The public images of cycling can act as barriers or facilitators of cycling. This qualitative study explored images and perceptions of cycling, their potential influence on cycling and whether these views differed between regular, occasional and non-riders.Seventy participants (24 males and 46 females) were recruited. Of these, 22 were classified as non-riders, 23 were occasional riders and 25 were regular riders. Twelve focus groups were held in inner Sydney during October and November 2005. Data were audio taped, transcribed and thematically analysed.Themes linked to images of cycling included: 'clean and green'; 'healthy and fun'; 'dangerous' and 'serious business'. Themes linked to images of cyclists included: 'risk takers and law breakers' and 'status and sub-cultures'. Discussion centred on the low social status of riding over other transport modes, the relative acceptability of different riding sub-cultures, the 'green' image of cycling transport and the status associated with the riders clothing and bicycle choice, especially lycra and its 'serious and sporty' connotation.While 'cycling' was generally viewed as a positive, environmentally friendly activity, the actions of some 'cyclists' were disliked, which influenced views about cycling, particularly among non-riders. A cycling acceptability hierarchy emerged; with recreational riding at the top, followed by cycling for sport and exercise, with transport/commuter cycling towards the bottom. Bicycle couriers were viewed least favourably. A common perception among non-riders was the latter two groups were rule breakers and risk takers, while regular riders felt unfairly judged by this stereotype.While there was greater acceptance of recreational riding, riding for transport was not viewed as a mainstream activity. There is a need to improve the public acceptability of cycling and change public norms so it is seen as an everyday activity that can be undertaken by almost anyone, without the need for special clothing, expensive equipment or limited to purpose built facilities.
- Physical activity
- Qualitative research