Saturday, September 22, 2007

Ride a bike? You must be rich

Image of bicyclist in a suitFrom The Times (London, UK) 09.21.07:

The richer people become the further they cycle, according to official figures overturning conventional wisdom that the bicycle is largely a poor man’s mode of transport.

The richest fifth of the population cycle on average 2.5 times as far in a year as the poorest fifth. The Department for Transport’s National Travel Survey indicates that the poorest fifth, despite being five times less likely to have access to a car, are very unlikely to consider cycling as a solution to their transport needs.

The London Cycling Campaign said that people on higher incomes tended to be better educated about the health benefits of cycling and more concerned with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Studies have shown that regular cyclists typically enjoy a level of fitness equivalent to someone 10 years younger, and those cycling regularly beyond their mid-thirties add two years to their life expectancy.

Cycling groups believe that a lack of education and negative stereotyping of cyclists are the main reasons why poorer people appear unwilling to hop on bikes.

Roger Geffen, the (Cyclists Touring Club’s) policy manager, said "We need to counter the powerful status symbol of the sports car by finding iconic figures to demonstrate that the bicycle can be cool. A few positive role models could have a transformative effect." (Read more.)
I suspect that most readers of this blog are bicycle commuters by choice, not economic necessity. The observations suggested in this article from London are likely equally true in the U.S.: that lower-income workers are more concerned with the immediate personal needs of making a living than with the longer term social hazards of global climate change.

The perceived "status" of driving is also a likely discouragement to low status workers. Car makers strive to create a perception of automobiles as more than a mere transportation vehicle, but as a means of personal empowerment.

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Get rich and gorgeous--and save the planet
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips

2 comments:

matt said...

Jacksonville, FL isn't a bike-friendly town in the grand scheme of things, but my neighborhood is. It's an old historic district, something that was a suburb in the 20's but is now part of the downtown core. There is an interesting mix of yuppies (like I suppose I am), millionaire aristocrats, and the very poor living in huge homes that have been converted to apartments.

There are very obviously two types of cyclists here. Ones like me who own a car, and do it by choice. We have nice bikes that often were purpose built for tooling around the neighborhood, often to work.

Then there are the poor, often on broken-down ancient Wal-Mart bikes, with mismatched tires, no brakes, and non-working derailleurs.

Steve Nordstrom said...

Personal empowerment--I remember feeling that way when I got my first bike when a teenager. Now, only buying an expensive bike that helps me be faster than anyone else empowers me.