Over half of UK adults are considered ‘lapsed riders’, but a series of studies developed by HSBC UK and British Cycling has found that small behavioural ‘nudges’ can encourage people to start cycling again.
Julie Harrington, Chief Executive at British Cycling said: “We are all creatures of habit, and this is no different when it comes to riding a bike. Most of us are aware of the many health or environmental benefits that riding a bike brings, but still do not cycle regularly, perhaps because we have concerns about safety or lack confidence when riding on the road. Our partnership with HSBC UK is all about understanding those barriers, breaking them down and getting people back on a bike.”
Working with behavioural experts at New York’s Columbia University, the two organisations looked at how they could get more people to cycle. The Bike Shed studies drew several conclusions.
Researchers found that those who set goals with support from friends or family went on to do 20 per cent more cycling during the following four weeks than those who were not prompted to make a plan.
Visualising yourself as a cyclist also had a significant impact. People provided with a virtual reality headset showing them scenes of being out and about on a bike were 39 per cent more likely to get on a bike again compared to those who viewed a control video.
Perhaps most significantly, when people are reminded of the fun they can have cycling, they get back on their bikes. In registration emails sent out to HSBC UK City Ride attendees, messages appealing to a sense of fun or nostalgia were on average 15 per cent more effective in motivating people to sign up than alternative reasons.
Hale Forster, Behavioural Scientist, Center for Decision Sciences at Columbia University, New York said:
“The Bike Shed studies applied behavioural science insights to real life scenarios to generate evidence on what motivates people to cycle. The results from the first year have been promising so far and the findings contribute to a growing body of evidence that small nudges can help us to achieve our own goals. Because they are simple, these behavioural nudges can be applied at a wide scale fairly easily and quickly.”
Luke Harper, Head of British Cycling Partnership at HSBC UK said:
“The goal we have set with British Cycling to get two million people back on their bike is deliberately ambitious. We know that changing people’s behaviours is tough – especially when it comes to changing long standing habits. The Bike Shed studies launched today are the first of our partnership and they have shown that even the smallest of changes can make a lasting difference to people’s behaviour.
“There’s a cyclist in all of us, it just needs teasing out – primarily through fun, friends and family. This the first step we’re making with British Cycling to inspire people to get back on their bikes to create a greener, fitter and healthier country, and will shape our thinking on how we encourage people to get back on their bikes.”