Sociocultural Factors Impacting Bicycle Use
As active transportation, bicycling has considerable potential to lower rates of inactivity-related illnesses in the United States. However, while Census data has shown that the greatest share of bike commuting happens among very low-income individuals and increasingly in
mixed race and Hispanic populations (McKenzie, 2014), the predominant image of
bicycling as a special interest has led to community opposition to these
projects (Lubitow and Miller, 2013). Because most research on cycling has
focused on measuring level of service and improving facility design, little is
known about the beliefs different populations hold about bicycling and why they
may or may not see bicycling as a transportation or recreation option. This
makes it difficult to design bicycle promotions and infrastructure that will be
used by a given population, and raises questions about the ability of bicycle planners
and policymakers to ensure that such projects will serve users equitably (Lugo
and Hoffmann, forthcoming).
While understanding the cultural contexts in which individuals choose or do not choose bicycling would greatly benefit efforts to understand and manage bicycle usage, research on this topic is sparse. Where it has occurred, its interdisciplinarity suggests that qualitative
methods have much to contribute to bicycle research. Research on bicycle user
groups includes studies on the historical development of specific bicycle subcultures,
reports on the cultural meanings of bicycling in particular times and spaces,
and theoretical analyses of bicycling’s shifting values across these times and
spaces. Bicycle advocacy organizations have also contributed to this area of
inquiry, reporting on the cultural barriers to bicycling in immigrant
communities and the growing number of cyclists who are people of color.
Synthesizing and formalizing this approach to bicycle research would create a method for integrating differences across populations into the scope of planning and design, as
suggested by the “social network activity promotion” model in public health
(Versey, 2014). Furthermore, a growing number of cities are using bicycle projects
as an economic stimulus at the same time that poverty is growing in suburban
and less bike-friendly areas (Brookings Institution, 2011). Research into the
different meanings of bicycling among different populations is timely if one is
to understand the role of transportation in inequality and economic development.
The proposed research will strengthen the
approaches of engineering-oriented bicycle researchers by articulating how
qualitative research on social factors in bicycling makes bicycle projects
reach wider populations. The research should suggest strategies, based on these
findings, to increase participation in bicycling by underrepresented groups. In
addition to the user community listed in the draft RNS, bicycle advocacy
groups, the FHWA and civic organizations could be included as users.
Social network activity promotion applied to
active transportation provides an equitable solution for increasing health, but
research in this area is needed to determine appropriate methods for execution.
Implementation of this research would provide substantial knowledge of the
unique challenges various individuals face in choosing to ride bicycles.
review and synthesis of current practice - A comprehensive review of the
literature focusing on state of the art concepts, population-specific studies,
and interdisciplinary approaches.
Review a statistically
valid cross section of recreational
bicycle clubs across the country to determine racial, ethnic, gender and
income level makeup of members and then
compare their membership makeup to the nation in general to determine whether
perception matches reality in terms of minority populations participating in
bicycling consistent with their population percentages.
Review images of
bicyclists in several issues of popular bicycling magazines including Adventure
Cyclist and Bicycling to determine how reflective of the images of bicyclists
are of the US population.
valid numbers of elected officials, based on racial makeup of their districts
(e.g. majority Latino, majority Asian, majority white, majority
African-American) to determine how they prioritize promoting bicycling and
bicycle facilities in their districts.
valid households in terms of race and ethnicity to determine how they
prioritize promoting bicycling and bicycle facilities within their communities.
advocacy groups with boards of directors and paid staff members (e.g. League of
American Bicyclists, Alliance for Biking and Walking, International Police
Mountain Bicycle Association, Association of Bicycle and Pedestrian
Professionals, statewide and local bicycle advocacy groups) to determine
racial, ethnic and gender makeup of their directors and paid employers and
compare with national racial, ethnic and gender makeup.
Research same bicycle
advocacy groups to determine how many have outreach programs that support
inclusion (e.g. LAB’s Equity and Diversity Initiative program and assess the
degree of success of such programs).
8. Produce Report - Discuss methods to integrate results of
qualitative study with current practice in bicycle encouragement.
This research would influence the design of
promotions, programs, and facilities intended to increase bicycle usage.
User Community: state DOTs, local governments, health departments, TDM personnel, community engagement personnel, bicycle and pedestrian planners
|Sponsoring Committee:||ACH20, Bicycle Transportation
|Research Period:||12 - 24 months|
|RNS Developer:||Adonia Lugo, Michael Jackson, Krista Nordback|
|Source Info:||Lubitow, A., Miller, T.R., 2013. Contesting Sustainability: Bikes, Race, and Politics in Portlandia. Environmental Justice 6, 121–126.|
McKenzie, B., 2014. Modes Less Traveled: Bicycling and Walking to Work in the United States 2008-2012 (No. ACS-25), American Community Survey Reports. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, D.C.
Suro, R., Wilson, J.H., Singer, A., 2011. Immigration and Poverty in America’s Suburbs, Metropolitan Opportunity Series. Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C.
Versey, H.S., 2014. Centering Perspectives on Black Women, Hair Politics, and Physical Activity. American Journal of Public Health 104, 810–815.
|Index Terms:||Bicycle travel, Social factors, Bicycle commuting, Culture (Social sciences), Ethnic groups, Planning, Policy making, |
Pedestrians and Bicyclists|
Planning and Forecasting