Sell Campaign 8: Normalising Utility Cycling

  1. Plan
  2. Design and Build
  3. Sell
  4. Evaluate

Background and aim

Man and woman walking and pushing a bike on sunny day Couple walking along with bike in Belfast, in background bike share docking station.

Promotion and development of utility cycling as an everyday travel option. Thematic campaign to support delivery campaigns. Recent increases in cycling have not been equal across the gender and age spectrum. People with disabilities are also underrepresented. Normalising utility cycling is essential to underpin all other campaigns and ensure their success.

Although none of the top rated barriers explicitly relate to the image of cycling many of them suggest that people think cycling to work is not practical and that you must be fit and wear specialist clothing to do it. It is important to create an image of cycle commuting which is egalitarian, utilitarian, practical and ‘non-sporty’.

Deliver the ‘other’ messages which could motivate people to start cycling apart from the health benefit e.g. save money, convenient, reliable, images of people cycling in ordinary clothes.

Primary audience

General public, particularly non-cyclists and potential commuters. Specific under-represented groups in cycling such as women and people with disabilities.


  • Staff and volunteer time to develop resources
  • Staff time to engage with different targeted groups of potential cyclists.
  • Collate images of everyday cycling. Develop resources to promote positive, ‘normal’ image of cycling
  • Carry out surveys/interviews
  • Develop partnerships with cycle shops

Outputs and impacts

Group of women on bikes on wet day Led ride of women cycling in Belfast city centre on International Women's Day 2019

Information/promotion bank – to be shared with workplaces and champions with ‘real’ examples looking at issues around:

  • Convenience
  • Saving money
  • Reliability of getting to work by bike
  • Image of cyclist


  • Background stories and statistics
  • Bank of case studies
  • Link to workplace Accreditation Scheme
  • Surveys with cycle highway users/get their stories

Improve perception of cycling, not just for the fit and active. See increase in utility bikes, using mudguards and bags and lights

Examples of interventions

  • Encouraging cycling commuters to share their experience in a case study or blog. Read example from Belfast Cary Thompson, cycle commuter
  • Organise and run activities to encourage ‘normal’ cycling such as 'Women into Cycling' programme, see case study below.
  • Offer commuters the opportunity to try e-bikes and other bikes e.g. loan schemes
  • Run events to demonstrate and explain equipment to help carry out ‘normal’ activities; mudguards, lights, clothing and luggage.

Case studies

Belfast, Northern Ireland

Women into Cycling Programme

According to Sustrans Bike Life survey nearly three times as many men cycle in Belfast as women and 80% of women say they never cycle. Sustrans took practical steps to address this by launching a 6-week ‘Women into Cycling’ programme, which is one element of the CHIPS project, to encourage active travel.

To launch the programme Sustrans held a lunchtime debate in Belfast city centre in October 2018 with an all-female panel to discuss the issues and barriers around women cycling called ‘On Her Bike’. This was used to raise the profile of the programme and promote registration.

The programme took place at Sustrans’ Active Travel Hub in east Belfast, near the Comber Greenway cycle highway. Over the six weeks the course covered on-road cycle training, bike maintenance, group cycle rides and information about different types of bikes. Crucially, it addressed some of the key barriers for women such as clothes to wear; issues around cleanliness commuting to work; route planning. It also featured testimonies by other women who cycle to work or for utility trips on the cycle highway. By summer 2019, Sustrans will have run a total of 4 of these 6-week courses, which have proven popular. Read more about Women into Cycling programme

Join the discussion