As bigs cities such as Portland and New York have gotten a larger share of bike commuters and transportation riders, the inevitable tensions between cyclists and car riders has frequently been classified in media stories as a 'war'. When the Cascade Bicycle Club in Seattle conducted a poll on attitudes to bikes, however, they got a happier conclusion.
Among the findings from a 400-respondent survey conducted in December 2012, the Seattle public opinion firm FM 3 found that:
- More than three-quarters of Seattle voters view people who ride bicycles favorably.
- Voters overwhelmingly report positive feelings towards the City’s bicyclists: 78 percent of voters say they have a favorable opinion of people who ride bicycles in Seattle, including 38 percent who say they have a “very” favorable opinion of them.
- Just 19 percent of voters say their opinions of this group are unfavorable.
In addition, the surveyors found that most Seattle voters have access to a bike; many of them ride frequently and a majority of them would like to ride more often and "Weather, terrain, distance and safety are the primary obstacles for Seattle voters who are not already frequent bicyclists."
The weather was a major factor in people's decisions not to ride their bikes more, according to the survey - 55% reported that it holds them back.
There's not much to do about Seattle's famous wet weather, except for dress in great urban bike gear. But 37% of respondents also reported that they don't feel safe - and here's a place where there's a lot to do, not only in Seattle but in other cities where biking could play a role in making people healthier while reducing traffic, CO2 emissions, and yes, stress.
So is the car vs. bike war real? Well, to a certain degree, the answer is there are some tensions. In the Seattle study, 19% of respondents looked unfavorably on cyclists. That seems logical - bikes and cars and pedestrians and public transport are all competing for cities' limited public real estate when getting around town.
But as the Seattle study seems also to indicate, the idea of a 'war' may be overhyped by the media, and as more drivers become cyclists, attitudes might shift.