Survey: Cycling is extremely popular in Seattle

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 2.13.16 PMA recent survey commissioned by Cascade Bicycle Club found that a clear majority of Seattle voters support constructing safe bicycle facilities, even if doing so would require a reduction in general traffic lanes and/or parking.

I’m gonna give you all a second to read that first sentence again.

The survey, conducted by reputable firm FM3, also shows that a majority of Seattle voters already ride bikes, and want to bike more.

And if you ever read a story about Seattle’s supposed anti-bike fervor and were left scratching your head and wondering where all these people who supposedly don’t like bicycling are, you aren’t crazy. 78 percent of voters say they have a positive opinion of people who ride bikes.

Bicycling is clearly part of Seattle’s character, and a majority of Seattle voters agree. Not only that, but they want more.

Looking at the following table from the survey memo (posted in full below), you begin to see that there is about 20 percent of voters who simply do not like bicycling and oppose anything having to do with them. Then there is another 20-30 percent who are somewhere on the fence, depending on the issue. Then a clear majority in favor of improvements:

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 1.32.00 PM

The Stranger’s Dominic Holden wrote about the survey this morning, but I held out to try to make sense of why some of these numbers appear to differ from a 2012 SDOT survey we wrote about recently. For example, the city survey found that only 40 percent of those surveyed said they had access to a “working” bicycle (the same survey in 2011 found 49 percent, suggesting the number is suspiciously volatile). The Cascade survey found that 71 percent have access to a bicycle.

After chats with Holden and Cascade’s Evan Manvel, we have some theories. For one: The SDOT survey was of all Seattle residents 16 and up, while the Cascade survey was only of Seattle voters. Another big difference is that the city’s survey asked if respondents had access to a “working” bike, while the Cascade survey asked nothing about its functionality. So perhaps people who have bicycles in the garage with flats they don’t know how to fix or other issues said no to SDOT’s question, but would have said yes to Cascade’s question.

But regardless of this difference, the message is clear that bicycling is popular among the city’s electorate. Even the city’s much lower numbers showed very high interest in cycling among the city’s residents. Cascade’s survey went the next step to ask about voter sentiment rather than only asking about current habits. And the answer is clear: We want more safe bicycle facilities, even if that means changing the shape of our streets.

So let’s do it!

Here’s the survey memo:

bike survey by tfooq

About Tom Fucoloro

Founder and Editor of Seattle Bike Blog.
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29 Responses to Survey: Cycling is extremely popular in Seattle

  1. Peri Hartman says:

    Such good news! From the newspaper read comments, one might think otherwise, even knowing that those are far from representative. On the other hand, this survey jives with my experience on the road – the vast majority of drivers are aware of and curtious to me as a bike rider. Now we simply need to address making riding safer so everyone can get out when they want.

  2. Michael Duggan says:

    Alternative title: “One out of three voters believes that cyclists are soldiers in a conflict so violent that it can only be described as a WAR against cars.” … The inference there being no more egregious than the one that Seattle “overwhelmingly” supports bikes.

    • Michael Duggan says:

      Accidental quotes there, but I hope one gets the gist. Seriously though, is the proof that only a slight majority of people are willing to declare themselves in favor of bicycle safety (read: human safety) really cause for celebration when 1/3 of voters are in favor of extreme rhetoric with violent anti-bike overtones?

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      You can be cynical and keep beating that dead horse if you want, or you can choose to consider the possibility that the 50 percent of Seattle voters who bike regularly are, you know, normal folks who just want to get where they’re going safely. It’s your choice.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        Oh, I see that you aren’t saying that you believe that statement, only that you could read the results that way. Well, sure. But I prefer to stay positive about it, especially when it’s a clear majority who think so.

  3. Joel S. says:

    I do think this survey answers just as many questions about the nature of internet comment discussions as is does about the general mood of the public. There must be a large number of anti-bike people who also love to troll on news comment forums. They are either out there menacing people with their car or in their troll cave doing their worst.

    The rest of the population – the majority – is sitting by the wayside wishing they had safe bike facilities so they could enjoy life more!

    I tend to engage these trolls in the hopes that people with an undecided opinion will have a different viewpoint to consider, even though I know it’s just giving the troll what they want. Perhaps it’s time to just regard them as the marginalized idiots that they are and ignore them!

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      The Internet is a wonderful and horrible place.

    • Michael Duggan says:

      But marginalized idiots vote in droves! Ignore them, at your peril. They will gerrymander and fudraise while the silent majority sits by the wayside and wishes.

      Even if we are smart enough to know that we are not at war, those who think we are will act as though a war is happening. When that’s a full third of voters, you have a large group of motivated actors against us cyclists. We can do better than 56% who want changes. We might be better off with 31% who are willing to go to war for it.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        You have a good point there. But I wouldn’t say we’re sitting idly by. A look at the work of neighborhood greenway groups the revamped Bicycle Alliance, Cascade and regular folks like you all suggests we’re working hard. But yeah, the result of this can’t be, “great! our work is done. let’s just wait for the next vote.”

        However, any politician who was flirting with going anti-bike might want to think twice.

      • Joel S. says:

        Oh no – no time to ignore the naysayers who have access to the ears of politicians. Time to push harder against them.

        Time to not waste time with trolls. Just link to this survey as a response and move on.

    • Mark J says:

      I concur with your troll theory. I engage with trolls more often than engaging with positive comments. I do get the gist that it’s almost always the same people with the same tired-worn-out arguments. I don’t think completely ignoring them is the solution. though. Unfortunately, some folks will continue to read the negative comments and take them to heart, especially if they’re on the fence about a particular subject.
      I think the best way to shutdown a troll is to indirectly present facts. e.g.: “only motorists pay for the road.” Our next comment could be a link, such as this:

    • Peri Hartman says:

      Are you sure you want to feed the trolls? That’s only beneficial if you think enough “fence” readers will see your comment and agree with your point of view. Maybe public outreach, such as letters to your neighborhood paper, flyers in your cafe, etc. is better spent effort. (NB: I have sent letters to the paper, but little else. Is there an organized way to get this to happen on a larger scale?)

  4. Michael Duggan says:

    Sidenote: A troll can be somebody making overtly inflammatory posts, but isn’t trolling also hijacking a thread to change the topic? Isn’t that what this thread (ostensibly about cycling infrastructure approval statistics) has become, now that somebody mentioned trolls? Then… did that guy just troll us by (perhaps inadvertently) changing the subject into trolls? Did I just contribute? So meta.

    • Joel S. says:

      Troll discussions are very relevant because when certain large daily newspapers in Seattle publish almost any article about bicycling, they make sure to use headlines and language that will get the comments flying. This one single poll can be a huge weapon to make a large portion of the things they say irrelevant until they provide any legitimate poll proving otherwise.

      So when they throw the “that cyclist deserved to be killed by the drunk driver because they had no business being on the road at 4am” inflammatory comments in with their now dis-provable rhetoric about why bikes don’t belong….
      …refer them to poll data and move on.

  5. Amanda N says:

    Joel S., do you mean the “large daily newspaper” that has had the results of this survey on its website since yesterday afternoon?

    • Joel S. says:

      Yes I do! And let me tell you, it brings me no small joy to hope they will shift their bias more in line with what this survey says!

  6. Gary says:

    “the city survey found that only 40 percent of those surveyed said they had access to a “working” bicycle(the same survey in 2011 found 49 percent, suggesting the number is suspiciously volatile). The Cascade survey found that 71 percent have access to a bicycle.”

    Most likely these are the same bikes but now some more of them are rusted/have flat tires/need brake pads/a chain etc etc.

    Looks like an opportunity for an “come to your home” bicycle mechanic business!

  7. Gene says:

    About the “access to a bike” question: Nearly everyone in my building has a bicycle, mostly covered in dust with flat tires. I am literally the only one who rides my bike daily. Honestly, 95% of the other bikes in the storage area have never been touched in years. But if you surveyed people in my building, sure, about 71% would say they have access to a bike. So, I think that is almost a meaningless question to ask on the survey. I don’t see why it matters if someone has a junky neglected bike in storage.

    • Andres says:

      Because a dusty, unused bike with flat tires can quickly become a used bike for free, when combined with one of the many free tuneup events that happen around Seattle (some funded by Cascade). All that is required is desire.

      On the other hand, lack of access to a bicycle is a bigger hurdle, and implies additional barriers to cycling. Perhaps those people can’t afford a bicycle, or don’t have any place to store it, or any number of other reasons.

      It’s easier to convince people to use something that they already have. It’s also probably easier to convince them to support new road infrastructure for a machine that they have.

      • Gene says:

        I guess my point was that I just don’t see lack of access to a bike as much of a hurdle, and the fact that 71% of people here have one is evidence of that. I’m pretty sure most of the 29% who don’t have one could get one pretty easily if they had any desire to.

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