Who is the marginal person on a bike?

Looking through the Dill study on the four types of people and their inclination to get on bicycles, it seems as if the respondents were primed to consider safety above other reasons to bicycle. The question I have is whether perception of risk is the most important factor to determine whether people are cycling or not. According to the estimable Hembrow, “If a city makes cycling pleasant, convenient, attractive and safe then more people will cycle, regardless of difficulties…”

Piling on, I question how useful it is to predict the existence of a statistical group that is large and amorphous enough to comprise more than 50% of the population. Remember, the “Interested but Concerned” group in Portland is larger than the entire population of women in that city. Yes, there is value in portraying bicycling just to get around as a practice appealing to a majority of the population, and not just a fringe group. As bicycle advocates, however, we should already believe this.

And further, the study is not longitudinal, to determine whether participants changed their group affiliations over time. Another more general point is that there was no attempt to use factor analysis to break down affiliations in terms of more basic factors (or responses to particular questions).

My question instead is this: Who is the marginal person on a bicycle? What are some of the characteristics of the person who just got in the saddle today?

Thinking about the question of bicycle mode share from this marginal perspective, it occurred to me that Portland’s bike boom might as well be the result of new residents moving in with the intention of moving to a city where they could ride a bicycle every day. This would serve to increase the mode share. After a couple years, I posit, two follow-on effects happened: Portland became more attractive to bohemians of all stripes (credit Portlandia, not just bicycle lovers, reducing the boost to bicycling numbers from new residents, and the people who moved to Portland to ride bikes regressed back to the population mean in terms of their bicycle behavior, getting nicer houses outside of biking distance, or buying automobiles.

Taking the marginal idea further, it would appear from my Portland theory that the marginal bicyclist was for a time most likely to be a new resident. What are some other groups that could become good sources for marginal bicyclists? Off the top of my head, here are a couple possibilities, of varying likelihood.

Parolees and ex-convicts

Senior-center participants

High schoolers

Community college students

New parents

Residents of particular neighborhoods

Workers at certain employers (or city, state employees)

Unemployed people

Library users

Let’s leave the creation and deployment of a marketing campaign to push bicycling to any of these groups for a later time. I believe that readers can visualize the idea of such a campaign and some of its likely results perfectly easily without actually going to the trouble of creating such a campaign.

2 thoughts on “Who is the marginal person on a bike?

  1. Pingback: No Reserve Army of Bicyclists | Jonathan's Secret City

  2. Pingback: Portland Bicycling Plateau | Jonathan's Secret City

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