Barriers to Biking

Even though I love bikes and biking, and I’m a huge advocate for biking, sometimes I make excuses to avoid climbing on my bike. Sometimes it’s raining, or there’s too much snow on the ground. Sometimes my bike has a flat that I haven’t gotten around to fixing. Sometimes I’m just running really late. Sometimes I don’t want to face the traffic on Franklin, or the Greenway at night. Everyone has different reasons for making the decision to bike or not to bike.

As part of my research for the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition this summer, I set out to discover what keeps people from biking. Overcoming these barriers is key to determining what initiatives would most help people start to bike, and will help people who already bike do so more frequently. I partnered with Lindsey Wallace, bike blogger (bikinginmpls.com) and community health researcher, on this project.

Here are the major barriers to biking across our research:

  • Access to bikes:
    • Cost
    • Lack of expertise around bike purchasing decision-making
    • Fear of bikes getting stolen
    • Maintenance - fear that a bike will break down while riding, won't know how to fix it

  • Physical environment:
    • Weather
    • Distance and difficulty of route, especially hilliness
    • Lack of bicycle infrastructure
    • Lack of end-of-route amenities

  • Safety:
    • Traffic
    • Crime
    • Sexual harassment, especially for women
    • Detainment or profiling, especially for communities of color
    • Perception that bikers are dangerous and unpredictable 

  • Lack of access to the planning process for infrastructure or amenities in neighborhoods

  • Cultural barriers:
    • Seeing biking as not for their community - for example, biking is difficult for many East African women, with long skirts and hijab it is difficult to ride comfortably and safely
    • Perception of biking as a male activity
    • Perception that bikers are white and affluent
    • Perception of bikes as signs of poverty

  • Social barriers
    • Not having other people to ride with

It’s important to note that some of these barriers affect groups of people disproportionately. Women, for example, are more likely to be concerned about safety from crime or sexual harassment. Safety concerns are even greater when women travel with children. These barriers also disproportionately affect communities of color, where bike infrastructure is less prevalent, and biking isn’t normalized as a mode of transportation. Lack of access to the planning process is also a key barrier for low-income communities and communities of color.

All in all, making the decision to bike is pretty easy for me. I’m privileged to be able to make that decision so easily. I own a bike, have a secure place to store it and lock it up, know how to fix minor problems with it. I live on a street with a bike lane, not far from the Midtown Greenway and other bike amenities. Most of the places I go for groceries, dining, or work are within biking distance. 

What do you think of this list of barriers? Any to add? What can the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition do to encourage biking and address some of these barriers?

Stay tuned for a list of our sources and other bike equity readings and resources! 

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  • commented 2015-09-11 22:06:04 -0500
    Time. Sometimes other modes can be faster.

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