My wife has been pushing me to look for the silver lining during all of this. Honestly, if I don’t read the news then it isn’t hard to do.
People are turning to biking in a big way during this as it is one of the few family activities that we can do together outside during social isolation. Streets are being shut down to give people more room to bike and walk. People that have NEVER thought about biking have reached out to me with questions, and my inbox is exploding with people wanting help.
Just as our states have started to talk about the next phase of our COVID response, I hope the bike industry and bike advocates are thinking about keeping all these people on their bikes after social distancing is lifted.
Ideas I’ve Had to Encourage Continued Cycling
Encourage bikes for transport. Online classes, more how-to articles and videos, increased promotion from workplaces, city governments, bike advocacy groups, and bike shops. We MUST actively have efforts set up to continue this as THE way that makes the most sense to get to work for dense areas.
Empower people with their current bikes. People have lost jobs, the money will be tight, and the power of a bicycle in their shed or deck is the strongest as it EVER will be in our lifetime. How can we help people learn how to do basic maintenance, learn bike routes to get around, and rely less on the money-sucking car system.
Funding for Large Media and Advertising Strategies. I worked in automotive marketing for years. There is a lot of money being spent there from high-level brand marketing, down to regional and local media buys that are brainwashing you every single day. How can the industry come together to increase our awareness more than ever? This would include a marketing strategy about selling the lifestyle of different types of biking (not one size fits all) to the masses. How would we fund it? I see two parts, initially, a lot of our bike advocacy groups need to take up this work. As cycling spend increases we need to take a % of each bike to fund 1. advertising and 2. lobbying. More thoughts on this later this week.
How can we keep more sections of streets closed, even on the weekends for the unforeseen future?
Documenting the Financial Impacts of Cars
I would love to hear from more people how much car culture costs them. Add up the cost of the car divided by how long you have owned it, and insurance – what is that cost per day? Add parking costs, and then the gas price per different types of travel. For example, we have a mini-van that costs us currently $16 per day based on how long we have owned it (you could also divide your monthly payment here) and insurance. Then add in cost per mile for gas (I plan on making a more complete formula to include service costs of tires, tune-ups, etc as the data is out there.)
A trip to Costco costs $2 in gas, this is lower than normal due to the plunging cost of gas. So the cost of using my car for a day around town is $16-20 depending on how far I drive it. We need to be telling these stories. How can we help free up $100-800 a month from car ownership (or even worse, car leases)?!
I plan on working on this data a bit more and doing the same calculator for bike ownership.
Steps We Could All Take
Think about biking as a social norm. What daily things can you do by bike? Think of it as a mental health exercise AND breaking that car hold that is on you.
Focus on storytelling. Most of us are (hopefully) not going on those epic bike rides but instead we are searching for new routes on city streets or local bike paths. Document and share on social media the small wins that biking is bringing to your life!
Learn bike service and skills. The more confident you feel with your ability to change that flat tire, navigate city streets, or read a map, the more likely you are to explore.
This could be the bike boom of our lifetime if we all spread the word about the bike and put some energy behind key steps in making this freedom machine a social norm just as grabbing your car keys to run to the store less than 2 miles from your house feels.