Lisbon is launching an electric bike share to help cyclists tackle the hills. The city’s transportation agency, Emel, hopes this will reduce congestion, and therefore give everyone a better experience. However, this is encountering resistance. From The Guardian:

Change isn’t easy for everyone to swallow. Nuno Sardinha, a project manager at Emel, describes the firm as “the most hated company in Lisbon”.

Blaming the negative feelings on “change” misses the point. In many cities around the world, driving is a worse experience today than it was ten years ago. This is for a variety of reasons, but the reality is that driving isn’t going to get better without some people choosing not to drive.

Why might someone decide to stop driving? Broadly, there are two factors. Either the alternative gets better or driving gets worse. Both are happening, but it seems like the bigger factor is driving getting worse and worse.

When someone makes a change because the previous option got worse they will be unhappy about it. This is happening in cities around the world, and it’s one of the reasons why people protest new bike lanes and the removal of parking. Anything that might hurt the driving experience further is clearly bad.

Much of this is exacerbated when someone makes the argument that cycling will reduce congestion. From a driver’s point of view, congestion got worse, not better. Far better to sell cycling as an opportunity to take quick local trips where walking would otherwise be too far or too hard. Focus on the new benefits, rather than on reducing the old pain.