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Researchers have found new cycling infrastructure in Cambridge was responsible for 85% of the effect of increased cycling

A study in Cambridge has found “eighty-five percent of the effect on increasing cycling was explained by use of the infrastructure”.

The natural experiment study, which was one of the first of its kind to examine how environmental changes influence changes in physical activity, compared commuting data between 2009 and 2012 based on how close people lived to new cycle infrastructure, in this case the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway.

Cycling UK, the national cycling charity (formerly CTC), says this provides further evidence that for a UK ‘cycling revolution’ the government needs to invest in protected infrastructure.

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Funded by the Medical Research Council, the study compared data from the 2009 and 2012 commuting and health in Cambridge natural experimental study, with follow-up assessments in 2010, 2011 and 2012 asking participants if they had walked or cycled on the path beside the guided busway.

The researchers looked at:

  • Perceptions of the route to work
  • Theory of planned behaviour (motivational factors)
  • Self-reported use of the new infrastructure

Outcomes were modelled as an increase, decrease or no change in weekly cycle commuting time.

While perceptions of the commute, and motivational factors, didn’t explain the effects of new infrastructure on cycling, only the use of the route itself explained the increase in cycling (see table, below). Work started on the busway, which links towns and villages to the North West of Cambridge with the Cambridge Science Park, the city centre and Cambridge Biomedical Campus, in 2007 and was completed in summer 2011.

Table 2 85pc of cycling increase attributable to infrastructure authors R.G Prins, J. Panter, E. Heinen, S.J. Griffin, D.B. Ogilvie

Table 2 85pc of cycling increase attributable to infrastructure authors R.G Prins, J. Panter, E. Heinen, S.J. Griffin, D.B. Ogilvie

The study notes the health and environmental benefits of cycling, and compares low cycle usage of the UK, Switzerland, Canada and the USA, with countries such as China, the Netherlands, France and Germany where more than 30% of people travel to work by active means (walking and cycling).

It concludes changing the environment, i.e. introducing new cycle infrastructure, means people cycle more – with associated health benefits. One interesting finding was that existing commuters who lived near the busway spent less time cycling, researchers posited either because using public transport became more convenient or because it seemed like their journeys were shorter, or they were shorter because of fewer junctions and consequently higher speeds.

The report concludes: "Although it is important for causal inference to understand the pathways by which an environmental intervention brings about its effects (Rothman and Greenland, 2005,Rychetnik et al., 2002 and Victora et al., 2004), there is a lack of research on such pathways from intervention studies. We are only just beginning to understand the pathways by which environmental changes may bring about changes in physical activity behaviours." 

"To conclude, we found that exposure to the intervention led to an overall increase in the time spent cycling on the commute, mainly through use of the new infrastructure for cycling. "

Tom Guha, Cycling UK’s Space for Cycling campaigner said this study provides further evidence for investing in cycling infrastructure, both for improved health and air quality.

“The findings give a clear message to the Department for Transport: if David Cameron wants to realise his ‘cycling revolution’, there is no more effective way than committing meaningful investment into cycle friendly infrastructure,” he said.

Guha suggests diverting some of the government’s £15bn roads fund, or the soon to be introduced Sugar Tax, to bring spending for cycling up to at least £10 per head per year, from its current £1.39 outside of London.

He adds: “We are continuing along a trajectory towards a high-carbon, low-active travel transport system. The Government has expressed a commitment to reducing obesity in the UK, to combating climate change and to reducing air pollution. All the evidence is stacked up in favour of improving cycle infrastructure, and Cycling UK will continue campaigning until we have Space for Cycling for everyone, not just a few cities.”

8 comments

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ron611087 [356 posts] 1 year ago
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This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Mention the Netherlands and non-cyclists immediatly point out that the NL is flat, and you can't rule out terrain as a factor. If that were true then cycling would never decined to a low level in the 70's with car-centric roads, and then picked up after the introduction of quality infra. Infrastructure is what did it.

About 10% of journeys in Germany are done by bike, but that's an average. Germany is a federal country so the infrastructure is not consistent throughout. Go to Muenster where infra and prioritisation is similar to the Netherlands and you will find the same sort of cycling numbers. Elsewhere in Germany cycling numbers are different, with the quality of the infra being the deciding factor.

If the UK want's cycling to be universally popular then they must install joined up infrastructure that's at least the same standard as that of the roads, and the infrastructure must be properly prioritised.

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QDubs [17 posts] 1 year ago
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ron611087 wrote:

Mention the Netherlands and non-cyclists immediatly point out that the NL is flat, and you can't rule out terrain as a factor.

Much is flat and terrain is certainly a factor but keep in mind that southern Netherlands is far from flat (Amstel Gold race anyone?). Today we also have great pedelec e-bikes that can do great job of flattening a hill.

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Tony [127 posts] 1 year ago
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Hang on a minute.   What this says is if you provide a completely new direct cycle route to people's place of work that goes past their front door more people will cycle on it.  This is not a segregated cyclepath alongside a road.  Its a completely new route where one didn't exist before that is much more direct and uninterrupted than the prior options.  

And its not an 85% increase in cycling.  Cycling rates in Cambridge are already 37% for adults cycling 5 days a week or more and it certainly hasn't increased to 68% because of the busway.  Its a small increase in a local population who live near it who now have a direct cycling route to work where one didn't exist before.  

So lets be clear that this is not relevant to general cycling infrastructure such as the Cycle Superhighways.  Its about providing completely new direct cycle routes where they didn't exist before from people's homes to their place of work.

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wycombewheeler [1102 posts] 1 year ago
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Tony wrote:

 

And its not an 85% increase in cycling.  Cycling rates in Cambridge are already 37% for adults cycling 5 days a week or more and it certainly hasn't increased to 68% because of the busway. 

 

no one claimed 85% increase in cycling. It states of the increase there has ben 85% of that is due to the new route, and 15% to other initiatives or natural growth.

 

Amazing, if you provide segreated routes that are reasonabley direct from where people live to where they work the people will use them.  If only there was someone in the world who could have told us this, then we wouldn't have wasted so much time on paint on busy roads or completely indirect leisure cycling routes dressed up as 'natiopnal cycle network'

 

*cough*Netherlands*cough*

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HKCambridge [224 posts] 1 year ago
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Tony wrote:

Hang on a minute.   What this says is if you provide a completely new direct cycle route to people's place of work that goes past their front door more people will cycle on it.  This is not a segregated cyclepath alongside a road.  Its a completely new route where one didn't exist before that is much more direct and uninterrupted than the prior options.  

And its not an 85% increase in cycling.  Cycling rates in Cambridge are already 37% for adults cycling 5 days a week or more and it certainly hasn't increased to 68% because of the busway.  Its a small increase in a local population who live near it who now have a direct cycling route to work where one didn't exist before.  

So lets be clear that this is not relevant to general cycling infrastructure such as the Cycle Superhighways.  Its about providing completely new direct cycle routes where they didn't exist before from people's homes to their place of work.

 

The busway isn't in Cambridge, it's in south cambs, delivering people to Cambridge. South cambs cycling levels are much lower as a non-urban constituency, though still higher than for many actual cities in the country.

 

The things about the busway is that it is actually a *busway* too. People have the option to get the bus along it, and many do, but there is still an increase in cycling.

 

It is possible to cycle from these villages anyway. The last census was pre-busway and people did cycle into Cambridge then. But to cycle you need to be willing to go on rural roads in rush hour. There aren't exactly a lot of traffic lights and interruptions, it's just very unpleasant and unprotected. Whether the busway is more direct will depend on your start and end locations: the busway stops are mostly on the edge of the villages, not right past people's houses, while the roads go through the middle of the villages. Distance saved isn't necessarily that great, but it does mean you can cycle much of the distance without worrying about motor traffic.

 

A companion study to this one showed that most of the increase in cycling on this route came from people who were least active before. http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(15)006224/abstract

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wildnorthlands [32 posts] 1 year ago
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The geography of UK and it's hilliness used to be a deterrent to everyday cycling, but modern mid-range bikes have a wide range of gears and you can get up most hills now with a bit of a perseverance, and of course you get the pay-off on the downhills. Cycling levels in cities like Sheffield, where I live, Bath, Bristol have increased and good go further with some quality infrastructure that took account of the gradients. Plus e-bike technology is improving and these are getting more popular. 

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Tony [127 posts] 1 year ago
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HKCambridge wrote:

The busway isn't in Cambridge, it's in south cambs, delivering people to Cambridge. South cambs cycling levels are much lower as a non-urban constituency, though still higher than for many actual cities in the country.

 

Check the map.  It also runs from Trumpington Park and Ride to Addenbrookes and the train station - all within the city boundary.   Yes it does run in South Cambs from the north-west of Cambridge to the Science Park but that is a route where the A14 is totally congested at commute times and there are no real alternative parallel road routes (if there were they too would be congested with A14 avoiders) .  So it makes feasible with a completely new route something that was not really practical before.  That is very different to building something alongside an already existing route.

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Frederick Guy [1 post] 1 year ago
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The study shows that 85% of the cycling increase over a three year period, among those who work near the new cyclepath, is explained by how close to the cyclepath they live. This should *not* be interepreted as meaning that increasing cycling is 85% a question of infrastructure; since the cycle path is the only change considered in this study,  it tells us nothing about the effect of that infrastructure change vs. other possible changes. Dutch studies show that, in addition to cycle infrastructure, the cost of driving (or parking) has a big effect on cycle share.

For further details on this point, see my blog: http://wp.me/pC3u-lu