Can you to turn intelligent young people into bikers?

You may ask why you would want to turn intelligent young people, or anyone else, into bikers.

An urgent priority for society today is to find ways to reduce use of public transport.  As social distancing remains important, we need to encourage alternative ways to get about. 

Also, whether our priority is the improving air quality or reducing our carbon footprint, more people on two wheels is going to be a key solution. 

I have previously discussed how we need to accept the essential role of motorised two wheelers. But you have to ask; is possible to get people to accept and use motorcycles and scooters?  Can you persuade someone who has never previously considered jumping on a motorcycle to take the plunge?

Young people are nice people

‘You meet the nicest people on a Honda’ the famous slogan used by Honda in the 1960s and 70s is still well known today.  The marketing campaign had a lasting impact on Honda’s image and on attitudes to motorcycling. It was so successful it has been used as a marketing case study.  And Honda are up to it again looking into how perceptions can be changed in the modern environment.

These days we like to use “Science”, so what have Honda’s men and women in white coats been working on?  Well, to start with they have proven that they can more than double the number of university students saying they would like to own a bike – in a week.  And there was no torture or inappropriate psychological coercion involved.

Testing a theory – perceptions can change

Honda decided to gain an insight into perceptions of motorcycling and some of the appeal factors and barriers to motorcycling.  The idea was simple – allowing young people to experience motorcycles up close will change their opinions.  Professor Alex Stedmon, worked with Honda UK on a week long trial.  He reports that at the beginning of the week just 21.7% said they would want to own a motorcycle.  By the end of the week that had risen to had risen to 50%.

So what did they do to these clever young people to turn them into biker wannabes? Alex said “The idea was we’d get as many students as possible into the Engineering Department at Nottingham Trent.  While they were there, they could look at the bikes, sit on the bikes, they could fill in questionnaires and take part in little workshop activities we were doing. And then on the Friday we had the star of the show, the unique rolling road, this meant people could ride a motorbike under full supervision, totally safe, and without the need for a license.”

But how to turn them into bikers?

So how do you go about turning intelligent young people into bikers?

The idea was to put the user at the centre of everything. The first exercise was an initial questionnaire that asked each participant about their attitudes to motorcycles.  It asked about their appeal or otherwise, what barriers might be preventing them getting into bikes.  The boffins also asked what social media influences the students’ ideas and attitudes towards bikes and riding.

Next up was a design questionnaire with images of different motorcycles. This one asked participants about the various appeal of different types of motorcycles. How did each one make them feel? Did they seem practical, look comfortable, and how safe did they appear to be?

Then there were young rider workshops where real perceptions of motorcycling, comfort and safety were discussed.  Importantly, this also included the rolling road experiences. The final part of the study was where the team conducted eye-tracking experiments.  Using specialist equipment the scientists monitored participant reactions to different bikes and collated this data into visual heat maps.

Did it work?

This was a relatively small study.  It shows, however, that people can quickly become more open-minded and enthusiastic about motorcycles and motorcycling.  The changes happened when the students were properly exposed to motorcycles. 

One of the most encouraging results of the week was the turnaround in the response to the statement “I prefer a motorcycle to a car.” Before they went through Honda week, only 9.1% agreed with the statement. By the end of the experience though, an impressive 37.5% said they would prefer a motorbike.  That’s proof of the potential for over 25% modal shift to motorcycles!

The study demonstrated that the more young people are exposed to motorcycles and the possibility of taking to two wheels, the more enthusiastic and positive they become to the whole concept. Greater education of the enjoyment and benefits of motorcycling could see a lot of younger people taking to two wheels in the future.

The use of motorcycles and scooters as a solution is real and achievable; it is not just a pipe dream.  You can turn intelligent young people, and probably anyone else, into bikers.  


See a more detailed account of the Honda Week initiative over at the Honda Engine Room

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