When trying to encourage more people to cycle, it’s helpful to “know your audience”. There’s an interesting theory that was developed in Portland, Oregon, to help understand who might want to cycle for transportation. Its intuitive logic has been so successful that many other places have also embraced its philosophy when considering their own would-be cycling populations. Some of you may have seen it before, but I think it’s helpful to repeat it here.
The so-called “Four Types” categorisation was first developed in 2005, as the City of Portland began to consider what it would take to dramatically increase bicycle use in Portland. City Bicycle Coordinator Roger Geller (who was out here earlier this year) is credited with having come up with the concept and putting up some numbers that seemed about right (and generally haven’t been contested much since). So here’s how it looks:
- Let’s start with the right-most group first – not able or not interested in cycling; otherwise known as the “No Way, No How” group. These are people who will not in the foreseeable future use a bike for transportation, even given the right conditions (although you may get some of them riding recreationally, perhaps in a mountain-bike park). It is estimated that maybe a third of your population might fall into this category, whether because of their physical limitations, social or cultural issues with cycling, or maybe logistical reasons. Standard travel behaviour theory says ignore this group for now – you have easier fish to fry…
- On to the far left, and that tiny sliver of people are known as the “Strong & Fearless”. This is your archetypal urban road warrior; nothing will stop them cycling from A to B, even if no facilities at all are provided. They are usually relatively immune to traffic concerns and often seem to be typically young and male. This group is probably no more than 1% of your population and that reflects the level of cycling you find even in cities with absolutely no provision for cycling (e.g. many parts of Auckland until recently). I suspect I probably fall into this category, but I realise that I’m not “normal” in that regard; in a former job I used to do things like stand in the middle of a high-speed highway with a survey pole, so traffic doesn’t bother me as much as it does to most people.
- Next over are the “Enthused & Confident”. For this group, some basic concessions of space for cycling will usually keep them happy. So a simple network of on-road cycle lanes (or just adequate shoulders) and intersection treatments will generally sustain this group. The proportion in this category might range between ~6-12%; funnily enough that mirrors what we find in Christchurch, which has historically based a lot of its cycling network on cycle lanes.
- Finally we come to the biggest group – the “Interested but Concerned”. This group wants to ride their bikes, but they have real issues with interacting with motor traffic. So they are looking for options that provide them with SLOW, LOW, or NO traffic, e.g. Vancouver’s separated bikeways and neighbourhood greenways. This desire came through very strongly in last year’s Share an Idea feedback, and reflects the huge untapped potential for people to cycle more if the right conditions are provided.
Since the initial development of the “Four Types” concept, various other groups have assessed it and generally found that it suits their needs too. Subsequent research has also tried to verify the size and nature of these four groups, e.g. this work by Portland State University. Even the recent NZ research on potential cyclists identified similar preferences for separated facilities when cycling.
Do you agree with these categories? Which type of cyclist are you?