Park & Pedal

The idea behind this design is quite clever. There are some people who are hardcore cyclists and will ride no matter what. There are even more people who will not bike no matter what. But there are millions of people in the middle who are among the “convertibles”. They are willing to consider it, at least some of the time. But it depends on the weather, the traffic, the convenience, and other factors. It is a simple case of motivational psychology. Perceived coherence of the context, perceived value of the benefits, perceived social status and norms, and so on.

Park & Pedal aims to ease traffic congestion into the city each morning as commuters clamber to make it to their jobs on time.It’s also meant to inspire more people to get out and exercise.

My Take

So what if we could design a system that customizes the process of riding to work so that it conforms with what we know about motivation? That is the basis for Boston’s new Park & Pedal program. It allows commuters to pull into a lot along the way, grab a bicycle, and ride the rest of the way. It hits the motivational psychology buttons in several ways:

  • The Boston Park & Pedal program requires no long term commitment. You start out driving to work and make the switch to a bicycle at the last minute, and at any time during your commute. You can do this once, twice, or every day. You are making decisions for your current self, not your future self.
  • The program allows users to make decisions based on conditions that are immediately apparent, not guesses that could blow up in your face. If the weather is good, traffic is heavy, you have time to ride, you can make the switch. On another day, you can decide not to. The cost/benefit tradeoff is much easier to make.
  • They add some free perks. Parking at the bike depot is free. You can get free tune-ups for your bike. We know that freebies are great temptations.

    But there are some additional improvements I can imagine.

  • One constraint is that the commuter has to have his or her bicycle in the car. That requires some advanced planning (and owning a bike!). In Boston we have a city bike program. Why not coordinate the two and have some city bikes that can be rented at these lots?
  • Similarly, there are some new peer to peer sharing services for bikes. Why not let commuters pull into the lot, and borrow a bicycle at a much lower cost than a city bike rental? Also, less work for the city.
  • To add to the social aspect, they could organize some group trips from the bike depot to some of the major office centers downtown. There is safety in numbers, both for physical safety on the road as well as social safety by reinforcing the norm of bike commuting

    Your Turn

    I have only scratched the surface here. What other changes would you suggest? What other problems do you foresee? We look forward to hearing about your ideas.

    Image Credit: Rossographer

  • One thought on “Park & Pedal”

    1. The most difficult aspect of a cycling commute, so far as I’m concerned, is showering at work. If everyone rode to work, there would be some long queues.

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