There is consensus among cycling researchers that high quality and separated cycling infrastructure is key to making bicycling accessible. However, the decision to cycle cannot be reduced entirely to the quality of a city´s physical infrastructure. With the same urban infrastructure, there are still major differences in cycling use by age, gender, income or individual background. We cannot ignore the cultural, gender-related and social factors and perceptions that also inform cycling levels.
Even without urban cycling infrastructure, the most committed cyclists are still willing to venture into traffic and ride. But how can they enjoy cycling in a place that is not yet cycle-friendly? Committed cyclists build knowledge and skills from lived experiences to acquire confidence. And with this confidence, cycling becomes enjoyable and useful to move around.
Frequent cycle users enjoy more cycling benefits and care less about cycling barriers than non-frequent users. Why is that? Is it because frequent cycle users simply have better experiences cycling than non-frequent ones? If so, how did they acquire these positive experiences? Frequent users are usually part of a community that has taught them the knowledge and skills necessary to enjoy riding. Many cycling advocacy groups have formed these kinds of communities that encourage other people to jump onto two wheels. There are numerous opportunities to cycle together as a group: critical mass, cycle chic, full moon ride, excursion groups and so on.
Therefore, from an individual experience, positive cycling experiences can be transmitted to groups of people. To what extent and how does the socialization associated with cycling contribute to the overall cycling experience, cycling skills and confidence? Could cycle training programs provide positive cycling experiences? Might new knowledge about the social experience of cycling assist low cycling countries transition to greater cycling modal shares?
This indicates that, in low cycling countries, cycling associations are key to the use of the bike. However, belonging to a group that highly identifies with the bicycle is not the same as having a strong cycling culture. Being part of a cycling group defines who the person is, while cycling culture defines what the person does. Scholars argue that a strong self-identification with a concept does not help to make the concept mainstream.
Can cycling training programs extend positive experiences to a wider population? This research project will study how cycling training programs complement the existing cycling infrastructure to make the bicycle a mass mode, especially when the physical infrastructure is of insufficient quality, and how different cycling programs and other forms of bike socializing increase the access to the bike, such as Bicibús, school training programs or adult’s training cycling schools.