The longer-term effect of Bike Buddies

08 September 2020 - Published by Matteo Candelari

The Province of Overijssel developed the Bike Buddies (Fietsmaatjes) campaign a few years ago and subsequently carried it out a few times. The goal of the campaign is to get staff members from organisations in the province of Overijssel – who usually drive to work – cycle to work regularly. Via the use of an app, this bicycle campaign registers participant’s rides. In addition, there is a website for the Bike Buddies community for overview and interaction between a participant and a buddy. A similar project will be set up by Baron Mobility within the BITS project. This bicycle leasing company will use an app to encourage both residents of Oldenburg (Germany) and employees of their business clients to cycle more often by earning virtual currency for every kilometre cycled. This currency can then be exchanged for vouchers at different local stores, restaurants or cafés. Similar to the Bike Buddies app, this Baron app shall provide incentives to employees to use their bikes more often on their way to work. As well as the Baron app, the Bike Buddies campaign aims for sustainable behaviour change. Both apps work with rewards. The question is to what extent bicycle campaigns contribute to that? The Province of Overijssel once again surveyed the participants two years after a bicycle campaign. Hence,the Province of Overijssel would like to present the longer-term effect of Bike Buddies.

The lasting effects of a bicycle campaign are yet undetermined as it remains a recent phenomenon. By the end of the Bike Buddies 2017/2018 campain, 94% of the participants said they were (very) satisfied with cycling to work and therefore wanted to continue cycling. However, did that actually happen when the external stimulus disappeared? Or did the participant choose for the car again?

At the end of 2019, a longitudinal study was carried out in order to clarify the situation. A link to an online questionnaire was sent to the 1.900 participating motorists of Bike Buddies 2017/2018. Over 900 participants completed the online questionnaire. Participants indicated that health (34%) and financial reward (23%) were the main reason to apply for Bike Buddies. The participants cycled an average of 3.3 days a week.

Motorist continues to cycle

One of the questions in the online questionnaire related to how often a respondent cycled to work in the past week. The participants indicated that the average distance (one-way) between their home and work address was 12 kilometres. After 2 years it turned out that most participants, who had driven to work by car earlier, still cycled to work. 85% Cycled to work at least 1 day a week. And 62% even used the bike 3 days or more per week. 15% Did not cycle to work at all. All in all, 91% of the participants have responded that they were (very) satisfied with the bicycle as a mean of transport to work. Nevertheless, the use of the bicycle depends on the weather conditions for 56% of the participants (approximatively) Indeed, many respondents have argued that they did not cycle because of the bad weather.

Health, happiness and save money

The value of health is highly noticeable with 56% of the respondents arguing that they now go to work by bike because of their health and fitness. Accordingly, 34% of the participants have indicated that they are not or less often ill and 79% have indicated that they feel fitter since they started cycling to work. In addition to this, the use of the bicycles – after having used a car – to go to work can also be explained by the fact that the people  simply like it (20%) or because the savings on car costs (13%). For 2%, the environment is the most important reason to get on the bike.

Encouraging works

Nearly 3 out of 10 participants use the bicycle after the campaign for business rides during working hours. The results have also shown that the shift does not only happen when going to work, with 56% that have said to leave the car in private situations more often.

Even 2 years after the cycling campaign, 40% of the buddies say they still encourage their Bike Buddies once in a while to regularly. 17% Indicate that they did not participate as a participant, but as an encouraging buddy in 2019.

If we look to the future

The results of the Bike Buddies questionnaire show how effective a cycling campaign with an app and rewards can be. Within the BITS project we are looking forward to what Baron's app can bring. In addition to the survey, the Province of Overijssel  will, when possible, use data generated by the app to evaluate the effect of the investements in terms of cycling behaviour. By ensuring that this data is as open as possible (or at least in Baron's hands), the Province of Overijssel  can get all kinds of insights out of it. Not only about the effectiveness of the app, but also about cycling behaviour and preferences in general. Based on this, other investments to improve cycling can be mapped and prioritised and therefore this brings a bright future with many BITS opportunities.