Urban Cycling Facilities and Travel Behaviour Change (Updated 2021)

Most communities in Canada are looking to improve cycling rates; a key dimension of these efforts centres on providing and improving cycling facilities including bicycle lanes, cycle tracks and bikeways. This Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) funded research project will explore the following research questions: (1) what impact does a cycling facility have on changes in traveller behaviour, in particular, cycling behaviour? (2) To what extent do different types of cycling facilities (e.g., a cycle track versus a bicycle lane) have different influences on cycling? and (3) in what ways are the impacts similar or different between a suburban location/ municipality and an urban location/municipality?

The study area is the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) region, which is a large geographical area centred on Toronto. A case-controlled study offers a unique opportunity to improve our understanding of the potential causal effect of the cycling facilities. The data also enables theoretically grounded, cross-sectional explorations of the relationship between travel attitudes, norms, perceptions, the built environment, cycling facilities and cycling behaviour across a large urban region.

We conducted an online survey of 1600+ adults living in 17 different neighbourhoods, some with a recently built on-street cycling facility and some without. Results show that 7% of residents were cycling at least once a week for commuting, and 19% of residents were regularly cycling for recreational purposes in the summer and fall of 2019. In most of these neighbourhoods, bicycling uptake has increased in recent years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our findings provide important baseline data that will be important in planning for active transportation in post-pandemic Canada.

This research is a collaboration between Dr. Raktim Mitra at Ryerson University, Dr. Paul Hess at the University of Toronto, and The Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT).

Update May 2021: In the final year of this study, we have developed an interactive dashboard where we show bicycling behaviour in various neighbourhoods that were included in our study. Users will also be able to review bicycling uptake among key socio-demographic groups. Additionally, the summary of findings from the online survey was recently published in Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment.

The study will conclude in March 2022.