Roger Geller (Portland USA), Alistair Woodward (Auckland) and Hank Weiss (Otago) interview notes

Notes from interviews on National Radio, 26 February 2012

Roger Geller

Key messages:

1. Build it, they will come.
2. Find a political champion
3. Start with what you have, and keep going. After 15 years you could have a decent network.
4. Start with low-hanging fruit e.g. create roadspace for bike lanes by narrowing wide traffic lanes.

Portland: 6% mode share cycling in Portland overall, 10% inner city. Population 580,000 350km2 area.

Not due to a single effort, but political leadership particularly important. Key factors: "build it and they will come" - cycling spreads through facilities but also word of mouth as people experience riding.

Network of cycle lanes needs to be extensive, taking people to places they want to go.

Good integration with public transport- racks on buses and streetcars.

Limit parking where projects are built, in order to buffer cycle lanes. But generally easier to reduce lane width of or remove travel lanes to facilitate installation of cycle lanes.

Early resistance was met, but over time more people grew to accept cycling in town - both increasing cyclist numbers and motorists' understanding of cyclists' using roads.

Bicycle boulevards - no cycle lanes, but low speed (30km) and low traffic volume (under 1000 vehicles) with preferential use for cyclists.

Increased walking and biking to school for children - eg. biking school bus, parents and children together on safe routes.

Economic benefits: Portland region averages 7km less driving per day per person saving $1.2 billion per year, leaving $800,000,000 spent in the local business community.

Copenhagen residents are saving 25c - $1 per kilometre cycled due to health benefits.

Portland has not relied exclusively on engineering - largely also education and encouragement through marketing cycling as a healthy cheap alternative. Make sure people riding have a pleasant experience when they ride.

You want to make it as easy as possible for people to just get on their bike, ie. mandatory helmet use could be prohibitive to this.

Alistair Woodward
In NZ, a 5% shift of car to bicycle use in 7km or less would result in $200m savings and save 100 lives a year.

In relation to mortality increase in cycling (4-5) local air pollution reduction would reduce deaths by a similar amount, and 120 deaths through bad health due to inactivity (eg, heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes).

Mental health benefits also to be taken into consideration - physical activity reduces depression and mental health.

Safety in numbers - eg Auckland has both lowest cyclist rate and highest injury rate, whereas Nelson has highest cycling rate and lowest injury rate.

Must not only encourage cycling, but also accompany this with increased infrastructure to facilitate increased cycling.

Hank Weiss
Vulnerable road user protection law - Careless use of a motor vehicle isn't picked up until after an accident, whereas dangerous activity (drunk driving, speeding) is often caught before an accident. Therefore it can be difficult to police this type of driving.

Reduction in perception of danger (ie increasing safety) is of primary importance in increasing cyclist numbers.

Source: Ideas for 26 February 2012
In Ideas today, we look at the economic and health benefits of creating cycle and walking friendly cities.


The Field of Dreams Mentality: Why it takes more than good infrastructure to change our travel behaviour

By Jonathan Daly, Behaviour Change Consultant

Weʼve all heard "build it and they will come". Indeed it is a line that is oft quoted in the bicycling community as a way to get more people riding bicycles. However, I find myself constantly pointing out that this is a quote from a 1989 fictional film (The Field of Dreams) starring Kevin Costner who played the role of an Iowa farmer who heard voices telling him to build a baseball ground in his fields and they will come. The "they" refers to the ghosts of legendary baseball players. What on earth has this to do with getting more people on bikes? People love a simple solution, especially when it comes gift wrapped in a catchy turn of phrase like "build it and they willcome".

So, by this reckoning, all we need to do is to build bicycle infrastructure and the problem will be solved. Well consider this, if that was the case how come most cities only have 1-2% of people riding bicycles? You could argue that in most cities the infrastructure is inadequate and doesnʼt really amount to anetwork. I accept that this is a barrier but consider the Spanish city of Seville.In the last five years the city has constructed a connected network of over 200km of separated cycleways. In this period they have experienced a growth in trips by bicycle of 6.4% from a base of 0.2%. There is no doubt that is impressive but the fact is that we are still talking about significantly less than 1 trip in 10 being undertaken by bicycle.

So what are we missing?