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Are free granola bars the answer?

June 24, 2010

Do congealed oats and nuts make you want to bike to work?

The question is: What motivates people to drive less?

My neighbor, Joe, and I pondered this question, in the wake of Denver’s Bike To Work Day yesterday.

But wait, didn’t Bike-to-Work Day already happen in May?

Yes, the League of American Bicyclists’ hyphenated Bike-to-Work Day did happen on May 21. But for this bike-crazy city, that apparently wasn’t enough; the Denver Regional Council of Governments has organized its very own hyphen-free Bike To Work Day.

It was yesterday, and it was an inspiring day of alternative-transporting, carbon-conserving, and granola bar-eating.

If you’ve ever participated in a Bike-to-Work event, you’re probably familiar with the scene. In the morning, there are breakfast stations offering free coffee, free bananas, and free granola bars. In the evening, there are “Bike Home” stations with free beer, free pizza, and free music. Are you seeing the theme here?

Do we really need all this free crap to get people to rethink their commute?

Joe says it seems like all the cycling and alternative transportation organizations are coddling us with petty incentives and rewards. He thinks we should be able to find it in ourselves to bike to work, because it’s the right, healthy, and environmentally-friendly thing to do—not because it’s a chance to stock up on granola bars.

I see his point, but I really like free stuff—and not just because I’m thrifty.

It’s nice to receive little rewards for making good choices. The positive reinforcement makes me happy and encourages me to continue the behavior. Plus, making a big party of biking to work for one summer day compensates a bit for the less festive winter days—and it must make bike culture look pretty cool to those who aren’t on the bandwagon yet.

I can’t think of a lot of things more attractive to people than the word “free.” Can you?


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