Seasonal Impacts on Bicycle Transport

Seasonal Impacts on Bicycle Transport

Principal Investigator: Brian S. Flynn, ScD (Office of Health Promotion Research, College of Medicine)

Funding Agency: US DOT

Partners: Office of Health Promotion Research (OHPR), Center for Rural Studies (CSR), Resource Systems Group (RSG, Inc.), and New England Transportation Institute (NETI)

Project Summary

Recognition of disadvantages of automobile-focused transportation systems, such environmental and public health impacts, has motivated a focus on options. Non-motorized transport modes such as bicycling have multiple advantages in these respects, but barriers to expanded use of these options need to be better understood. This study will document factors influencing choice of bicycling as a transportation mode for commuting to work in a northern climate. Results will contribute to methods for estimating demand for these services.

Motorized transportation has disadvantageous impacts on human health, quality of life, and the environment. The direct effects of sedentary lifestyle and the anticipated effects of climate change associated with the use of motor vehicles are increasingly evident. Non-motorized transport such as bicycling is an alternative to use of motor vehicles for a substantial number of transportation needs.

Public health researchers and transportation planners are teaming up to learn more about bicycle travel. The Office of Health Promotion Research in the College of Medicine at the University of Vermont (UVM) is collaborating with the UVM Transportation Research Center in a study of weather-related factors on bicycling for transportation in order to inform public policies.

The impact of seasonal differences, including temperature, amount of rain or snow, and hours of daylight, on utilitarian bicycling has not received much attention from transportation or public health researchers. Better information about the impact of these influences on choosing bicycling instead of motorized transportation could help predict demand for resources and policies that facilitate utilitarian use of bicycles.

People who commute to work by bicycle at least occasionally are invited to participate in the study. Participants will provide information about their method of transportation to work and use of bicycle transportation for a seven day period four times in one year (once per season during a specific week) using an online questionnaire. Descriptions of trips will include purpose, time spent and distance. Individual reports of transportation mode choices will be matched with date and place-specific weather conditions. Data analyses will focus on the impact of weather conditions on choice of transportation mode for commuting trips.

Project activities begin in the fall of 2008 with interviews and focus groups designed to inform the development of the online questionnaire and data collection process, scheduled to begin fall 2009 with approximately 200 adults who commute to work by bicycle at least occasionally.

Project Overview (PDF, March 2010)

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