Thursday, August 4, 2011

Nudging to use bicycles!

Excellent NYT op-ed on how Amsterdam has socialized and brought about a culture that accpets bicycle as the preferred mode of transport. The article drives home the point that such changes in public attitudes can be brought about through a series of small and often mundane interventions, all of which jointly work towards favoring bicycles and discouraging cars.

One such nudge, which revolves around the type of bread that is commonly sold in Dutch shops, is particularly cute.

"Cyclists can’t carry six bags of groceries; (so) bulk buying is almost non-existent. Instead of shopping for a week, people stop at the market daily. So the need for processed loaves that will last for days is gone."

Several such routine lifestyle decisions have contributed to a much greater accpetance of bicycles than in the US. The article also points to the deep-seated cultural socialization that European city residents have undergone which is reflected in internalization of bicycles into their regular daily routines.

"In Holland, public buses aren’t considered last-resort forms of transportation. And cycling isn’t seen as eco-friendly exercise; it’s a way to get around. CEO’s cycle to work, and kids cycle to school... Manhattan’s bike lanes seem to be used more for recreation than transport."

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