Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.
Eight years ago, Portland Bicycle Coordinator Roger Geller wrote one of the most influential pieces of modern American bike-planning theory when he divided the potential transportation bikers in his city into four distinct groups:
It was an antidote to one of the most common and dubious ways people think about about bicycling: by dividing the world into “cyclists” and “non-cyclists.” Because of course that’s not how things really work. People are constantly choosing whether to use a bicycle for a trip; the fact that most Americans choose not to isn’t so much about their fundamental nature but about their culture, their resources, and their streets.
Geller was just spitballing with the percentages displayed above, but they were more or less validated by subsequent academic research. And though this framework didn’t capture everything — dangerous traffic is far from the only barrier to bicycling — it was a new, deeply useful way of thinking and talking about the ways infrastructure affects our choices.
Here at Green Lane Project HQ, Geller’s concept has been a major force behind our work helping cities build protected bike lanes.
But like Bob Edmiston of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, who has created a useful riff on the concept with a character called Wendy (“the willing but wary cyclist”), we think these phrases are sort of a mouthful for people outside the world of bike pros. And we also think they don’t fully capture how much is at stake on our city streets.
So we’ve been looking for a new way to capture the concept.