We all know the scenario - you buy the girlfriend a bike, you spend a day servicing a friend's bike, you give an old bike to someone in the family or you spend time in the LBS helping a friend get a bike. Your motivation is out of genuine enthusiasm and in the hope that they will enjoy cycling, maybe to become a life-long cyclist.

As time goes by you realise that they have not really taken to the bike, it remains in the hallway/garage/shed and they still get around the old-fashioned way - walking, catching the bus or killing the planet with their noisy, cramped tin-box.

Although you daren't say it, you might as well have not bothered. They are not going to go cycling any more than a leopard is going to change his spots. No amount of logic or reason will change matters.


...then there are some people you advise on a new bike choice that do get into cycling. Although they probably did not need you to help them get cycling, you still have played some part through 'setting an example'.

In other walks of life it is possible to have success at introducing a newbie to 'something better'. For instance, where you can find someone wanting help with their badly rootkitted computer you can take all day to pull out the viruses or spend half an hour with the Linux install disk. Invariably they don't have a copy of Winmare 7 or find any signs they have joined the Mapple Cult next time you see them - they have accepted a big change despite having to learn-new-stuff (which is hard).

Alcoholics Anonymous have '12 steps' structure and a dose of religion to wean people off drink. Ultimately A.A. face a similar problem to the lost-cause-of-cycling in that people are not going to change unless they want to, however structure works for some A.A. punters, in some cases, some of the time.

Clearly this is an open ended question with many answers. Personal anecdotes are welcomed, did a childhood gift of a bike, a bike-to-work scheme or the advice of a doctor work for you? Is there anything that we can learn from other walks of life?
Statistics and studies could also provide answers. Whatever hints and tips you have to help people take up cycling as a way of life are welcomed. Answers with lateral thinking, tips from other walks of life are also welcomed.

Please mod up the better, more insightful answers.

  • @Mathew - Very well written, but this is really more of a forum-style call to discussion than a stack-exchange-style question with a definitive answer. For now, have protected it to avoid short answers from new users, but what is the goal of this question? Jun 6, 2011 at 0:09
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    @Neil, I'm interpreting it as "how can I more effectively encourage others", but you're right it could be made more explicit. I'm not sure of the restrictions around marking things as wiki but this seems like a wiki question.
    – Мסž
    Jun 6, 2011 at 0:31
  • IMO, CW is useful for questions that can stand as reference questions, like the terminology one or the bike-sharing one. Gonna close this one for now, so we don't get a lot of chatty answers, but maybe there's a way this can be made better? I think there's the seed of a good question in here. Jun 6, 2011 at 1:33
  • @Mathew, I think a substantial edit would improve your question. I'd like you to make the actual question clearer, but also rephrase it to make it more likely to attract good answers. I've posted this on Meta: meta.bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/318/… because I'm unnaturally verbose...
    – Мסž
    Jun 6, 2011 at 1:40
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    @Mathew: The "not a real question" designation is a technical term in the Stack Exchange network. Basically, we want to figure out how to rewrite this to be more answerable. We're talking about it at "How can this question be improved?" on meta.
    – freiheit
    Jun 7, 2011 at 21:51

2 Answers 2



Convert them one at a time, starting with the attractive ones. Only date potential cyclists, and slowly convert them while you date them. This tends to produce a solid conversion, because you have the opportunity to reinforce the positives and address the negatives over an extended period.

I've been doing this for a while now but it's a slow process, usually taking more than five years. The benefit is that I have a partner who cycles, but it isn't very good at producing a great mass of cyclists unless you import thousands of Dutch singles. In my case people have asked whether I only date cycling activists. The answer is no, the people I date become cycling activists (well, two out of two in the last 10 years have).

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    If you're going to downvote a comment would be appreciated as to how the answer could be improved.
    – Мסž
    Jun 6, 2011 at 0:29

I find mentoring is effective. Ride to work with them every day for a few weeks, and ideally ride home too. If there's a bike bus available, join that.

This works in several ways. First, they've got someone to show them how it's done - which route to use, how to handle the tricky spots and so on. Just having someone else there is a huge confidence boost for many people. Second, theres the sense of obligation that comes from having a friend on your doorstep. It's much harder to say "no, I'm taking the bus" to someone face to face than to an unloved bicycle in the back shed. And finally, you're there to directly answer the inevitable questions and problems. If they get a flat tyre, you can either show them how to fix it or provide pointers if they get stuck, or fix it for them. This also means that instead of a pile of "what if"s that gets bigger and scarier the longer they don't ride, they have the universal "Moz will fix it" solution.

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