Research shows better facilities promote more bicycling and walking

We've been putting together some research for a grant application and the results are very interesting.

The question is, do more, better bicycling and walking facilities actually increase the amount of bicycling and walking?

The answer is a resounding yes.

Below is a summary of some of the research and, below that, full citations of the original sources.

Some of the summaries are based on the invaluable Travel Demand Management Encyclopedia and others to a very comprehensive report, Guidelines for Analysis of Investments in Bicycle Facilities, both of which have summaries and references to many other reports on these and related subjects.

  • Hopkinson and Wardman (1996) found that individuals were willing to pay a premium to use bicycle facilities that are deemed safer argue that increasing safety is likely more important than reducing travel time to encourage bicycling.

  • The study "Bicycle Commuting and Facilities in Major U.S. Cities" found a strong positive correlation between the number of miles of bicycle lanes and paths per square mile and the mode share of bicycle commuters (Dill & Carr, 2003).

  • The study "If You Build Them, Commuters Will Use Them" found a positive association between miles of bicycle pathways per 100,000 residents and the percentage of commuters using bicycles, and states, "One problem with shifting the mode of commuting away from automobiles may simply be an inadequate supply of bicycle facilities" (Nelson & Allen, 1997)
  • A study of the Minneapolis-St. Paul region found that adding or improving bicycle facilities brought a significant increase in bicycling, even in areas that previously had high levels of bicycling. The areas near the improved facilities showed mode share increasing from 1.7% to 2.0%, while the remainder of the region remained constant. The report says, "Downtown Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota, where most of the facilities were concentrated, showed large increases in bicycle mode share, while downtown St. Paul, which had few improvements, had no increase" (Barnes, et al, 2005).

  • Bicycle routes and directional signage is important for creating a complete bicycle network network and connecting important destinations. To encourage cycling as an alternative commuting mode, Nelson & Allen emphasize that facilities must connect appropriate origins and destinations.

  • Loukopoulos and Gärling (2005) find that there is an threshold distance, above which people (on average) will choose to drive rather than walk to a destination. Difficult walking conditions, including poor sidewalks, lack of crosswalks and signals, and other similar factors, decrease that threshold distance. In short, people won't walk as far when the walking conditions are bad.

  • Residents in a pedestrian friendly community walked, bicycled, or rode transit for 49% of work trips and 15% of their non-work trips, 18- and 11-percentage points more than residents of a comparable automobile oriented community (Cervero and Radisch, 1995).

  • Another study found that walking is three times more common in a community with pedestrian friendly streets than in otherwise comparable communities that are less conducive to foot travel (Moudon, et al, 1996).


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