RESEARCH NOTE: Assessment of the type of cycling infrastructure required to attract new cyclists

The New Zealand Transport Agency commissioned research to assess the type of cycling infrastructure required to attract new cyclists. The term ‘new cyclists’ refers to people who either do not currently cycle at all, or people who do not currently cycle for utilitarian (also known as ‘utility’) trips, but may engage in, say, recreational riding.

The outcome of this commission is the New Zealand Transport Agency Report No. 449, titled “Assessment of the type of cycling infrastructure required to attract new cyclists.” The report is authored by S Kingham, K Taylor and G Koorey.

The executive summary of the report is reproduced below:Executive Summary:

This research, which was conducted from July 2008 to January 2010, investigated what type of cycling infrastructure (i.e., physical street facilities) would encourage ‘new cyclists’ to use cycling as their mode of transport for daily activities in New Zealand.

The term ‘new cyclists’ refers to people who either do not currently cycle at all, or people who do not currently cycle for utilitarian (also known as ‘utility’) trips, but may engage in, say, recreational riding.

The research objectives were to:

  • carry out a comprehensive international literature review on the barriers and motivations associated with cycling, as well as the design of cycling infrastructure and its impact on the use of cycles
  • identify the biggest barrier for new cyclists when considering cycling as a transport mode
  • assess the demand for different types of cycle route provision, such as quiet streets, cycle lanes and off-road pathways
  • identify the impact of cycling infrastructure on the likely uptake of utility cycling by current non-utility cyclists
  • provide recommendations for local and central government on the type of cycle route design required to encourage a growth in cyclist numbers.

An international literature review was undertaken to identify the characteristics of people who currently cycle, their motivations and barriers regarding utilitarian cycling, and the types of cycling facilities available. Surveys were then carried out to gain a broad understanding of some of the barriers to utilitarian cycling, and ‘potential cyclists’ were recruited into focus groups to undertake further research.

In the focus groups, all motivations and barriers were discussed to gain an understanding of the key issues for potential cyclists, and to identify the most significant issues. The focus groups also evaluated a range of cycling facilities.

Overall, the survey questionnaires and focus groups showed that safety was the most significant issue for potential cyclists, particularly in relation to vehicle driver behaviour and traffic volume. However, other issues were also significant, including:

  • having facilities at the destination for showering and changing
  • enjoyment (which is linked to safety)
  • the perception that car drivers are not courteous (also linked to perceived safety).

The solutions that were most likely to effect a significant change in cyclist numbers related to the nature and consistency of infrastructure, and education for motor vehicle drivers and cyclists on how to best and safely use it. The preferred cycling facility was a comprehensive, consistent network of cycle-only paths with separation from motor vehicles, and with dedicated intersection facilities such as hook turns and cycle signals. However, all of the cycling facility options that were presented rated much higher than the ‘no provision’ options.

Based on our findings, the following recommendations are suggested for New Zealand:

  • Investment in cycling facilities of all kinds should be encouraged throughout the country, with the choice of facility subject, where necessary, to practical considerations and best-practice guidance.
  • The uptake of cycling infrastructure that allows cyclists further separation from traffic (including behind parking and kerb-lines) should be encouraged, whilst providing adequate safe-design details at intersections and driveways.
  • A wide variety of cycling infrastructure types should be trialled throughout the country (particularly those that were well supported by the participants in this study) and their actual safety records should be monitored, as well as road-user understanding and acceptance of them.
  • Consistent infrastructure for cyclists at junctions, such as hook-turn facilities and dedicated cycle signals, should be implemented.
  • On-site signage and markings should be improved, along with education for all road users on how to interact with and use various cycling facilities.
  • More low-speed (30/40km/h) zones and cycle-friendly traffic management should be implemented throughout the country, so that people become more familiar with the concepts.
  • The continuity and understanding of existing cycling facilities, both in terms of physical road/path features and signage/marking guidance, should be improved.
  • Further investigation of the effect of access to company vehicles on the uptake of utilitarian cycling should be carried out, both in terms of vehicles provided for travel to/from home, and vehicles available for private use during the day.
  • Those involved in the planning and design of cycling infrastructure should be encouraged to consider the broader health benefits associated with increased cycle use, in addition to the safety implications of infrastructure design.

Overall all reasonable points, however, I would have hoped to see the report recommending education on how to interact with cyclists and not just cycling facilities.

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