..."

    Point out the attractive non-vast bulk of cyclists?

    Two people in my team have just taken up cycling the entire 13 miles to work or the last 1.3 miles, both for a combination of saving money and incidentally including exercise in their normal daily routine but I'll point them at the new thread. Both seem unworried (or at least not terminally put off) by busy roads.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  17. Stepdoh
    Member

    Joined to this discussion (and linked to in the story) is the gleefully snortsome 'Cycle Facility of the Month'.

    Dip in if you have a mo, the bitchy commentary is great.

    The almost heroic level of crapness of this is a favourite.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  18. Instography
    Member

    @Chdot
    If you collected anecdotes and presented them as more than anecdotes, they'd be rejected (at least by people like me) but it wouldn't take too much effort to come up with a reasonably systematic sampling strategy to find and recruit participants in the cycle to work scheme. Nor would it take too much effort to construct a good questionnaire. Some of us do it all the time ;-)

    Posted 9 years ago #
  19. Kim
    Member

    The report also says there is a need to make cycling normal. Sadly so many cycle campaigns emphasis doing the opposite is the name of "safety". Could it be this is why Prof. Pooley suggested ignoring these cycle campaign groups?

    Posted 9 years ago #
  20. Morningsider
    Member

    Instography - I agree that a decent questionnaire should be fairly straightforward. However, I suspect the sampling would be pretty difficult as most people probably start/return to cycling on old, lent or second hand bikes - in the first instance at least. Sampling from users of the cycle to work scheme would also rule out anyone who doesn't work or works for an employer that isn't part of the scheme, too restrictive I think (gut feeling - but I suspect you could find a way round this that I haven't thought of).

    Posted 9 years ago #
  21. wingpig
    Member

    Third try. Damn all this extra traffic from BikeBiz.

    As well as C2W/Cyclescheme entrants, people using bike shops' servicing packages might be mechanically unconfident new/returning users. Likewise first-time or long-absent purchasers of things from popular online cycling clothing/accessory vendors might include people getting the odd extra bit they need/want to start using a non-newly-purchased bike.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  22. Also anyone going into a shop and in one go buying a hi-viz jacket; helmet; lock; lights - probably one of those people who have dug out the old bike, but now need all the kit.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  23. Dave
    Member

    "I can't think of another polcy area where you would recommend proceeding without consulting with users and experts..."

    Suppose you wanted to encourage more girls to study science - whose concerns would you need to address? Those of the girls who don't study science, or the ones that do?

    Suppose you want to encourage people to build exercise into their daily routine. Who knows most about getting physical? Olympic sprinters! Great, let's ask them how to stop Fatty Jones dying of sedentary disease...

    The things that cyclists want and non-cyclists want are quite different, and the fact that non-cyclists who go on to become cyclists are immediately disappointed and wish for something different in no way contradicts that.

    For an example: building terrible, cramped, almost useless cycle "facilities" in our towns and cities may be what it takes to get people cycling, even if after a week or two they are all ignoring them and riding on the road. Improving the road (which would be the vote of everyone who rides on it) might not result in any extra cyclists at all.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  24. Dave
    Member

    Of course, that's not to say that existing cyclists can't offer good advice (presumed liability. Lower speed limits, etc)... or that girls who do study science wouldn't have valid opinions about why the ones who don't, don't.

    I think Kaputnik's modification of the executive summary makes it a lot better and (I guess and hope) more in line with what the study is actually trying to recommend.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  25. crowriver
    Member

    So, a substantial proportion of people in the UK (well, certain people in four towns in England) are worried about their looks and personal hygiene, are obsessed with status and like making excuses for staying in their comfy cars. No surprises there then! The only surprise is it took three years to find this out...

    Posted 9 years ago #
  26. Instography
    Member

    @Morningsider
    You're right in a way but once you go beyond list from administered schemes, the main barrier is the cost of finding people not so much the difficulty of finding them. If a client paid me enough I could find a sample of adults who had cycled at least five times in the past four weeks but who hadn't cycled in the previous, say, 12 months but I might have to screen 500 adults to find 1 that met that definition of a 'returner' to cycling. It's not difficult, just expensive.

    Posted 9 years ago #
  27. kaputnik
    Moderator

    @crowriver heh, that's one way to interpret the findings! And do I want someone who is more concerned with their hair than with "finding a better (and safer) way to work" being instrumental in the design of cycling infrastructure? Probably not...

    Posted 9 years ago #
  28. Min
    Member

    "Of course, that's not to say that existing cyclists can't offer good advice (presumed liability. Lower speed limits, etc)... or that girls who do study science wouldn't have valid opinions about why the ones who don't, don't."

    In other words you need both points of view. Just like Morningsider, myself and a few others are saying..

    Posted 9 years ago #
  29. carltonreid
    Member

    I quoted kaputnik in a revision of the BikeHub piece, and also added an amended para to show how easy it was not to offend existing cyclists.

    I also copied Instography's critique on this Australian architect's blog who seems to think the study's methodology is peer reviewed so brilliant.

    http://behoovingmoving.livejournal.com/130632.html?view=243272#t243272

    Posted 9 years ago #
  30. TwoWheels
    Member

    I think the safety concern, while real, is also a bit of a cover story. As soon as you make cycling appear safe, the next excuse will appear, and it will be (a)"I don't have the time," (b) "I have children," or (c) "It's too far" (wherever "it" may be). Rarely will the correct answer, (d) "I'm too #$%^! lazy" be expressed openly; though, as a father, I'll admit that (b) does put a crimp in things, especially when daughter #2 needs to be at her singing lesson at the approximate same time that daughter #1 needs to be at her archery practice.

    I once took an entire day and told every patient I saw that I would treat them for free every time they rode their bike to my office for an appointment. Each of these patients were capable of that relatively minor feat, and would have benefited from the exercise.

    Not a single patient took me up on the offer.

    Frankly, forget the infrastructure. I'd settle for a moderate fine for every chucklehead that has harassed me. Heck, in the past month alone, the town would have collected enough money to pay for last year's snow removal.

    Posted 9 years ago #

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