October 2015 Common Council – Keep the Interested but Concerned in mind to increase transportation bicycling

My name is Bob Fisch and I am the Chief Bike Fun Officer of Poky Pedaling Stevens Point.

First, I wish to thank the Common Council for voting last month to adopt the Portage County Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan. I appreciate your show of support for improving the biking and walking environment in Stevens Point, thereby encouraging more people to bike and walk for both transportation and recreation.

With regard to increasing transportation bicycling in particular, I feel it is useful to help you understand your largest potential audience.

Bicycle advocacy organizations across the country categorize transportation bicycle riders into four groups. These groups are labeled “Strong and Fearless”, “Enthused and Confident”, “Interested but Concerned”, and “No Way No How”. [See Note 1 and Note 2 below.]

The Strong and Fearless will ride bicycles on any street regardless of vehicle speeds and volumes and the presence or absence of bike lanes.

The Enthused and Confident are comfortable sharing streets with moderate motor vehicle traffic, but prefer to do so using bike lanes.

The Interested but Concerned are attracted to bicycling but are highly fearful of motor vehicle traffic. This fear is not alleviated by standard bike lanes. Few people in this group regularly ride bikes for transportation.

The No Way No How group is not interested at all in using bicycles for transportation.

This categorization is merely a paradigm to understand past success and future potential with regard to increasing transportation bicycling.

The estimated distribution among the total population is as follows [see Note 3 below]:

  • Strong and Fearless: roughly 1%,
  • Enthused and Confident: roughly 7%,
  • Interested but Concerned: roughly 60%,
  • No Way No How: roughly one-third.

These estimates have been vetted against real-life data to show that they approximate reality.

The point of this categorization is that current transportation bicycling success in the US has mainly attracted those from the Strong and Fearless group and the Enthused and Confident group. But no efforts to increase transportation bicycling will get past single digit percentages among the total population without attracting a substantial share of the Interested but Concerned.

To appeal to the Interested but Concerned, we must fix uncomfortable gaps in our bicycling network and otherwise create infrastructure that mitigates fear induced by motor vehicles. Over half of our residents can be persuaded to regularly bicycle for transportation if we can succeed at this.

So as you consider making bicycling better in Stevens Point, always keep the Interested but Concerned in mind. They offer the greatest potential for increasing transportation bicycling.

A transcript of these and my past comments to Common Council, including reference links, can be found on my website, PokyPedalingStevensPoint.org, under the Speak Your Poky menu bar item.

Thank you for listening.

Note 1: This categorization originated in Portland, OR in 2005. Here is the discussion of the “Four Types of Transportation Cyclists” on the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) website:

Here is the original report on the four types of transportation cyclists by Roger Geller of PBOT, which is the source for the above webpage:

Note 2: As for other US bicycle advocacy groups who embrace this categorization of transportation bicycle riders, here is a tiny sampling of content by or about such advocacy groups that reference this categorization, in particular the Interested but Concerned group:

League of American Bicyclists: “Bicycle Friendly America Program Overview” slideshow with several slides elaborating on “Reaching the Interested but Concerned” (PowerPoint download):

People for Bikes: “Here are the First-Ever National Findings about ‘Interested but Concerned’ Bikers”:

“BikeArlington (VA) Encourages the ‘Concerned 60%’ to Get on a Bike”:

A report on the 2013 Colorado Bike Summit: “Reaching out to the ‘interested but concerned 60 percent of bicyclists”:

Hennepin County (MN) Transportation Department Capital Improvement Plan, 2015 Bikeway Participation Program Solicitation Guidelines (Minneapolis is the county seat of Hennepin County): Among the list of Program Criteria and Priorities is the following: “Likelihood of serving people who are ‘interested but concerned’ about bicycling”:

Note 3: According to the original report by Roger Geller (referenced above), the numbers in this distribution are not intended to be precise, explaining why they don’t add to exactly 100%. They are merely ballpark estimates to provide a general idea of the potential for attracting more people to transportation bicycling. Geller’s original report goes into more detail about specific data from a variety of sources that supports these estimates.