Incenting Behavior Change

Remember the old advertising jingle, “I’d like to buy the world a coke…”, well how about a new version: “I’d like to buy the world a bike…”

Here’s a success story from the Rogue Valley on getting folks to change their transportation patterns.

In April of 2005, fifteen courageous Rogue Valley citizens committed to giving up their car-dependent lifestyles for a bicycle, a Breezer Bicycle outfitted with full commuter accessories to be exact. Now, one year later, we are seeing the impact that a simple bicycle can have on reducing the number of trips taken by car.

Take Beth Farley for example, Beth lives less than one mile from the Public Library where she works 5 days a week. Beth would drive to work everyday and decided it was time for a new way of life, she applied to the Bike First! program and now bicycles to work everyday, rain or shine. Beth has said that she feels ‘absolutely ridiculous’ driving to work with such a short trip. For Shauna Farmer, mother of two, using the Burley trailor took getting used to but now her kids profusely object when they are faced with taking a trip by car, they would prefer going by bike and soon her oldest will be joining Shauna on his own bike. And for Don Walton, he accomplished the ultimate goal by selling his car! He has moved closer to work and walks everyday and then uses the Breezer for longer trips.

Of course we do not all succeed when posed with this sort of challenge, but all together 12 of the 15 participants accomplished the Bike First! program goals by reducing more than half of their car trips for a total of 7,819 Vehicle Miles Reduced!

One of the major findings of this program- through all the odometer readings, quarterly phone calls and surveys and the media that would pop up once once in awhile- was that community and family support is key to any bicyclists success. The support Lynn Campbell received from her fellow employees for example, co-workers who themsleves applied for the program, was essential to Lynn sticking with it and she even inspired others to join her. For Mary Ellen Deluca, whose husband has been cycling to work for more than a decade, she was mentored by him each day.

Family planning is also an important factor in this support network…if they are not willing to accommodate new schedules and different ways of getting around, then the chances of sticking with it are slim. For Lorna McIver this was the case, her husband did not want to purchase a bicycle rack for their car and their exchange student refused to walk or cycle to school. A tough situation but she still brought herself to cycling over 400 miles this past year.

Not surpisingly, the proper facilities: bicycle lanes, signage, etc. was a boon for some and a bust for others. A hard lesson that every cyclist learns is what places to avoid due to a lack of these facilities. It took the participants about 3 months before they found a route they could tolerate at a minimum and for a lucky few, enjoy. With or without a ‘safe route’ the majority became part of the traffic, except their vehicle was a fun, healthy and zero emission way to get around.

I would like to thank Chris and Gwen Haynes, owners of Sims Cycle and Fitness who provided an enormous amount of staff resources and commitment to the program. Also, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance for providing a Bicycle 101 course, the Siskiyou Velo Club for the free membership, Chamonix for the helmet and Specialized for the odometer computer and especially to Joe Breeze for your strong commitment to increasing bicycling world wide.

Looking forward to the Rogue Valley Bike First! 2007!

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