Cycling versus the cyclist: the perceptive barriers putting off Sydney cyclists

13 October 2010

The lycra-clad image of cyclists was found to be a turn-off for some people.
The lycra-clad image of cyclists was found to be a turn-off for some people.

Popular perceptions of cyclists can make or break our decision to take up the sport, says a recent study by the University of Sydney's Dr Chris Rissel.

The study, also produced by Michelle Daley of the Sydney South West Area Health Service, comes just in time for today's national Ride to Work Day.

While cycling is generally perceived as a positive, environmentally friendly way of getting around, the actions of some cyclists were disliked, which influenced people's likelihood to take up the sport.

"Our respondents spoke differently about cycling, the activity, and cyclists," Dr Rissel says.

"Nearly everyone was very positive about cycling and the health and pleasure associated with it.

"However, the actions of some people riding bicycles were sometimes seen as negative, and the lycra-clad image of cyclists put some people off because they didn't identify with it or thought it a turn-off."

The study also identified a hierarchy of cycling status, with recreational cycling seen as acceptable by most people, followed by cycling for sport or exercise.

At the other end of the spectrum, cycling for 'serious business', i.e. sport-focused fitness riding and bicycle couriers, were seen as far less approachable.

"We can use this information to encourage more people to cycle. We need to improve the status of transport cycling," Dr Rissel says.

"A more mainstream image of everyday cycling might appeal to non-riders who can't see themselves wearing lycra or being fit enough to be a cycling athlete."

Dr Rissel believes that making cycling more mainstream is the key to increasing cycling in Sydney, which has the lowest rate of bike ownership in Australian capital cities.

"Cycling, and especially cycling for transport, is not yet seen as a mainstream activity in Sydney. Encouraging more people to ride bicycles for short trips wearing regular clothes, without the need for specialised clothing or equipment, will improve and normalise the image of cycling."

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