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Bike commuters influence friends and colleagues to do the same, behavioural study finds

But safety is still a big obstacle to bike commuting.

Research published in the American Journal of Health Behaviour and reported by the British Psychological Society found that people cycle to work often inspire their colleagues to do the same.

The study, led by Melissa Bopp, of Pennsylvania State university examined 1,234 surveys, which included questions related to how people travel to and from work.

They found that people were more likely to commute by bike or on foot, dubbed ‘active commuting’ by the researchers, if their spouses or colleagues approved of them not sitting in a car turning to lard.

The researchers also found that people who were confident of their cycling skills were more likely to ride to work, and that it helps if you believe your bike commute doesn’t take very long.

Safety first

Chartered Psychologist Dr Frank Eves from the University of Birmingham points out that many factors influence whether people choose to ride for transport. Previous research in the Netherlands showed that speed of journey, perceived skills to cope with detours, heavy bags and inclement weather were all influences, but apart from getting tired, health-related factors were not.

Dr Eves said that the finding that co-workers and partners may influence an individual’s active commuting is an interesting observation, but pointed out that safety is still a big issue.

He said: “Lack of safe cycle lanes is a particular barrier to cycling as is the volume of vehicle traffic. That is typically overcome in the Netherlands but can be an issue in the UK, as it was in the study in the US by Bopp and co-workers.

“Active commuting can be positively associated with fitness and inversely associated with body mass, obesity, triglycerides, blood pressure and insulin, so it is an attractive public health option, and removal of potential barriers would be a good idea. 

“One simple technique I have noticed in Barcelona is a separation of bicycles from cars on existing roads by attaching hard rubber, raised diagonals to the road surface at intervals such that any car wheel straying onto them would result in high levels of vibration within the car to warn the driver."

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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