2016 Measure B is about to enter a new chapter. After being passed by the voters and subsequently held up in court, VTA has been given the go-ahead. It’s time to build some bike projects!
One of the components of the 2016 Measure B is a set-aside for “education and encouragement”. These are programs that get folks to ride a bike, like Safe Routes to Schools funding or bike education. While the vast majority of Measure B funding will go towards bricks and mortar projects, the education and encouragement pot of funding is geared towards the human side. It recognizes that even if we build gold-plated bike lanes, because people have been raised to drive, we still need to work on winning them over to the bicycle.
The education and encouragement funds are being divvied up and given to each of the cities in Santa Clara County and that’s where SVBC comes in. Cities, as you determine how to spend your Measure B education and encouragement funds, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us here at the Coalition for advice. It’s our job, our mission, to be expert on how to get people riding a bike.
How to do that is the question that we at the Bike Coalition grapple with every day. How do you take a person who was raised to look forward to the day they could get their drivers license, a person taught to see car ownership as a status symbol, a person who needs to look good when they get where they are going… How do you convince that person, most of us, to ride a bike when everything society tells us to do is the opposite?
There are many answers to this question, answers that SVBC tests out every day. As cities determine how to prioritize the expenditure of 2016 Measure B funds, SVBC offer the following approach.
SVBC’s strategy for behavior change hinges on two avenues:
We believe that in order to change the future, we must start with kids. Therefore, we support, implement, and advocate for more funding of effective Safe Routes to Schools programs. The best programs are not a one and done approach like a 45 minutes to talk about how to ride a bike safely. Effective SRTS programs are comprehensive, ongoing, and include things like:
- Frequent bike rodeos with on-bike education
- In-class education and reminders
- Parental involvement
- Walk and roll days
- Incentives for parents to walk or bike their kids to school including organized walk/bikepools
- Disincentives for parents who drive
- Rewards for kids who walk and ride
- Benchmarking, monitoring and tracking ridership
Through our schools and kids, safe routes to schools programs interrupt conventional transportation behavior. They create sustainable transportation habits early in a child’s life that can have a lasting impact. And, the kids might even get their parents to start riding too!
SVBC also invests heavily in working with employers. Like schools, employers have the ability to influence employee behavior through incentives and programs whether related to health care or a more basic restriction on car parking. By encouraging bike commuting, employers can serve that important role of normalizing pedal power over the car. Programs that SVBC promotes and is involved in include:
- Bike to Work Day, the one time of the year where thousand of newbies are welcomed into the bike commuting world.
- Incentives to employees like bike fix-it clinics at work, cash incentives, and subsidies to purchase an ebike.
- Bike buddies are a top request of folks who are on the cusp of riding. Some employers have created bike champions, folks who are dedicated to answer questions and support those who are bike-curious.
- Bikepools are also a tool that we use to get more folks riding to work. In fact, if you commute to jobs in North San Jose and want companionship, meet at Bel Bacio at 7:30am on Wednesdays, grab a cup of coffee, and then ride to work with others.
- Commute workshops at worksites to help folks understand how to get ready to start riding a bike to work.
There are many other ways that cities can spend the 2016 Measure B education and encouragement funds including:
- Hosting fun bike rides that show people how to ride safely to common destinations, like the library.
- Providing basic bike safety education for those who don’t yet feel super confident about riding a bike. This also includes education for folks who don’t know how to ride a bike.
- Providing bike parking at city-run festivals and events and encourage people to ride (to the farmer’s market, for example).
- Offering a way to access safe bike routes when determining a route. (SVBC provides this through what we call “Bike Route Scouts.”)
Notice what is not listed here. What is not listed are snazzy but nebulous marketing campaigns that promise to “educate” through cool posters, well-researched messages and the promise of viral videos that never get past go. While broad-based marketing and messaging can help reshape cultural norms, we believe a better use of finite resources are things that can be measured with proven results. We’re talking about radical behavioral change that takes labor-intensive handholding from fellow peers and institutions.
For someone who has not yet been exposed to the joy of riding a bicycle, a car is really cool. The auto-centric amongst us just don’t know any better. But those of us who ride a bike for every day use know how fun it can be to live by bike. The question is, how do we get all those people driving to experience that joy, especially when so much of the day-to-day is complicated with things like kid drop off, the fast pace of every day life, and the inability to have the brain space to try to figure out a different way of getting around?
We’re attempting to change behavior with the deck stacked way against us. This is the challenge SVBC is built to tackle and is why we are thrilled cities are now better resourced to help tackle this question. We look forward to working with cities in Santa Clara County to make sure those funds are spent in a way that achieves lasting behavioral change and as a result, solves many of our problems through the bicycle.