It's as easy as riding a bike

It's as easy as riding a bike
A report to the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust

Patrick Morgan
Cycling Advocates Network,
December 2011

caption: Children riding home from school, Assen, the Netherlands
Photo gallery on Flickr

With assistance from the WCMT I studied cycle training programmes in the UK, Denmark, Netherlands and USA in September and October 2011. I met cycle skills trainers, planners, media and advocates.

My goal is to lift the standard of cycle training in New Zealand. Specifically, to acquire further skills, contacts and experience and then apply these in New Zealand to improve delivery of cycle training, through my work with Cycling Advocates Network.

Professional cycle training will lift the standard of on-road cycling in New Zealand.

The benefits of more trained cyclists making more trips include:
- confident and independent children
- healthier people
- less burden on the health system
- more disposable income
- pollution reduction
- less traffic congestion
- less reliance on imported fuel
- crash reduction
- more transport choices
- freeing up mum and dad from taxi-ing the kids all over town

NZ Transport Agency reports the health benefits alone are at least $1.40 per km cycled.

Cycle training makes a positive difference. A survey by Cycle Training UK suggest that 80% of trainees felt the training made them more confident, leading to a 50% increase in the number of journeys made of over 5 km, and a greater number prepared to cycle all year round.

Research from the London Borough of Tower Hamlets showed that cycle training is effective at getting more people riding more often.

What I learned

We all win when more people ride bikes, more often.
Places with lots of people cycling enjoy multiple benefits: healthy people, clean air, more disposable income, less traffic congestion, safer and more attractive streets.

New Zealand is missing out on these benefits due to relatively low levels of cycling.

Infrastructure is more important than cycle training.
While cycle training is helpful, the most important factor is how attractive and convenient streets are for cycling.

Parents are unlikely to permit their children to ride if the roads are perceived as unsafe. To quote cycling advocate Gil Penelosa, the test for cycling infrastructure is, "Would you let your 8-year old ride there?"

The Dutch aren't more skilled cyclists than New Zealanders: their infrastructure is so good that it tolerates human error.

There's safety In numbers
The safest cycling countries are those with a high modal share - the ‘safety in numbers' principle. Cycling is increasing in New Zealand, but not nearly as much or as fast as other places.

Simply put, successful cycling places have fewer barriers to cycling.

You get the infrastructure you pay for.
There's not much to learn from UK and USA, where cycling mode share is about 1-3%. The best lessons come from Denmark and Netherlands, where in many cities cycling mode share is 20-40%.

David Hembrow says, "To reach these levels and reap the benefits, cycling has to be not just safe, but comfortable. That means reallocating road space, slower traffic speeds, mix of off and on-road cycling facilities, quality parking, training, education and bike-friendly laws.

How is this possible? The good news is that it's cheaper to do all this than not do it.

You save the health costs of sedentary lifestyles (heart disease, cancer, depression); you save on fuel bills; congestion is eased, air and water is cleaner; lower road bills; and people are happier and less stressed."

More at Making Cycling Irresistible: Lessons from The Netherlands, Denmark and Germany by John Pucher and Ralph Buehlera.


Copenhagenize Consulting
Petter Brandberg/PTTR, Copenhagen,
Niels Torslov, Copenhagen City Council
Danish Cyclists' Federation

The Netherlands
David Hembrow, Assen, Netherlands,

United Kingdom
David Dansky, Cycle Training UK
Greg Woodford, Senior Cycle Training Officer, CTC (UK National cyclists' organisation)
Paul Robison, Cambridge
Rob King, Outspoken Training, Cambridge
Ealing Cycling Campaign, London
Patrick Field, London School of Cycling
Jack Thurston and Jen Kerrison, The Bike Show, Resonance FM
Bicycle Film Festival, London

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
Campus Bicycle Coordinator, University of California, Davis, CA
City of Davis
United States Bicycle Hall of Fame, Davis, CA

Media coverage
I was interviewed by National Radio's Bryan Crump.
and by The Bike Show's Jack Thurston, starting at 18 minutes|
DIA's Community Matters magazine, issue 39 Spring 2011
Cycling to Europe
, The Wellingtonian, 29 April 2011

Around the World in 80 slides presentations have been made to Hutt Cycle Network, Wellington Region Active Transport Forum, Hutt Valley Tramping Club, Victoria University landscape architecture students, and to Cycle Aware Wellington. I also presented at a webinar to local councils, engineers and cycling advocates.

to the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, Cycling Advocates Network, Ground Effect, and friends and family who supported this trip.