"Encourage"; what does that word mean to you? It could mean a lot of things and so in this week's post, I have had a little think about how it is used in an active transport context.
Google the word and you get plenty of definitions;
give support, confidence, or hope to (someone)
persuade (someone) to do or continue to do something by giving support and advice
stimulate the development of (an activity, state, or belief)
to make someone more likely to do something, or to make something more likely to happen
to talk or behave in a way that gives someone confidence to do something
The word comes up all the time in transport talk, whether it's to encourage people to cycle to work, to encourage children to walk to school, to encourage the update of electric vehicles, or free parking to encourage people to use their local shops.
We often bribe people to change their behaviour, whether it's a free bacon roll to encourage people to cycle to work on one day a year, give them a discount on the purchase of an electric vehicle, or give a schoolchild a badge for walking once a week. We sometimes give one to one training to change people's behaviour such as cycle training or we give one to one support such as personal travel planning. We also use advertising to ask people to "share the road", not to drink and drive or wear reflective clothes when walking at night.
I'm not saying encouragement is a bad thing, but from an active transport point of view, it always seems to be a way of either teaching people to cope with traffic, to give drivers a get out or geared to making an event day or week a "success". I mean, would a bacon roll really tempt you onto a bike for your daily commute?
For me, it's like the whole "give a man a fish and he can feed himself for a day" proverb as it leaves you wondering about the next day, or the next month. It is all very well getting people to put up with the conditions through training, special events and marketing, but a different matter to keep them coming back when it's cold, dark and wet.
I prefer to focus on the word "enable" as it's more tangible and long term. "Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime" doesn't even cut it, I want people to simply be able to grab a fish when they want; and this is only possible with changes to how our streets are designed, built and managed.
Enable means that nobody needs to be taught to cope, to be induced or to be rewarded as the infrastructure simply allows people to change their behaviour to travel actively as it's easy. Enabling is a mass-action treatment. As for the bacon roll? Open a cargobike base cafe along a protected main road track, you'll do a roaring trade.