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It’s not only the infrastructure

Quantitative study on motives and barriers for cycling in Germany

Studie "I want to ride my bicycle" 2018
Studie "I want to ride my bicycle" 2018 © GIM l Gesellschaft für Innovative Marktforschung mbH

The study identifies five distinct user types that differ in their attitudes to cycling (hedonistic vs. pragmatic) and their behaviour (frequency of cycling) and answers for example the following questions:

  • Which different user types are there?
  • What are their specific needs and requirements when it comes to cycling?
  • Which attitudes and values do they hold with regard to bike riding?
  • What are the different user types’ drivers and barriers for bike riding?
  • What specific functions do bicycles perform for them?

Apart from this typology, the study also presents general facts on bike riding patterns in Germany.

For example, almost half of all Germans (49 percent) use a bicycle in everyday life. Thus, the bicycle is the most common means of transport after the car. Bicycles are particularly frequently used on paths in the context of sports (45 percent bicycle use) or recreation (34 percent bicycle use). On the other hand, there is a lot of potential with regard to commuting to work: only 16 percent of all commuting to work is done by bicycle. The top barriers here are: too long a distance (44 percent), time of travel too long (43 percent) and arriving at work sweaty (27 percent).

Summary of the study

There are 5 types of cyclists
The German population can be divided into 5 types of cyclists, which differ in their attitude to cycling (hedonistic vs. pragmatic) and their behaviour (frequency of cycling): the Young Urban Bikers, the Everday Bike Troupers, the Bike Refuseniks, the Pragmatic Cyclists and the Sunday Bike Enthusiasts.

The less you ride, the more you notice the shortcomings of the infrastructure
In this study, too, the perceived safety when cycling differs between the segments - even if it is not the only separating dimension. It can be seen that persons cycling unfrequently rate their city's bicycle infrastructure worse than frequent cyclists. Interestingly, however, this rating is not reflected in the occasion-related barriers. It seems rather as if the bicycle is simply not in the direct consciousness of the few cyclists in the concrete occasion and is therefore used less habitualised.

Mobility revolution: The e-bike/pedelec as a serious alternative to the car?
Many of the barriers to cycling listed by almost all types of cyclists (long distances and travel time, sweating while cycling, not feeling fit enough etc.) can be compensated by the e-bike/pedelec. You no longer sweat, distances and times shrink in perception and much more. This possible revolution is reinforced by the fact that Young Urban Bikers (the youngest target group) already have the highest e-bike/pedelec share (and the highest proportion of cargo bikes): a generation is growing up for which the car is no longer the solution to all mobility problems, but which sees a solution much more in the bicycle - no matter in what form.

Recommendations of the authors

Expansion of bicycle infrastructure required
In view of the fact that more than half of the Germans experience the bicycle infrastructure as merely satisfactory or worse and that above all unfrequent cyclists the infrastructure is experienced as bad, everything must of course continue to be done to improve the bicycle infrastructure. The fact that this does not always have to go hand in hand with expensive construction measures is shown by the beginnings of Copenhagen's bicycle policy (rededication of car lanes to bicycle lanes).

Construction measures are not the sole instrument, motives must be promoted
It also shows, however, that a poor infrastructure was rarely regarded as a top barrier to the use of bicycles in relation to the specific occasion. After all, two types who are not frequently cycle but also not categorically reject it (Sunday Bike Enthusiasts, Pragmatic Cyclists) could also be introduced to the topic of everyday cycling with other solutions (whether communicative or service-oriented). The focus should also be on the motives for cycling in everyday life (e.g. purchase premiums for e-bikes, tax incentives for commuting by bicycle, free riding training by the local authority, rental of e-bikes etc.). Here it is necessary to look for type-specific solutions adapted to the municipality!

The bicycle industry must offer comprehensive mobility solutions
The bicycle market is flourishing and the categories are differentiating themselves on a daily basis. What is lacking, however, are one stop mobility solutions. At present, the car is still perceived as a comprehensive mobility problem solver (at least in rural areas), while the bicycle, in contrast, is still perceived as a "sports device" (Sunday Bike Enthusiasts) or "cumbersome everyday vehicle" (Pragmatic Cyclists). Smart solutions in terms of safe parking, the general road safety of bicycles, the range of office cycling clothes etc. are just some of the ideas that need to be bundled and offered according to the different types. Here solutions have to be developed together with the respective cyclist types.

For the study, 1,900 adults aged 18 and over were interviewed online. The Gesellschaft für Innovative Marktforschung is an international market research company headquartered in Heidelberg with offices in Berlin, Nuremberg, Lyon, Zurich and Shanghai.

Meta Infos
24. September 2018
Further information
Studie "I want to ride my bicycle" - GIM l Gesellschaft für Innovative Marktforschung mbH
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