BLOG: Sharing Our Roads, Meeting Our Vision

Our friends at the MassInc Polling Group recently conducted a poll for WGBH, asking people to think about how we share our roads. You can see their initial analysis below, cross-posted with permission from their blog.

In thinking about the 21st century transportation system that we want in Massachusetts, many of us envision a system where we all have choices about how we get around, where there are many dedicated bike lanes on shared-use roads, where pedestrians can walk safely, and where our public transportation systems get us to work and school without needing a car. The results of the WGBH poll shows that people really want to share the road.

And they have good reasons for it: biking and walking are good for your heart, but active transportation is also good for your wallet and your commute. Transportation for Massachusetts Member, Jackie Douglas of Livable Streets Alliance, was just on the Emily Rooney show talking about exactly this issue.

A six-member legislative panel has been charged with reconciling the differences in the House and Senate versions of the transportation bills. As they make decisions to create a compromise bill, we hope that they are mindful of the ways that this legislation will shape transportation investments for years to come. We want the conferees share our vision of the future, and put good policies in place that allow us to build a transportation future that meets the transportation needs of driver, public transportation riders, bikers and walkers.



Going deeper on bikes and bikers

May is National Bike Month, and to mark the occasion, WGBH News is kicking off its “Right of Way” series about the relationship between cyclists, drivers and pedestrians on our roads. As part of that effort, WGBH commissioned MassInc Polling Group to field three questions about bikes and cars in our most recent quarterly omnibus poll. (Read WGBH’s press release on the results, and watch MPG president Steve Koczela discuss the results on Greater Boston with Emily Rooney.)

In analyzing our results for WGBH, we got to thinking about our previous polling on transportation and what it reveals about bikers and biking here in Massachusetts.

Bikers are drivers, too: Rather than talking about bikers and drivers as two separate tribes of road users, it’s better to think of biking and driving as two different modes of travel used by many of the same people. Our September 2012 poll found that 91 percent of those who had ridden a bike to work or shopping in the past month had also driven a car for those reasons. The figure was lower in February 2013 (70 percent), but so was the total number who had biked the previous month – a very snowy January. Nonetheless, a solid majority of even these hardier cyclists are also driving to work or shopping at least part of the time.

In both polls, those who biked were also more likely than the general population to use other modes of travel: trains, subways, buses, ferries and walking. Overall, it appears that bikers are using more aspects of the transportation network than the general population.

In keeping with this overlap with other modes, bikers are not all that dissimilar demographically than our respondents overall. Looking at the demographic data from the September 2012 poll (which contained a larger sample of bikers), we see that bikers track pretty closely with the general population, with perhaps a slightly higher income and educational profile.

Partisan split: One appreciable difference we found was that bikers are more likely to be registered Democrats. Forty-one percent of bikers in our September 2012 poll and 50 percent of the hardier winter bikers from our February 2013 poll were Democrats, compared to 36 percent of respondents overall in both polls. This finding may help explain the partisan divide we found in the WGBH poll. While solid majorities from each party thought both drivers and bikers were equally to blame for accidents, more Democrats (26 percent) blamed drivers alone, while more Republicans (21 percent) pointed the finger at cyclists.

When it came to remedying the problem, a majority (51 percent) of Democrats favored installing more bike lanes. Among Republicans, the most popular solution was better enforcement of existing traffic laws (42 percent). These preferences mirror the ideologies of the two parties, with Democrats favoring infrastructure solutions and Republicans adopting a law-and-order stance.

Bike lanes are favored, but not as much as other improvements: The WGBH poll found that 45 percent of residents think bike lanes are the best solution to resolving conflicts between bikes and cars. But our previous polling shows that other infrastructure improvements are viewed as even higher priorities – even by those who bike.

The chart below shows the percentage of respondents to our February 2013 poll who said that making the listed improvements in their area would make “a major difference” in the lives of their friends and neighbors. Improving and/or adding new bike lanes is the third most popular option among cyclists (65 percent), but the least popular among all respondents (36 percent).