Saturday, 12 November 2016

Words Of Encouragement

"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

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.


  1. I do wonder if this approach (encouragement) is a very UK-centric approach, filed alongside 'the carrot and the stick' to try and cover our usual half-arsed approach to problems.

    My limited knowledge of them (the D*tch) suggests their modal shift was entirely a matter of 'carrot', or enabling. If 'the stick' was employed it was only by way of making certain journeys longer and more convoluted by car; no fines, no taxes on poor behaviour or other punitive measures we would undoubtedly resort to. It was simply about letting human beings make their own informed decisions by giving them a rational choice of transport modes. Right now, in most of the UK, that choice is unavailable and so the inherently weak approaches of 'encouragement' or 'carrot and stick' - a bacon roll versus workplace parking charges (which, whatever their aim, come across as just more LA venality) - is all we have.


  2. Remember that heroin video I sent you on twitter, how legal that is in Canada? I think it's somewhat related. You don't OD or get a disease or fund criminals while you get medical grade stuff until you learn via the counseling and help programs they have to live without the addiction. It's your choice when you might quit, but until you do, at least you're not dead and Sinola Cartel doesn't get an extra pence off of you. It's actually why I'm in favor of legalizing even hard drugs.

    Closing a road for a day for a mass ride is nice, but it only works for that day when the traffic lights are able to be irrelevant to your average speed and when other traffic isn't there to intimidate you. Only when you have a Dutch system where the motor traffic is kept away either by being in low volumes or you having your own independent pathway that goes to the same places that the car lanes do that cycling becomes popular, this happens all over the world, Vancouver has lots of cycling where they build protected junctions and cycle tracks, pretty much no cycling where they haven't gotten around to it, NYC has quite a few cyclists, but practically none where there are motor cars if there is no cycle track, London too, CS3 is popular but probably not the high street next to your home Mark. In Assen NL, the shared space makes you feel comfortable when it's the middle of the night or day when there's hardly any traffic but people avoid it or turn to the footway during peak hours when there is traffic. It happens REGARDLESS of who is cycling, where, what their origin, nationality, age, capabilities, etc, are.

  3. Would the bacon roll largely negate the health benefits of the daily commute on a bicycle?