The Best Way to Educate People That Bicycling is Desirable

By Dom Nozzi

It is quite common in America to believe that the most important way to convince people of the desirability of a behavior is to educate them. “We need educate people that suburban sprawl is bad.” Or “we need to persuade college students to recycle more.” Or “we need to inform the residents of our town that they should not litter.”

I want to be frank. “Educating” people is an exceptionally poor way to modify human behavior. Indeed, it is quite common for a person who disagrees with a community objective (such as, say, reducing energy consumption) to oppose a new regulation and instead claim that we simply need to “educate” people to do the right thing.

However, if we are honest, we will accept the overwhelming evidence that the best education, by far, to convince people that they should behave in a more socially desirable way is to adjust market prices so that the behavior becomes more rational. As an aside, if adjusting market prices is not feasible or appropriate (for example, a local government is usually unable to modify the price of, say, a barrel of oil from the Middle East), a second-best tactic for modifying behavior is government regulation.

When modifying prices or adopting new regulations are NOT pursued as a way to modify behavior, and “education” is instead the tool used, it is a sign that the community is not serious about achieving the objective.

A frequent question in my profession of transportation planning is the question of how to increase travel by bicycle.

In my (dangerous?) opinion, the most effective way to increase the level of bicycling in a communty is to adjust market prices so that it becomes rational to bicycle.

Sure, it can be a nice idea to point out that bicycling is good for your health. Or reduces air pollution. Or saves money. But almost no one is convinced that they should bicycle when they hear such platitudes. Thinking that such messages are sufficient to increase bicycling, again, is a sign that we are not serious about increasing bicycling.

If we are serious about increasing bicycling, we need to modify price signals.

For example, increase the cost of motor vehicle parking, accept traffic congestion as a way to increase the “time tax,” increase the cost to drive on roads (via electronic road or congestion fees), increase the cost of gasoline (via an increase in the gas tax).

Get serious about modifying behavior in a socially desirable way. Opt for price signals (or regulations). “Education” is a feel good tactic that delivers little, if any, beneficial change in behavior.

_________________________________________________

Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

https://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

My Picasa Photo library

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

My Author spotlight

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

 

 

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Bicycling, Economics, Transportation

One response to “The Best Way to Educate People That Bicycling is Desirable

  1. I’d argue that pricing is already fine for cycling, the problem is the “system” in which cyclists have to operate. In this hostile Ameirca of pro-auto based dependent folks, one needs to build infrastructure to enable cyclists to actually be safe and generally – remove them from traffic.

    As for market pricing, it’d be great if the market price of oil, parking and automobile usage where accurate, then we’d get an even greater price motivation to try other things – and likely based on the empirical evidence over the years as auto usage costs increase, usage would substantially decrease.

    But really, the biggest fixes I’d still staunchly argue would be to remove subsidies on automobile & auto infrastructure and petro fuels. Bikes are already vastly cheaper by several orders of magnitude.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s