What can Councils do to encourage cycling?

Do you go to the Bike To Work Breakfasts? I don’t. I don’t see any reason to leave my house early to do something I can do happily at home. But the underlying idea is a good one.

So what can Councils do to encourage cycling? Here’s the thing: if the breakfast was put on by my employer, I’d probably go. I’d feel more rewarded, that my employer wanted to recognise a good thing. I also think that it would give good messages to the non-riders in the company. The message is clearer when it’s delivered by someone you know. So I reckon Councils should partner with businesses to look at ways of helping the businesses encourage riding.

What are your ideas?

EDIT: I wasn’t very clear in the post, but I’m interested in the social/cultural options for Councils. I take it for granted that infrastructure is within their ambit, so I’d like your views on non-infrastructure actions. Here’s an example from – of course – Copenhagen, put out by the city’s Public Health Office (now that’s a concerted approach to cycling promotion).

Translation (from Copenhagenize): You won't believe it... but you're safer on the bike than on the sofa!

19 thoughts on “What can Councils do to encourage cycling?

  1. Barry

    Pass a bylaw making helmets optional.

    Many people cling to the notion that riding a bike is intrinsically dangerous; compulsory helmet laws reinforce this attitude, especially among children who are of course impressionable. Getting dressed up in special hi-vis clothes and helmets is simply giving away personal responsibility for your own safety.

    What keeps you safe on a bike is skill and experience. If you are new to city riding, sure, it may be a good idea to advertise this fact, but the idea that it should be the norm is ridiculous. Your safety on a bike has almost nothing to do with other road users. I’ve never had a crash that wasn’t entirely my own fault, though it may not have appears that way to the casual observer at the time.


    (30 years experience commuting in heavy rush hour traffic)


  2. Malcolm

    Cycling infrastructure! Its the best way to encourage cycling. Safe cycle routes through cities. Cycle lanes everywhere, seperated from traffic if possible.

    Gimmicks like a free breakfast once a year would have a minimal effect. Its hardly going to make someone start cycling to work every day.

    Re: Barry with the helmets and fluro, I think helmets should be compulsary for children as they won’t be as experienced at cycling as an older person. After that it should be optional.
    With fluro though, I never used to wear it and I had constant close calls with traffic not seeing me. After I started wearing a reflective vest for my commute to work, the number of close calls I had noticeably dropped off. So they do make a difference. Yes, they may make it appear “dangerous” but they make you much more visible.


  3. Mandate secure bicycle parking and showers in new buildings in the CBD, and offer some sort of rates break for retrofitting them to existing buildings. The two big objections I hear from people is “there’s nowhere to shower if I get sweaty” and “there’s nowhere I can leave my bike all day”, and we can fix both those things. Our current building has one heavily used shower and the corridors and spare spaces are filling up with bikes.

    Pass a local bylaw allowing cyclists to take left turns on red lights where there is no oncoming cross traffic.

    Install traffic lights that have separate and more favourable signals for cyclists (I already assume in town that “B” stands for Bicycle as well as Bus).

    And, paradoxically, let’s have some enforcement aimed at the dickheads who shame us by weaving through traffic, riding fixies on footpath, and crashing through pedestrian crossings when there are pedestrians on them. If we saw better manners from cyclists, and set better norms, we’d get more support from people who don’t themselves cycle.


    1. Nigel

      Stephen: B is for Bus (and T is for Tram in CH?). The current regulations are specific. However I see they are up for amendment to include any vehicle allowed in the special lane. So technically a cyclist has to wait for the general green signal, while the bus driver revs up just 1″ behind ! Ouch, feel the pressure.


      1. Yes, it seems… illogical that I could be at the head of the queue in the green buslane at the top end of Courtenay Place by the St James, supposedly unable to go at the “B” light and blocking the poor buses (and their passengers) behind me.


  4. atom

    infrastructure, infrastructure and infrastructure!

    bike lanes. parking. bike lanes. showers at work. bike lanes. parking at work. bike lanes.

    incentivizing showers and PROPER bike parking at places of employment would be great.

    in the same way that businesses are required to set aside a certain number of handicapped parking spaces (if they provide car parking), they should be required to install and maintain a certain amount of PROPER bike parking.

    it would be great if councils could adopt “idaho stop” laws either implicitly or where it’s allowed by signage… then IF IT’S SAFE to do so (and this means no pedestrians in the crosswalk!) cyclists could treat a red light as a stop sign and treat a stop sign as a yield. or… time the traffic lights in CBD so that a “typical” cyclist will never see red!

    by doing idaho stops or left-on-red implicitly, it would be like NJ (and other states in the US) that allow a right turn on red WHEN IT’S SAFE TO DO SO and yielding to oncoming traffic, unless there’s a “NO TURN ON RED” sign.

    here in wellington, most of the “BUS ONLY” lanes in CBD should allow cyclists, at least off-peak, and especially overnight.

    here’s one… require that any new installations of bike racks for public or employee use be up to the same standards as the racks installed by the city (and i’m talking about wellington’s utilitarian racks, not those shiny art-projects they’ve got in auckland). this would essentially outlaw new installations of wheel-benders, except if someone wants that in their garage for personal use, which is fine.

    @malcom – agree about helmets and flouro – helmets should be required only for children, but i’d still wear a helmet and flouro.

    @stephen – there’s nothing paradoxical about going after the rotten apples in the bunch. there’s a difference between going safely through a red and nearly running over mum and her small children at full speed while they’re in a crosswalk with the “green guy”. i also won’t apologize when i say that ninjas who ride at night with no lights should be targeted (by police! not motorists!). these people aren’t cyclists, they’re assholes who ride bikes. REAL cyclists don’t create danger for themselves and others.


    1. Nigel

      @Atom – I stand in awe at what political lobby got that “mobility park” requirement enacted. How did they do that? Councils etc p*ss money on that infrastructure no questions asked because it’s law. Geez we need that kind of force directed at bike infrastructure!


      1. @Nigel – we are that force! It’s a question of directing the lobbying to the right place.

        Any business owners you know, tell them how business owners in Portland are on a waiting list to get bike parking outside their shops because of the increase in customer numbers it brings.

        Any property owners you know, tell them that property values increase in New York and Sydney where there is bike infrastructure. That’s for both residential and commercial.


  5. Bullitt

    Agree with what Stephen has said above.

    I’m lucky my building has bike parking and showers but it would be a big reason not to ride if it didn’t.

    I would not agree with removing the compulsory helmet laws. My parents made me wear one as a small child years before they were compulsory and I would never ride without one. Ive came off twice since Ive came back to riding as an adult and both times my head hit the ground enough to mark the helmet, I’d hate to see what would have happened without a helmet. Its going to do nothing to encourage cycling if more of us start dying.


  6. Hi all. I’ve updated to post to clarify the question.

    I’d be grateful if this post didn’t turn into the helmet debate. We will have that soon, I promise. At present we’re gathering all the info we can on it, so feel free to email cyclingwgtn [at] gmail etc with anything you have.


  7. I’m racking my brains trying to think of ANY public education activity done by WCC that I can remember. The only one I can bring to mind is the campaign aimed at young drinkers about staying safe in the city at night by sticking with you mates, which I’ve seen lots of bus ads and bus shelter ads for. And that might partly because friends of mine were annoyed by the implicit victim-blaming in those ads. So I suppose some controversial bus advertising could be just the ticket….

    More positively, the council is really good at organising successful summer events like the concerts at the Botanical Gardens. So there’s a proven capability the council has that we could piggy-back on. There’s an opportunity for some bike-focussed promotions on top of those events. Have some giveaways for people who turn up to them on a bike. Remind people that it’s much easier to chain up a bike to a tree than park a car by the Bot Gardens — win for everyone.


  8. atom

    i can picture these ad campaigns in my head…

    motorists: watch for bicycles
    motorists: bicycles are vehicles
    motorists: cyclists are people
    motorists: pass cyclists safely, or wait until it’s safe to pass

    cyclists: yield to pedestrians in crosswalks


  9. Simon Kennett

    First up, I should point out that Wellington City Council’s policy is to not promote cycling until it is safer to cycle in Wellington. The cycling communtiy could either try to get that policy changed on the basis that the safety risks are far outweighed by the health benefits, or could work more to improve the safety of cycling so that the Council themselves see fit to change that aspect of their cycling policy. Or both.

    Greater Wellington Regional Council does promote cycling – it’s one of our goals to see walking and cycling mode share increase. What do we do?
    1 – We sponsor the Go By Bike Breakfast. Some people prefer to stay at home, but almost a thousand attended this year, making it the biggest cycling event in Wellington City. Those who attend get a big pat on the back – a bit of moral support in a city that isn’t always that encouraging for people cycling. Also, it’s an opportunity to apply reflective tape to hundreds of bikes/helmets, so the safety angle is covered.
    1b – In a similar vein, we organised a World Car-free Day event last year (including free ‘chocolate fuel’ for walker and cyclists)
    2- Claire Pascoe organises Workplace Travel Planning – including the successful Active a2b programme of personalised support for people to try or continue cycling (or walking). She runs a travel planning forum each quarter which shares best practice amonst the regions big employers.
    3 – http://www.journeyplanner.org.nz and soon, some revised Regional Cycling Maps
    4 – Folding bike promotion (with discount voucher)
    5 – Various School Travel Plan initiatives (including Movin’ March).

    While we’d love to do more, our budget is limited and we do need to devote a good portion of our efforts to cycle safety, rather than promotion. Cycle skills training, lights testing/promotion, road safety planning – these things are all great stuff, too.

    At the end of the next financial year our focus will probably move away from promotion, more towards safety (as per the new Government Policy Statement and NZTA funding, which we rely on).


    1. Simon Kennett

      One other thing I really should have mentioned is the budding ‘Bike Buddies’ scheme.

      Before somebody says, ‘I never knew about that – you need to promote it better’, I should point out that our budget is dwarfed by normal marketing budgets. Something like a full-page add in the DomPost or a TV advert would blow our advertising budget to smithereens. But we are passionate and punch well above our weight (so the rate-payers get great value for money).


    2. Simon, which officials in the WCC are responsible for that policy of not promoting cycling? That is, who should lobbying efforts be directed at? Given that a known factor in cycle safety is the number of people cycling, that seems like a potentially counter-productive policy…


      1. Simon Kennett

        I think the decision may have been political (by the last group of councillors) but I’m not sure.

        Unfortunately, the safety-in-numbers effect has yet to be seen in Wellington (but it’s not all about safety, of course).


  10. Great discussion.
    May I suggest that we put some of this energy into talking to the people who decide what gets funded: our city and regional councillors.
    Why not make one call / one email per day for the next month?
    WCC contact details here: http://wellington.govt.nz/about/mayor/index.html
    Or do the lot in one hit: councillors@wcc.govt.nz
    GWRC: http://www.gw.govt.nz/council-and-councillors/

    It’s good to talk among ourselves but what will that change?
    Right, am gonna ask for a safe cycling route from Island Bay to CBD. Plenty of road space, plenty of demand.


  11. Pingback: The WCC keeps on keepin’ on with the Cycling Policy : Cycling in Wellington

  12. atom

    going through some comments on The WCC keeps on keepin’ on with the Cycling Policy – http://cyclingwellington.co.nz/2011/06/the-wcc-keeps-on-keepin-on-with-the-cycling-policy/

    safety-in-numbers is a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem, and there are improvements in safety for any increase, but we’re not yet at the tipping-point where linear growth in cycling produces a sharp increase in safety. but we’re getting there.

    it was also pointed out that with growth comes growing pains… one form of that is inexperienced cyclists who don’t know how to, or aren’t confident, riding in traffic. perhaps WCC/WRC can do a better job of promoting CAN’s “Cycle Skills Training” workshops. maybe working with employers who support cycle-commuting? maybe doing a better job of advertising, promoting and funding the workshops?

    patrick would know better than me, but as far as i can infer, those classes fill up too slowly when we consider the growth rate of cycling in wellington. and it’s easy to spot cyclists who could… well…. benefit from that type of workshop.


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