This interesting research from Vancouver, Canada (PDF file) studies the influences and motivators of teens who ride their bicycles to school.
Vancouver teenagers who were old enough to drive but regularly cycled to secondary school were interviewed in this study. The participants began cycling by themselves around the age of ten because it afforded independence, fun, speed and time efficiency. Their parents resisted habitual chauffeuring and modeled bicycle use for recreation and transportation. The participants continued cycling throughout their mid-teen years because those early motivators—along with fitness and health—were stronger than negative comments from peers. They rode neither new nor expensive bikes, and considered bicycle “advocacy” to be too aggressive to be directed at their peers. However, rigorous tactics to encourage friends to cycle indicated that friends of current cyclists are an important target in bicycle promotion at secondary schools.
Some notable conclusions from the study authors include these observations:
This study suggests that promoting cycling may show greater potential with teenagers than working to dismantle barriers to cycling.
With independence and self-empowerment identified as significant benefits of cycling, the promotion of cycling in secondary schools should rather focus on creative strategies that enhance youth involvement.
A parent who rides a bicycle for local errands, family bike rides, or the commute to work is modeling the bicycle as a viable, alternative transportation option for their children. Furthermore, judicious refusals to chauffeur daughters and sons to nearby destinations, despite real or perceived peer pressure to be “good parents” can reinforce youths’ new-found independence of bicycle transportation.
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Interesting study. I'm glad they chose Vancouver instead of my son's high school, where researchers would have found no one to interview. Zero. No one rides a bicycle to school. Zero. The biggest segment commutes by Metro bus.