The 2016 AT Active Modes Survey: the case for joy

Sep 01, 2016
The 2016 AT Active Modes Survey: the case for joy


The 2016 AT Active Modes survey is full of good cycling news, as already noted by Matt. Just to recap: firstly, more people are riding bikes. Apparently we can thank the ‘considerers’ for this: folk who were once merely bike-curious are sliding over comfortably into the category of ‘occasional’ riders.

Consider yourself – at home! Consider yourself increasingly part of the cycling furniture.

Also, over the last two years, the percentage of people biking once a week or more has doubled, from 6% to 13%. And nearly one in three Aucklanders has jumped on a bike at some point in the past year – compared to one in five in 2014. That’s significant.


So what’s going on in people’s minds to make biking more attractive? You might remember that last year’s survey floated a theory that traditional demographic factors (blokes on bikes) might be putting ordinary people off riding bikes – complete with a scary photo of MAMILs having coffee.

TRAMAMILSAfter we took a closer look at the survey it became clear the spectre of these happy coffee-drinking Tour d’Aucklanders was a big shiny red herring, and that you could in fact see recreational riding (by all kinds of people, in all kinds of clothes) as an incubator for everyday cycling.

This year’s survey reiterates that most Aucklanders who cycle do so for ‘recreation and fitness’, but I’m curious: doesn’t pretty much every bike ride fit into that category? If I do my errands by bike rather than by car, I might well describe that as a trip for purposes of recreation and fitness, with the nice side effect of getting things done.

In any case, it’s good to see that bike trips for shopping, work, education and to public transport are edging up too.


Extrapolating the percentages to numbers gives us this pleasing picture:


The survey then moves on to thinking about trips, with the goal of converting a few car trips a week to walking or cycling, to take pressure off the roads. (Bring back carless days! But in a fun way, like PokemonGo). As Matt pointed out, this is where things go a bit haywire and downright binary in the assumption department.

People were asked if they could maybe make some regular trips by bike or on foot, and these were their quite promising responses:

  • 29% reckoned they could reasonably bike to work
  • 10% could walk to work
  • 38% could bike to the shops
  • 24% could walk to the shops

… but don’t. Yet.

So there’s tons of potential there. Which the survey interprets thus:


Wait, what? Even though even more people reckoned they could reasonably bike to work and go shopping by bike than do either on foot… the survey compilers leap to the conclusion that bikes are for work trips and walking is for shopping, and never the twain shall meet.

This doesn’t map onto the actual lived experience of anyone I know who’s ever biked to work. It’s a rare trip that doesn’t involve grabbing at least a bottle of milk on the way home. It’s like they’ve never even heard of quaxing. Or seen a bike basket.

Regular weekly quaxing haul from the Avondale Market...
Says daily bike commuter and regular quaxer Jessica Rose: “Why not both??”

And now we come to the bit that really made me smile. No, really.


This one does map onto actual lived experience. The more you bike, the more you freaking love it – like a grinning, joyful loon – and the more the grumps go away. It’s true. Bikes help you shed the monster!

The survey compilers make the case that AT could help more Aucklanders along that path to joyfully biking to work by (a) removing perceived barriers, so people feel encouraged to give it a go – while also (b) emphasizing the emotional rewards of riding a bike.

I’d humbly suggest that quaxing the occasional bottle of milk is also a great place to start. Dust off the ‘recreational’ bike and pop to the dairy. Take the kids. Take the long way home. Next thing you know, you’ll be biking the kids to school and yourself to work and doing it more than once a week and experiencing a radical uptick in joy. It’s science!

Lastly, a bit of good news for AT and its role in a more bikeable Auckland. Of those who’d heard about what AT is doing for walking and cycling, what most stuck in their mind was… new bike lanes and routes. Yes, Aucklanders are paying attention.


And what’s more, they like what they see.


Keep at it, AT. Keep bringing the joy. 



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