Pictured: Bike Rack in the City. .

Bicycle facilities and women's cycling frequency – An intersectional analysis of gendered travel behaviour

Authors: Sarah Giacomantonio, Léa Ravensbergen and Raktim Mitra


Research Context

Cycling is a promising alternative to private cars for short to medium trips, addressing environmental and public health challenges. Its popularity has grown in North America, highlighting the need for more bicycle infrastructure to increase uptake. Such facilities are linked to higher cycling rates and safer streets. They also promote equitable cycling environments, crucial for increasing participation among women and other underrepresented groups. In particular, cycling can reduce traffic congestion, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and provide significant health benefits through increased physical activity. Despite these benefits, cycling rates remain relatively low compared to other forms of transportation, necessitating targeted efforts to improve cycling infrastructure and promote cycling as a viable mode of transport.

Research Objectives

This study explores the impact of bicycle facilities on women's cycling frequency for commuting, considering the influence of gender and other social factors in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The objectives are to understand the multifaceted barriers and motivators that influence cycling habits among different demographic groups.

1) How do women's age, employment, living situation, and trip-chaining influence their cycling frequency compared to men?

2) What role do bicycle facilities play in these relationships?

3) To what extent do social and economic factors such as income, education, and access to cycling resources affect women's decisions to cycle for commuting purposes?

4) How do perceptions of safety, convenience, and accessibility of bicycle facilities impact cycling frequency among women?

Study Area and Methods

Study Area: Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Canada

Methods:

- Analyzed cycling behavior near 10 streets: 5 with new bicycle facilities (2015-2018) and 5 without.

- Considered both suburban and urban sites.

- Collected data through a combination of online household travel surveys, field observations, and GIS mapping to identify cycling patterns and infrastructure usage.

- Conducted in-depth interviews with female cyclists to gather qualitative insights on their experiences and challenges.

- Utilized weighted binomial logistic regression models to analyze the data and identify significant predictors of cycling frequency.

Key Findings

- Bicycle facilities do not universally increase cycling frequency but have significant effects for specific groups, especially younger women and part-time workers/students.

- Women with children and those who trip-chain cycle more frequently with bicycle facilities. This suggests that well-designed bicycle infrastructure can support complex travel patterns often associated with caregiving responsibilities.

- Car ownership negatively impacts cycling frequency. Individuals who own cars are less likely to use bicycles for commuting, highlighting the need for policies that make cycling more attractive and convenient than car travel.

- Short commute times are positively associated with frequent cycling where bicycle facilities exist, indicating that proximity and convenience play crucial roles in encouraging cycling.

- Interaction findings: The study found that the intersection of gender with other demographic factors, such as age and employment status, significantly influences cycling behavior. Younger women, part-time workers, and students show higher cycling frequencies when bicycle facilities are available.

Implications

- Investing in bicycle infrastructure can increase cycling, especially among women. However, infrastructure alone is not enough; complementary measures such as safety campaigns, cycling education programs, and supportive policies are essential to address the broader barriers to cycling.

- Policies should consider intersectional identities to effectively promote cycling. This involves understanding the unique needs and challenges faced by different demographic groups and designing infrastructure and programs that are inclusive and equitable.

- Inclusive planning and community consultation are crucial for designing effective and equitable bicycle facilities. Engaging with a diverse range of community members, particularly those from underrepresented groups, ensures that the infrastructure meets their needs and encourages broader participation in cycling.

- Urban planners and policymakers should prioritize creating safe, accessible, and convenient cycling environments that cater to the needs of all users, including women, children, and older adults.

Conclusions

The study highlights the significant role that well-designed bicycle facilities can play in promoting cycling, particularly among women and other underrepresented groups. While infrastructure is a key component, a holistic approach that includes policy support, community engagement, and targeted programs is essential for creating a cycling-friendly environment. Future research should continue to explore the nuanced factors that influence cycling behavior and evaluate the long-term impacts of cycling infrastructure investments on public health, environmental sustainability, and urban mobility.