Xing, Yan (2012) Contributions Of Individual, Physical, And Social Environmental Factors To Bicycling: A Structural Equations Modeling Study Of Six Small U.S. Cities. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Research Report UCD-ITS-RR-12-28
Bicycling is widely promoted in many countries as a sustainable means of transportation and a form of physical activity as well. However, the level of bicycling in the US is low compared to some European countries with similar economies and levels of auto ownership. Differences in the physical and social environments in these countries may explain this phenomenon. Previous research has established an association between environmental factors and bicycling. However, empirical knowledge about the influences on bicycling, and relative importance to bicycling, of the physical and social environments as well as individual factors is limited. Additionally, the majority of bicycling in the US is for recreation rather than transportation purposes but few studies have examined the question of bicycling purpose. We use data from an online survey conducted in 2006 in Davis, CA, which has a high bicycling level, and 5 comparison small cities in the western US to examine the contributions of physical and social environments to bicycling. Several aspects of bicycling are examined: bicycle ownership and regular bicycling, as well as bicycling for transportation compared to bicycling for recreation, bicycling distance and daily probability of transportation bicycling. The study employs Structural Equations Modeling to assess the complex relationships between bicycling and environment while controlling for socio-demographics, travel constraints, and attitudinal factors.
Individual factors, especially attitudes, play a more important role than environmental factors in explaining bicycling. The attitude of liking bicycling is the most important factor in explaining bicycle ownership and regular bicycling. It also leads to a greater likelihood of transportation-oriented bicycling. The attitude of environmental concern combined with preference for non-motorized travel modes strongly impacts bicycling, especially transportation bicycling. Bicycling self-efficacy contributes to bicycle ownership and regular bicycling, as well as transportation bicycling. It also works as an important mediator through which supportive bicycle infrastructure exerts an influence on bicycling.
Both the physical and social environments show significant influences on bicycling, after accounting for socio-demographics, travel constraints, attitudes, and residential preference for bicycling. Supportive bicycling infrastructure encourages, though indirectly through bicycling comfort, the following: owning a bicycle, regular bicycling, higher shares of bicycle rides for transportation, and bicycling longer and more frequently for transportation. A greater mix of land uses may lead an individual to bicycle mostly for transportation, but result in relatively fewer bicycling miles for transportation. Hilly topography discourages owning a bicycle, regular bicycling, and bicycling mostly for transportation, but may encourage bicyclists to be more recreationally oriented. A bicycling culture, especially if a transportation bicycling culture, shows stronger influences on transportation-oriented bicycling than the physical environment does, while controlling for individual factors and residential preference for bicycling. Additionally, the analysis shows a residential self-selection effect, in which people who have a higher level of residential preference for bicycling are more likely to own a bicycle and bicycle regularly, especially to bicycle mostly, more miles, and more frequently for transportation.