Jolisa from our good friends at Bike Auckland and I decided to both do cross posts on AT’s active transport mode survey results. Here’s their take.

The 2016 AT Active Modes survey is full of good cycling news, as already noted by Matt. Just to recap: firstly, more people are riding bikes. Apparently we can thank the ‘considerers’ for this: folk who were once merely bike-curious are sliding over comfortably into the category of ‘occasional’ riders.

2014-16 behaviour framework

Also, over the last two years, the percentage of people biking once a week or more has doubled, from 6% to 13%. And nearly one in three Aucklanders has jumped on a bike at some point in the past year – compared to one in five in 2014. That’s significant.

2014-16 cycling behaviour

So what’s going on in people’s minds to make biking more attractive? You might remember that last year’s survey floated a theory that traditional demographic factors (blokes on bikes) might be putting ordinary people off riding bikes – complete with a scary photo of MAMILs having coffee.

After we took a closer look at the survey it became clear the spectre of these happy coffee-drinking Tour d’Aucklanders was a big shiny red herring, and that you could in fact see recreational riding (by all kinds of people, in all kinds of clothes) as an incubator for everyday cycling.

This year’s survey reiterates that most Aucklanders who cycle do so for ‘recreation and fitness’, but I’m curious: doesn’t pretty much every bike ride fit into that category? If I do my errands by bike rather than by car, I might well describe that as a trip for purposes of recreation and fitness, with the nice side effect of getting things done.

In any case, it’s good to see that bike trips for shopping, work, education and to public transport are edging up too.

2014-16 cycling trips

Extrapolating the percentages to numbers gives us this pleasing picture:

The survey then moves on to thinking about trips, with the goal of converting a few car trips a week to walking or cycling, to take pressure off the roads. (Bring back carless days! But in a fun way, like PokemonGo). As Matt pointed out, this is where things go a bit haywire and downright binary in the assumption department.

People were asked if they could maybe make some regular trips by bike or on foot, and these were their quite promising responses:

  • 29% reckoned they could reasonably bike to work
  • 10% could walk to work
  • 38% could bike to the shops
  • 24% could walk to the shops

… but don’t. Yet.

So there’s tons of potential there. Which the survey interprets thus:

Wait, what? Even though even more people reckoned they could reasonably bike to work and go shopping by bike than do either on foot… the survey compilers leap to the conclusion that bikes are for work trips and walking is for shopping, and never the twain shall meet.

This doesn’t map onto the actual lived experience of anyone I know who’s ever biked to work. It’s a rare trip that doesn’t involve grabbing at least a bottle of milk on the way home. It’s like they’ve never even heard of quaxing. Or seen a bike basket.

And now we come to the bit that really made me smile. No, really.

This one does map onto actual lived experience. The more you bike, the more you freaking love it – like a grinning, joyful loon – and the more the grumps go away. It’s true. Bikes help you shed the monster!

The survey compilers make the case that AT could help more Aucklanders along that path to joyfully biking to work by (a) removing perceived barriers, so people feel encouraged to give it a go – while also (b) emphasizing the emotional rewards of riding a bike.

I’d humbly suggest that quaxing the occasional bottle of milk is also a great place to start. Dust off the ‘recreational’ bike and pop to the dairy. Take the kids. Take the long way home. Next thing you know, you’ll be biking the kids to school and yourself to work and doing it more than once a week and experiencing a radical uptick in joy. It’s science!

Lastly, a bit of good news for AT and its role in a more bikeable Auckland. Of those who’d heard about what AT is doing for walking and cycling, what most stuck in their mind was… new bike lanes and routes. Yes, Aucklanders are paying attention.

And what’s more, they like what they see.

Keep at it, AT. Keep bringing the joy.

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  1. Really keen on cycling, took my bike to school as a kid but gave up around 15 when I couldn’t cycle on the footpath anymore. Something like the GiFlybike would be cool as you can take it on the bus, and it doesn’t look quite as goofy as most other folding bikes – and its far easier to fold. Though, definitely need more infrastructure for cycling in Auckland though before I would consider riding on the road – I’ve seen too many near misses and drama. Unfortunately *most* of the focus for new on-road cycle lanes etc seems to be in central Auckland.

    I don’t really understand why I can’t just cycle on the footpath like I did as a kid/teen – of cause slowly and giving away to pedestrians, as a pedestrian I really don’t mind cyclists on the foot path as long as they give way to me and don’t go too fast. Surely its less dangerous to pedestrians than the cars that love to mount the footpath for parking and don’t give away half the time when crossing into a driveway.

    The other thing is the damned goofy helmets…

    1. “I don’t really understand why I can’t just cycle on the footpath like I did as a kid/teen”

      You’re safer on the road. Motorists don’t expect gayer moving bikes on the footpath and are bad enough at noticing slow moving pedestrians.

      1. i cant see why somebody cant cycle at walking pace on the footpath tbh. its not against the law for somebody to sprint along the footpath afaik and for people fitter than myself im sure they could break 15km/h for periods of time.

        1. A 10km/h or similar speed limit for cycling on the footpath could work quite well perhaps. Although I’m sure the usual crowd will bring up how high-speed cyclists love riding on the footpath and trying to mow down little-old-ladies

          IMHO the NZ traffic laws really need to get more explicit with some “not a car” rules to enable things like bikes, push-scooters and the like to do stuff that like going on footpaths, cross on pedestrian signals, turning left on red lights etc (YMMV) that cars shouldn’t do.

          1. Many of these things (footpath riding, left turn on red, etc) currently being researched by various parties for NZTA (including my own firm) – watch this space

          2. I don’t know exactly who the usual crowd is, but there are actually lots of people who struggle to walk, and some cyclists don’t bother giving way to people walking. My mother-in-law had an example when they were staying here recently where she was only just able to stay on her feet. She is not very stable and would have serious problems if she fell over. Apparently some kids came past on cycles on the footpath and just about knocked off her feet.

            This is not to say I am against cycling on the footpath, it just has to be done in such a way that you give way to pedestrians. But you can’t simply dismiss concerns about little old ladies being knocked over. It’s a very real problem.

            My wife pretty much refuses to walk on shared paths because she doesn’t trust cyclists. Even more so now we have a toddler who is unpredictable.

            Ideally what I would like to see is separate infrastructure for cyclists and walkers.

            And yes, I am a cyclist.

          3. Yes, old people, when knocked over, may never recover from that anymore.

            I guess this idea goes onto that pile of other ideas which will work overseas, but not in NZ, thanks to how rude Kiwis are on the road.

    2. Deciding where to cycle – road or footpath – depends for me on where I am and also who I am cycling with. While I am content to ride on the road in most places, my wife isn’t. And many roads aren’t suitable for my 9 year old. In those circumstances, the footpath becomes the ‘go to’.

    1. Probably 3% or so for a single comparison around the 50% mark.

      However, the direction of change is consistently the same direction across subcategories and across similar questions. This is not what you’d expect if it was due to sampling error, which you’d presume would be a generally random direction. i.e. I doubt there is a type ‘S’ (sign) error here.

      An increase would also make sense for this given what we know outside the sample – e.g. the increase in infrastructure is ofcourse going to get more people cycling + walking. We already knew an increase was likely to be there: the survey helps quantify the increase, and gives confidence that it is due to the reasons we think it is.

  2. Given the millions of dollars we’ve thrown into cycling to get people cycling these numbers are about par at best.

    Given all these supposed new cyclists it’s amazing how long it’s taken the cycle counter in downtown to click over to 30,000 clicks. Also bare in mind that figure includes anything passing it and I’ve even heard evidence that buses going past on the road are triggering a cycle trip!

    1. Given the FEW millions we’ve thrown at cycleways, compared with the many billions we’ve spent on roading for decades, the current level of cycling is not surprising at all… You’ll notice that the few places that have proportionately spent a bit more on cycling in the last couple of decades (e.g Christchurch, Nelson) have actually managed to get their cycling up to nearly 10% commuting – and it’s still a drop in the ocean of their total transport spend.

        1. I don’t have a view on the truthfulness of TRM’s statement.

          I am simply having a laugh at TRM’s use of the word “evidence”. Call me a pedant if you will, but hearsay is probably the last thing I would call “evidence”.

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