How can our community promote walking and bicycling to people who are concerned about high gasoline prices?

High gasoline prices alone will inspire a few people to leave their cars at home and walk or bike. Communities that have already invested in sidewalks and/or a user-friendly bicycling system have a head start because these facilities will encourage novice walkers and bicyclists who might otherwise feel intimidated or overwhelmed.

Habits are hard to break. Effective encouragement programs help convince people that they could leave their car at home or work and replace at least one car trip per week with walking or bicycling. Such programs invite people to make bicycling and walking a healthy habit. Sophisticated individualized marketing programs such as Portland, Oregon's SmartTrips can be adapted to meet a community's needs and budget. Indeed, an increasing number of communities are looking to this model to help people shift car trips to walking, bicycling, and/or transit trips.

Some other ideas to encourage non-motorized travel include:

  • Work with public health or health insurance programs to promote bicycling and walking by encouraging people to try non-motorized transportation as a lifestyle change, for health or for fun.
  • Offer a Web-based mapping tool that community members can use to see what is within a two-mile radius from where they live or work. A ready-made resource that includes a search feature can be found at
  • Hold events and challenges that encourage people to walk or ride their bicycles more and fill up their gas tanks less.
  • Offer a buddy system and bicycling classes to help people gain confidence in their cycling knowledge and ability. For examples of education programs visit and
  • Maps and route suggestions help those who want to get started. A bicycle map helps novices select a more bicycle-friendly route if their ordinary driving route isn't bicycle-friendly. To find a bicycle map for your community, visit

Good role models can make a difference. Identify a high-profile person to set the pace for change. An effective promotional tool is to showcase someone influential walking or riding a bicycle for errands and transportation. This could be the mayor, governor, or a local radio talk show host—someone people recognize. These people can really influence a community towards a pro-walking and/or bicycling attitude.

Advocacy organizations or city-sponsored bicycle programs with an office that is visible to the public and open for anyone to come in and ask questions about bicycle commuting may raise interest and help those who already are interested get started. Just like when children first learn to walk or bicycle, a caring, encouraging person can help others succeed.