Growing the National Bike Challenge in the USA

Why 37,000 people are riding in support of a Bike Friendly America

May is ‘National Bike Month’ in the US. Since 1956, Bike Month celebrates the joys and benefits of riding to encourage even more people to ride. Bike Month also marks the first month of the ‘National Bike Challenge’ which runs from May to September.

Every year, tens of thousands of people across the country take part in the National Bike Challenge to support a Bike Friendly America and see which state, community, business, team, and rider can ride the most. So far over 34,000 people have ridden for the Challenge this year and we’re looking forward to the final count when it’s all finished in September!

The League of American Bicyclists has been promoting Bike Month and the National Bike Challenge for years but in 2018, we partnered with the League to offer the Challenge on our dedicated bike challenge platform. Last year in the Challenge 43,000 people rode nearly 21 million miles – that’s 841 times around the world!

The National Bike Challenge is hugely popular with communities across the country who have traditions for taking part with and competing with each other to see who can ride most locally and to see which community can ride the most in the country.

It’s not just about the (friendly) competition though! By taking part and having fun in the National Bike Challenge, participants are also inspiring others find that old dusty bike hidden in the garage and (re)connect with the joys of cycling. When people begin riding more and driving less, it makes our communities healthier, happier, less polluted, and we can more easily connect with each other and our surroundings.

Community fun

In any cycling challenge, it’s important to reflect local needs and cater to local audiences.

At Love to Ride we’ve been offering custom-made local sites for communities and bike advocacy groups since the beginning. The flexibility with the Love to Ride platform allow communities to have their own custom site which can be flavoured with custom URLs, local leaderboards and custom route info.

2019 is our second National Bike Challenge and we’re super excited to see how far people, workplaces and communities will manage to ride over the summer months as we approach the finale in September – as part of the Global Bike Challenge (see below). We will be supporting everyone on their riding journey, no matter if they haven’t been on a bike for years or if they ride 100 miles a week.

Love to Ride really does have something for everyone.

September is ‘Cycle September – the Global Bike Challenge’

The grand finale in the National Bike Challenge takes place in September, where companies will be encouraged to sign up for the Global Bike Challenge and compete against other businesses across the globe to see which company can encourage most people to ride in the world!

Our most popular program ever

Waaaay back in the beginning, in the early noughties, the New Zealand Transport Authority (NZTA) was one of the very first partners to get behind the Workplace Cycle Challenge concept that gave birth to a social business now known as Love to Ride.

After 15 years of development, and expansion to 12 countries, Love to Ride returned to New Zealand again in 2017 and partnered with the NZTA to launch the ‘Aotearoa Bike Challenge’. 

Having since been delivered three consecutive years, this country-wide event, has now successfully grown into the most popular and successful program of its kind in the world. In 2019 this culminated in a whopping 0.5% of the entire NZ population participating.

This blog explores some of the key features and findings of our most successful cycling encouragement and behaviour change program yet.

The flexibility within the Love to Ride platform allows for regions within a country to localise a site for their area and provide a local flavour to their participants.  New Zealand regions did a particularly great job of this and this type of collaboration is reflected in the below levels of participation.

2% of the working age population of the Greater Christchurch Region (population 396,000) participated in this year’s Love to Ride Aotearoa program.

Mobilising the Choir

Our programs give existing riders the tools and resources they need to encourage the ‘interested but concerned’ would be riders of our communities to give cycling a go.  Across all of our programs globally we see an approximate 1:1 ratio – that is for every regular rider who participates, they encourage a new or occasional rider to participate too.

Women love to ride too – of course we do!

It may come as a surprise to some, in what is largely considered as a male-dominated recreation, but the below gender split graph is typical of what we are seeing in our Love to Ride programs around the world. As a team, we’ve worked hard to buck the gender imbalance trends and it’s refreshing and exciting to see this work paying off in so many more women riding.

It’s also interesting to see that it’s fairly consistent across the regions:

It’s also interesting to note that the major urban centres like Auckland and Wellington, have higher proportions of male riders taking part (~60% male), while the more provincial areas like Northland and Southland have the opposite (~40% male and ~60% female).

Current modes of travel

It may come as no surprise at all that driving alone was the most frequent method of commuting to work at 37%. This was closely followed by travelling by bike at 33%.

By splitting the data into regions, we can also see the greatest opportunity for potential behaviour change with 50% or more participants commuting to work by driving alone in Northland, Southland and Bay of Plenty:

New Zealanders strive to live sustainably

New Zealanders are well known for their commitment to sustainable living and this was reflected in the data when we asked them to tell us what motivated them to ride. 

Living sustainably was the 3rd most important motivator at 33%, followed by 56% for enjoying the outdoors and 88% for improved fitness.

In fact, sustainability was more frequently cited over improved health for most of the regions except Tasman, Nelson & Marlborough and Waikato.

We can also compare the data by region to provide some insight into our communities.  Saving money was more commonly cited in Canterbury as a key motivation (16% of respondents) compared to Northland (7%).

Barriers, real and perceived

Globally, we consistently see weather as a barrier people tell us they face when riding a bike. By understanding what barriers people face, we are able to give them the tools to overcome them and move them along a personal journey of change.

Whether it’s cycle confidence training for those who feel uneasy on the roads, discounts of great wet weather gear for riding in the rain, or a short video on how to fix a flat if the bike is in disrepair, Love to Ride works to break barriers down and, in doing so, open up the many benefits that riding brings.

However, when we deep dive into rider type, we unveil more about what each group perceives as their main barriers.  This information provides real insight into the kinds of interventions we can help facilitate to overcome these hurdles and ultimately change behaviour for the better.

For most of the regions, ‘not feeling confident’ was the main barrier for new riders. This was closely followed or surpassed by ‘not knowing a safe route’.

Auckland and Northland occasional riders cited not knowing a safe route as their main barrier to riding more often – all other regions attributed the weather as their main barrier. This was particularly notable in Wellington where 25% of respondents cited the weather as a barrier to riding or ridng more often.

End of trip facilities – the way to your employee’s heart?

Bad weather is more prominently a key barrier for regular riders largely due to it being one of a few barriers that are outside of our control. It is also the case that many of the other barriers have been whittled down to almost being non-existent, something that comes with time and experience.

Up next

The team at Love to Ride feel an incredible sense of pride having created a program that engaged so many people and through them achieved these results. For me, as a social marketer interested in social impact, it’s exactly these kinds of outcomes that get me excited for the potential for positive change in our cities and our communities globally.

Photo credit: www.andythompsonphoptgraphynz.co.nz

In 2020, we hope to turn the needle even more and take the challenge to new heights.  Mind-blowing!

Can we help you get more people in your community or business riding bikes? Email hello@lovetoride.net or take a peek at partners.lovetoride.net

Sharing Shasta’s Success Story

Healthy Shasta’s Cameron Lievense has a lot of love for Love to Ride.  The 2018 Shasta Bike Challenge was the first year Shasta County, California (population 177,223) partnered with Love to Ride for their May biking challenge and when asked about the experience, Cameron gave us this super review.

Over to you Cameron!

“The 2018 Shasta Bike Challenge was our most successful bike challenge with the most participants we had ever seen. With the new Love to Ride platform, participants found it much easier to sign up and track their rides. By having a customizable tracking platform for Shasta County, we felt our bike challenge had a new professional feel that finally gave us the look we have been wanting to portray to our participants.

Love to Ride participants enjoy a ride on the River Trail.

Participants could engage and encourage other riders, while watching current team and individual rankings on a daily basis which drove competition and excitement. We utilized custom event banners on Love to Ride to promote upcoming activities which impacted our reach as well as attendance. Rules and information were very clear and participants could find all the facts to help them stay engaged and be successful with the challenge. Businesses were also easier to recruit with the pleasing look of the platform made recruitment simple.

Sponsors could be easily recognized, as well as the volunteers and staff behind the challenge.  On the National side, our avid and competitive cyclist got to compete with other riders across the states making a strong motivational factor for riding more. Our County also got the extra inspiration of competing Nationally by holding positions as top leaders in the challenge by rank. This was a big motivational factor of driving our community to bike more often.

The simplicity of the Love to Ride platform gave us more time to focus on recruiting more participants to join us by eliminating staff hours to get the challenge underway. We’re ready for 2019!”

Nichols, Melburg & Rossetto Architects enjoying the Challenge.

Cameron and his team did a great job utlizing the Love to Ride platform and Challenge program. Having a local Love to Ride site that they could customize and own the growth of was a big factor in their program’s success.

If you’re interested in getting a local Love to Ride community platform for your area, then please do get in touch – hello@lovetoride.net. We’d love to hear from you.

Happy Love to Riders – riding the Ribbon Bridge.

Hop On > Changing Lives Through Cycling

Fozia Naseem is Managing Director at Hop On, who deliver fun and social rides for families of all abilities in West Yorkshire including cycling skills to build confidence to ride on the roads. Hop On rely on donations of bikes to deliver these activities and spread the love of cycling to people who have never had the opportunity to experience it due to barriers of either not having a bike or the lack of confidence. On International Women’s Day, Fozia tells us why she loves to ride.

Having been through many challenges in life from a very young age and having to overcome them alone wasn’t easy. I went through most of my childhood feeling worthless, unloved and lost as if I had no roots or grounding that made me feel secure. Through adulthood it continued. I made bad choices because of not feeling worthy of anything good and by the age of 32, I really wasn’t in a good place.

During this time, the one thing that I did find was stability whilst on my bike. I saw the world from a difference perspective. I connected with nature and found it grounded me and gave me a sense of belonging. It was on my bike that I felt at peace and was reminded how grateful I was that I had my health and a body that served me well. Riding gave me self-respect and allowed me the space to make positive changes to flourish and grow into the woman I am today.

Having been on my own journey to self-respect and independence, I wanted to help other people gain confidence too. I realised there was an opportunity to use my love of cycling to do this and started running cycling sessions with South Asian ladies who wanted to learn to ride a bike.

A Hop On Saturday meet-up
A Hop On Saturday meet-up

 

Many of them had the physical ability to do it, but we found that they had a psychological block or self-doubt that held them back through the internal language they were using. It was only when we brought their attention to this internal language that they would feel challenged as they had never actually tuned in to it. It was here that they discovered what was going on and accepted something had to change.

It would occasionally turn out that we would have to take some time out away from cycling with some of the ladies to deal with what was going on with them internally before they could move forward. Once they got back on the bike, it was transformational. It was a massive achievement through cycling, but more importantly, it was the psychological benefits unlocked by riding that really made them evolve into the amazing women they are today.

Family Group

We wanted to create a change in others where it mattered and where it was close to our hearts. To ignite the same passion of challenging, discovering and evolving and here it just presented itself.

We now all ride together and have so much fun as we mix with all communities from around Yorkshire – and the best part is we are keeping fit and healthy as a result. Our groups are more like families. The only difference is when our members are with us they don’t have a role to play, like a mother, daughter or wife. They are their true selves and they are given a safe environment to express themselves freely from which they grow.

The wealth we have got from cycling isn’t so much about the money we save by commuting by bike, for us it’s how rich our lives are now from being part of a community who cycle together and share amazing stories.
Social Group

Ride365 – year round cycling encouragement

insta, launch ride,Ride365 is our year-round rolling program of activity, promotions, encouragement and engagement.
 
As well as delivering more tailored national programs, including the National Bike Challenge in North America and Aotearoa Bike Challenge in New Zealand,  we have developed a series of major campaigns – to complement seasonal activity and achieve sustained behaviour change over the longer term.
 
Anyone, anywhere can take part in Love to Ride – and where we have support from public and/or private sector partners, we can turn the taps on and deliver plenty more!
 

A Host of Benefits

Ride365 brings our partners in cities and businesses a host of benefits including:

  • A proven behaviour change programme – we’ve trialed, tested, and refined our programs over the last 10+ years to be as efficient and effective as possible. Essentially, we’ve developed an approach that we can roll into a new area, then make some customisations to make it more locally relevant. This approach gets measurable results.
  • Global, national and local promotion and engagement – the offices in your area are taking part at the same time as the offices across the country and right around the world. This means that companies can get fully behind the programme as it is for all their staff wherever they are, rather than just in a single location.
  • Economies of scale and cost efficiencies – there are many efficiencies to localising a national programme – as opposed to inventing a new programme from scratch – and thus Love to Ride’s programmes are very affordable for businesses, cities and regional governments.
  • A great prizes pool – we’re able to source amazing prizes for a big national campaign, to complement the local prizes we also secure to link people into local services. Inspiring through rewards and prize giving is just one element of behaviour change, helping to get more people participating.
  • Fostering behaviour change over time – because our approach is year-round and long term, it addresses the fact that changing behaviour takes time – but is also best achieved one step at a time.

Screenshot 2019-04-09 19.26.29

Ride to Work Week

The main aim is to encourage more people to realise the benefits of riding a bike to work. Existing riders are encouraged to try riding to work every day in the week and get into the habit of being a regular bike commuter. There are also incentives for encouraging people to try riding to work for the first time. Find out more here

Bike Week

To kickstart the summer of cycling, we focus on riding, encouraging and sharing. Another key aim is to encourage existing and new riders to attend a local Bike Week event. And this year we’re giving away a bike a day throughout the 9 days of bike ‘week’!

Cycle September

This is the main global event – organisations compete to see which can earn the most points by riding and by encouraging others to ride too. 

We use 7 size categories to level the playing field and to provide a closer (and more fun) competition. Organisations compete on local, national, and global leaderboards as well as their industry leaderboard.

Winter Wheelers / Summer Spins

These hemisphere-specific events support people to ride in winter/summer with top tips and seasonal communications plans and prize pools including great kit, quality gear and beautiful bikes!

These events see high levels of social engagement and stunning photography, inspiring tales of riding in winter/summer and using the new stories feature to support encouragement and engagement.

To find out more about Ride365, any of our seasonal promotions or more about how to get more people cycling in your area or across your business, email the team hello@lovetoride.net and they will be right back in touch.