An ongoing “bike backlash” and “war on cars” pushed by the local media, biking as a wedge-issue in political campaigns, fear from politicians about doing “too much” for bikes — sounds like Portland right? Well, Seattle (not to mention New York City and many others) suffers from the same illusion. Now, a new survey commissioned by Seattle’s Cascade Bicycle Club could help tamp down this pervasive — yet false — narrative.
According to a memo (PDF) about the survey from public opinion research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, the results provide, “absolutely no evidence of widespread anti-cycling sentiment in Seattle.” The memo goes on to explain that (among other things) 78% of those surveyed ride a bike at least once a year, 45% ride monthly, and 60% say they’d like to ride more*.
While the perception of people who ride bikes has become the butt of jokes, the Seattle survey found that people, “overwhelmingly report positive feelings towards the City’s bicyclists.” 78% say they have a “favorable opinion” of people who ride bikes, including 38% who said “very favorable” (just 19% said their opinions of people who ride are “unfavorable”).
“These findings provide strong evidence that the “bikelash” occasionally touted in the media is sentiment shared by only a small minority of voters, and dismissed out of hand by the majority.”
— Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates
The survey — which was completed via a phone survey of 400 registered voters — also asked about infrastructure investments. A whopping 59% of respondents said they support investing in giving people more transportation choices, “even if it means replacing some lanes on our roads and removing some on-street parking for protected bikeways.” And a majority (53%) said they support protected bike routes that connect the city.
And that “war on cars” we hear so much about? 51% of those surveyed said they don’t believe the hype.
If you’re wondering why so many people support protected bike lanes and redesigning streets to make room for them; it’s likely because even people who mostly drive get nervous with bike riders so close. No one wants to collide with another road user. This stress often leads to anger (road rage) and hard feelings, but it comes from a place of concern that is shared by people on both sides of the windshield.
Here in Portland, no politicians are silly enough to be blatantly anti-bike. However, because of the fake controversies and over-politicization of bicycles during the Sam Adams era, bicycling suffers from a bit of an image problem. I’d love to see results of a similar survey taken in Portland.
•The survey has a margin of sampling error of +/-4.9%