Publication Detail

Traffic Stress and Bicycling to Elementary and Junior High School: Evidence from Davis, California



Suggested Citation:
Fitch, Dillon T., Calvin Thigpen, Susan L. Handy (2016) Traffic Stress and Bicycling to Elementary and Junior High School: Evidence from Davis, California. Journal of Transport & Health 3 (4), 457 - 466

The purpose of this study is to examine the influence of stress stemming from proximity to automobile traffic on bicycling to elementary and junior high school. A growing body of evidence shows that students who walk or bike to school have higher levels of overall physical activity. Turning around the decline in active travel to school in the U.S. could thus produce improvements in the health and wellbeing of students. Despite considerable research on the influence of the urban environment on walking to school, a better understanding of the factors specific to bicycling to school is needed. We conducted a study of bicycling to school in Davis, California using data from repeated observations of bike rack counts at 11 neighborhood schools. We adopt the bicycle level of traffic stress (BLTS) methodology for estimating traffic stress from roadway characteristics as an inverse measure of bicycling comfort. We use Bayesian binomial multi-level regression models to analyze the influence of traffic stress and other covariates on bike rack counts. Results suggest that changing the street environment to reduce traffic stress (according to BLTS categorization) along routes to school in concert with encouraging shorter travel distances to school will increase the number of students bicycling and thereby increase student health.

Keywords: School travel; Bicycling; Traffic stress; Bicycling comfort; Built environment; Bayesian models