British Cycling report shows how "small behavioural nudges" can get people back on their bikes

Virtual reality headsets showing footage of people enjoying cycling could have a major impact on getting people into cycling, according to a new report by British Cycling and HSBC UK.

The Bike Shed Studies report looked at the effect of “small behavioural nudges” on getting people who have stopped cycling – so-called “lapsed riders” – to get back on their bikes, with virtual reality headsets one of a number of methods which could help people return to two wheels.

The study showed participants a virtual reality video of people enjoying cycling, such as children learning to ride a bike or someone taking a turn on a velodrome, and found that these people were 39 per cent more likely to cycle again compared to a group who just viewed a video about cycling on YouTube.

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The report also looked at the effect of different messages to get people out on their bikes, altering the wording of registration emails for various HSBC City Rides to test what sort of messages were most effective.

The result was that messages that appealed to a rider’s sense of fun and nostalgia made them 15 per cent more likely to sign up to these free city-centre rides, while making sure that proper information was available in registration emails saw a 75 per cent increase in registrations.

Finally, British Cycling looked at the role that friends and family can play in getting people back into cycling. The findings show that people who set specific plans and goals for their cycling, and receive support and encouragement from those around them went on to do 20 per cent more cycling than those who were left to their own devices and did not receive encouragement.


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Responding to the report, Lucy Harper, Head of British Cycling Partnership at HSBC UK, said that it showed how small changes can make a big difference when it comes to breaking down barriers to people cycling.

“The goal we have set with British Cycling to get two million people back on their bike is deliberately ambitious. We know that changing people’s behaviours is tough – especially when it comes to changing long standing habits,” Harper said.

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“The Bike Shed studies launched today are the first of our partnership and they have shown that even the smallest of changes can make a lasting difference to people’s behaviour.

“There’s a cyclist in all of us, it just needs teasing out – primarily through fun, friends and family. This the first step we’re making with British Cycling to inspire people to get back on their bikes to create a greener, fitter and healthier country, and will shape our thinking on how we encourage people to get back on their bikes.”