The third consecutive Birmingham Winter Cycle Challenge has been running for a month. It's a small programme with impressive impact; despite the bitter weather putting some people off initially, participants have potentially saved more than two tonnes of CO2 emissions already:
|Users||Activities||Miles traveled||Calories burned||CO2 emissions saved*|
Just before the programme started, we surveyed more than 200 people in Birmingham. Although the majority owned a bicycle, most of them used it less than once a week. When asked what puts them off cycling, the most common answer was 'cycling is dangerous', though time to do it and the weather were popular reasons too. A few would-be cycle commuters complained there was no provision to store them at work. And one respondent said, 'I stopped cycling to work for a while when I had a job with no shower facilities'.
Birmingham is one of the UK’s Air Quality Management Areas, which are places where there is concern the national air quality objectives may not be achieved. Road traffic, particularly during peak times such as rush hours, is one of the biggest pollutants in the region.
Programmes like the Winter Cycle Challenge are a valuable element in a region's environmental strategy because they balance the stick with the carrot: they give people positive incentives to make changes to the way they travel. Eventually, that new behaviour should become the norm for them, without requiring external incentives.
But perhaps more importantly, they provide valuable insights into travel attitudes and behaviour at both the individual and population levels.
* If each cycle journey replaced a trip in a large car.