5th Cycling and Society Symposium

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The 5th Cycling and Society Symposium, held at the Centre for Transport & Society at the University of the West of England, Bristol brought together practitioners, policy makers and academics from all over the UK to share their different experiences of and perspectives on cycling issues. This page provides a brief report of proceedings and has been compiled by the convenors: Henrietta Sherwin and Graham Parkhurst. You may wish to join the Cycling and Society email list.

Monday 8 September

Twelve presentations were given on this first day, within a schedule allowing time for discussion. All abstracts and author email addresses can be found after the summary of proceedings together with links to PDFs of those papers that are available.

A broad range of topics were covered in the presentations and the discussions touched on cycling cultures; the image of bikes, cyclists and cycling generally; practical barriers – storage, maintenance and obtaining a suitable bike; motor vehicle driver behaviour around cyclists; making the case for cycling investment and the integration of cycling with other modes.

The following are some of the key issues which were highlighted:

  1. The idea that sometimes the most obvious barriers are overlooked; the lack of storage for bicycles particularly in flats and shared accommodation in inner cities; a bad cycling experience through the lack of help in purchasing a bike suitable for an individual’s need could lose them to cycling so it is important to ensure a good first experience.
  2. Do individuals need to own a bike? Could public bikes as suggested by the pay-as-you-go hire scheme to be trialled in Bristol be one answer? This raised the issue of ‘What should hire bikes look like?’ and the whole question of what kind of identity different bicycles might confer and the cultural and sociological issues around materialities/possession/attachment and ownership.
  3. The visibility of cycling whether in terms of bike events or social discourse as a way of creating a cycling culture where cycling is perceived as the norm as opposed to a marginal activity. Related to this was a discussion around the difference between teaching cycling to primary school children and secondary school pupils where the social context and peer pressure were a significant barrier.
  4. Perceptions around safety and the wearing of helmets may be counterproductive in terms of promoting cycling and it was noted that in cultures with higher levels of cycling there was less safety paraphernalia associated with cycling.
  5. Actual safety may be compromised by designated cycle lanes on roads which led to a discussion around the guidance for the width of cycle lanes.
  6. The need for more realistic strategies to promote bike rail integration and a greater understanding of the chain of requirements to promote seamless travel.
  7. Making the case for cycling investment and evaluating cycle schemes beyond the normal cost benefit exercise to include physical activity, CO2 benefits and perceived liveability.

Tuesday 9 September

The second day examined the issues raised on the Monday in terms of the research gaps, with the following being some of the questions and topics raised by the group as relevant for future research.

Research Gaps Identified:

  1. Culture and Cultural Change
    • Which social/geographical groups are over/under represented in cycling? Are there some cyclists who will cycle anywhere and others who will cycle depending on the place?
    • Is Cycling the ‘New Black’? What is the nature of media representation of cyclists? Why are very negative portrayals about cyclists 'permitted' in the media? How can this negative discourse be challenged?
    • Why do people drop in and out of cycling through their life stages?
    • How do cycling cultures evolve? Can a culture be created?
    • Sociability of the cycling experience: how far is it a solitary or shared activity?
    • what is the nature of discourse in and around different social groups linked to cycling?
  2. More Effective Interventions
    • Why aren’t hard engineering solutions meeting best practice expectations?
    • The need for novel applications of theoretical tools to understand the political process and functioning of the whole system which contributes to implementing cycling infrastructure relative to other investments.
    • Evaluating bike hire and understanding whether there is an imperative of ownership.
  3. Using and Mapping Cycling Spaces
    • Space time geography applied to cycling
    • Conflicts over space between modes, between different groups of cyclists – e.g. children and 'racers'
    • Mental maps of cycling space – what does it mean to think as a cyclist and experience space as a cyclist?

Future of Cycling and Society Research Group:

A business meeting was also held on Day 2 to discuss the future development of the group. It was noted that the first meeting of the group had been held in 2004 to develop the field of cycling studies and it was considered that there had been tangible benefits in terms of links between practitioners and academics. Support was shown for the view that future symposia should not diverge too much from academia otherwise there was a danger that they would become indistinguishable from other conferences. There was less of a consensus over how far academic enquiry should be instrumental, with some arguing that the group should primarily promote 'interesting enquiry' and others feeling that academic research either could not, or should not, be separate from advocating for cycling.

There was general discussion around the design of the symposium and whether the mix of presentations and discussions, the balance between academic and practitioner papers and the length of presentations on Day 1 had been a appropriate or should be changed. As a result of this discussion, no major changes were proposed. John Parkin of Bolton University agreed to host the next symposium and promised to take the various comments into consideration. The informal structure of the organisation was discussed and it was decided to establish a committee of five people to steer the group, and in particular to oversee the organisation of future symposia. John Parkin, as the next symposium organiser was co-opted as the first committee member. Others interested in serving on the committee were encouraged to contact John. should more than four names be forthcoming then a voting procedure would be established. John Parkin also offered to do some work on archiving papers and there is an ongoing discussion about the possibility of a website.

Abstracts of Papers Presented (and full papers where available)

Encouraging bicycle use in residential neighbourhoods: insights from Edinburgh
Tim Ryley (Loughborough University)

The author completed a PhD in 2005 that examined individual travel behaviour in Edinburgh, to asses the propensity to walk and cycle. Analysis from a two-stage data collection methodology has been presented at previous ‘Cycling and Society' symposia. A segmentation analysis was undertaken to identify those most likely to cycle using first-stage Scottish Household Survey data for Edinburgh (Symposium 1, Lancaster, 2004). Attitudinal and travel behaviour findings from the second-stage survey of 997 households in West Edinburgh were subsequently presented (Symposium 3, Chester, 2006). This paper presents new analysis from the stage-two survey with a focus on the different responses from four distinct neighbourhoods along the West Edinburgh transport corridor. The residential neighbourhoods are, in order from the city centre to the urban fringe: Dalry, Slateford, Wester Hailes, Currie. These neighbourhoods vary by socio-demographic characteristics of the residents and housing type; bike ownership and usage is examined across these neighbourhoods. An anomaly is presented: there is lower bike ownership amongst those living in neighbourhoods towards the centre of Edinburgh, typically in flats, yet these areas are more suited to cycling (due to people being closer to where they want to travel). Design solutions for bicycle storage in residential neighbourhoods are then examined. For flat dwellers, there have been initiatives in Edinburgh to develop cycle parking facilities. Other solutions are presented in response to the reasons for not cycling put forward by non-cyclists in the West Edinburgh survey. The applicability of such solutions to encourage cycling in other towns and cities is also considered. Finally, the findings are placed in the context of contemporary travel trends and cycling policy measures.

Exploration of the motivations and existing behaviour of bike rail integrators to inform future promotional interventions
Henrietta Sherwin and Graham Parkhurst (University of the West of England)

Bike-rail integration (BRI) extends the catchment area of a station for those without access to a car or bus, whilst also enabling the substitution of more car journeys and allowing people to build exercise into their day. More cycle access to the rail network has particular benefits in a congested urban environment like Bristol, which has few opportunities to increase car access to or parking near stations. An increase in BRI could bring environmental, economic and health benefits but there are practical, social and psychological barriers. This paper reports on the results of a face-face survey of 135 bike rail integrators (BRIs) at two Bristol stations alongside semi-structured interviews and observation to explore their motivations, cycling history and existing behaviour. Two thirds of the BRIs were found to be male, 40% were in their thirties, nearly all were employed and living in households with incomes of between £17,000 and £50,000 and 62% owned a car. Their main motivations were saving time and getting exercise and they cycled on average 3.7 kilometres to or from the station. It appears that the majority are substituting a walking journey to the station. BRIs had experimented with different methods of bike rail integration, moved in and out of cycling at different times in their lives and the data builds a picture of the many different factors that influence the decision to cycle and integrate with rail. These findings are discussed in the context of behaviour change theory and the design of social marketing interventions to promote bike-rail integration. The research will contribute to informing effective investment to make the connection between cycling and rail more seamless which will be a part of the station travel plan agenda set out in the Government’s White Paper “Towards a Sustainable Railway”.

The development, design and implementation of a Bristol City Hire Bike Scheme
Tim Caswell (Hourbike)

The presentation examines the different models of hire bike scheme that already exist and how the Bristol scheme Hourbike has been developed and in what ways it differs from other models. The potential for Hourbike to encourage cycling particularly amongst local employees, through an employer-involvement programme will be discussed: Hourbike, LifeCycle UK and Cyclescheme are planning to join forces in Bristol to offer a range of services through a programme called Cycling Workforce. The benefits of the scheme are intended to include the reduction in short car journeys for work, improving both the environment and employee health. Information on the specifics of the Bristol scheme will be provided: how it will work, what it offers the users, the design of the bikes, security and maintenance issues and the potential for research to analyse the data collected through the scheme.

Methodological Issues in Measuring and Evaluating Physical Measures to Promote Walking and Cycling
John Preston (University of Southampton), Christian Brand (University of Oxford), Fiona Bull (Loughborough University), Ashley Cooper (University of Bristol), Nanette Mutrie (University of Strathclyde), David Ogilvie (MRC Epidemiology Unit, Cambridge), Jane Powell (UWE, Bristol) and Harry Rutter (University of Oxford)

The iConnect (Impact of Constructing Non-motorised Networks and Evaluating Changes in Travel) consortium, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, consists of eight academic groups (based at the Universities of Bristol, East Anglia, Loughborough, Oxford, Southampton, Strathclyde, West of England (UWE) and at the MRC Epidemiology Unit in Cambridge). The consortium aims to measure and evaluate the changes in travel, physical activity and carbon emissions related to Sustrans’ Connect2 project, which won the public vote in the Big Lottery Fund’s recent People’s £50 Million Competition. Connect2 is an ambitious UK-wide project that will transform local travel in 79 communities by creating new pathways, crossings and bridges to overcome barriers such as busy roads, rivers and railways, giving people easier and healthier access to their schools, shops, parks and countryside. Starting in May 2008, the five-year iConnect study involves a broad evaluation of the whole Connect2 project, coupled with detailed investigations at five specific sites, including the Bridge to Nowhere (Glasgow) and the Itchen Walkway (Southampton). This paper outlines preliminary thinking on methodological issues concerning measurement and evaluation. The difficulties in obtaining accurate measurements of walking and cycling levels are outlined and various survey and observational methodologies are assessed. The role of randomised control trials is briefly considered. This research will be informed by the critical realist approach to evaluation, with an emphasis on the inter-relationships between context, mechanisms and outcomes. A general, socio-ecological model, will be considered, based on the work of Saelens et al.1 that relates the amount of walking and cycling to socio-demographic factors and neighbourhood characteristics. This will be supplemented by middle range theories to determine the mechanisms that make some schemes more successful than others. These theoretical approaches will be related instruments such HEAT and NATA that have been used to assess health and travel benefits respectively.

Do cycle routes pay?
Neil McAlpine, David Broadstock & Gary Cummins (JMP)

Historically the demand for cycling has been waning, implicitly suggesting the potential economic value of the cycle industry has been diminishing. However over the past decade both national and local transport policies have recognised the potential benefits of cycling in achieving environmental benefits as well as health benefits. Moreover there is a well defined role for cycle routes and facilities within the tourist industry which adds direct value to the economy. As such the demand for cycling has been reinvigorated through the government sustainable transport agenda which is advocating consistent growth within the UK leaving a latent demand that needs to be realised. Moreover, public health concerns have reinforced this change in policy emphasis, not least because of concerns about low levels of population physical activity and weight gain. Unfortunately sustainable transport, including walking and cycling, has been and continues to be a point of contention for developers and planners alike with respect to infrastructure improvements. One of the most difficult aspects hindering their uptake is the complexity of determining their fiscal valuation – exactly how much is a cycle route worth? i.e. what is the market value for services provided? With a view to developing a framework to underpin potential investment decisions, this study applies core economic principals and analysis methods to derive the potential value, and hence profitability, of cycle routes using an empirical example from Scotland. Previous work has looked into the recreational value of cycle routes in Scotland using the Glentress mountain biking facility and the present work provides an extension to this using the national cycling network. The reason for doing so is to evaluate the consumer value of existing facilities in order to (i) test the case for further network expansion and (ii) elucidate the extent of realisable business expansion potential along existing routes.

The Effect of Cycle lanes on the lateral distance between motor traffic and cycle traffic and the implications for this for risk and attractiveness of cycling in the highway (11Mb file)
Ciaran Meyers (University of Leeds) and John Parkin (University of Bolton)

Research on collisions between motor and cycle traffic has generally concentrated on junctions while research on the acceptability of cycling has concentrated on links, with more recent research providing an integrated measure of perceived risk for junctions and links combined. Close proximity of vehicles during overtaking manoeuvres has been shown to increase stress and reduce the perception of safety for cyclists, and research measuring the overtaking distance of motor traffic has already shown variation by type of motor vehicle and by the apparent gender of the cyclist. On the basis that the risk of cycle-vehicle collisions is greater where there is closer proximity, it is important to understand properly measured overtaking behaviour relative to the presence or absence of cycle lanes and the width of carriageway available. This paper presents results of an experiment that collected proximity data of motor traffic overtaking cycle traffic with and without cycle lanes using an instrumented bicycle and controlling for confounders including horizontal and vertical geometry and volume and speed of traffic, and this presents an enhancement on previous research and evidence from campaign groups. A comparison between the overtaking proximity of motor traffic to the bicycle, both with and without cycle lanes, is made to establish whether any significant differences exist. The data collected also allow the characteristics of the overtaking vehicles to be examined, to ascertain whether the proximity of overtaking vehicles differs for drivers of different vehicles. The results help to determine whether the installation of cycle lanes is an appropriate way to increase the separation between cycle traffic and motor traffic, with a greater separation likely to reduce the risk of accidents. Recommendations are drawn on circumstances where cycle lanes may be inappropriate and whether drivers of particular vehicle types should be targeted for driver safety campaigns.

Bike Recycling in Leicester and the building of cycling culture(s)
Andy Salkeld and Tim Hudson (Leicestershire City Council)

Leicester’s Bikes 4 All Project was established with a £130k Neighbourhood Renewal Fund in September 2004. It is now the largest UK Bike Recycling Project and will provide structured training for 300 people and rescue 5,000 bikes from landfill in 2008. Bikes are rescued from recycling plants or donation and stripped for re-use. 60% are recycled for metal and tyre scrap. 40% are re-used. Trainees receive industry-standard mechanic’s training. Bikes are re-sold or donated to trainee cyclists. Initial funding was via Leicester City Council and supplemented by contract specific grants from Cred (2004 – 2007), Home Office (2005), Connexions (2006-2009), Ace Lottery Project (2007 – 2012). Alongside volunteer time and donations, commercial sales and training contracts have secured Bikes 4 All Project to 2012. Partnerships are established with other Groundwork projects, City Council initiatives, bike projects across Leicester and bike recycling projects elsewhere. Scrap bike are supplied by Biffa Leicester, Environmental Waste Consultants, Leicestershire Police, Riverside Wardens and local bike shops. Training is supplied for Connexions, Leicester Youth Inclusion Project, schools, colleges and the CTC Cycling Champions Project. Outputs include 5,000 bikes rescued since 2004 (and 5,000 more anticipated in 2008), 2,000 bikes already put back into use, full-time work and training for 11 staff and 500 trainees will receive a recognised qualification in bike mechanics by the end of 2008. Outcomes include more cyclists (bikes are mostly used by new and returning cyclists), more cycling (maintenance skills keep bikes road-worthy), and social inclusion (bikes are usually sold to people on low income). Training is provided for young people, special need groups, excluded or those under-represented in mainstream bike culture(s). The project provides a popular, easily-understood and user-friendly media service. It also engenders an embedded bike culture: accessible, reliable and affordable bikes support wider strategies for cycling.

One Year On: how (not) to run a bicycle workshop
Jake Voelcker (Jake’s Bikes)

This presentation reviews the first year of operation of Bristol's most innovative bicycle workshop. A brief background will be given including justification for establishment of the operation and the motivating forces behind it. These include the desire to promote and advocate cycling, and the aim to make a practical, tangible difference. A 'guided tour' of the operation will outline the methods used to fulfil these ambitions: - Bespoke bicycle building service for beginners: "New to cycling? Know nothing about the technical details? Tell us what you will use it for and we'll build you the prefect bike!"
- Second-hand bicycle sales with a difference: all fully serviced, supplied with warranty and anti-theft certificate
- High handlebar conversions for customers who want an old fashioned riding position on a modern bike
- Repair, replace and re-use policy - only recycled bicycles are sold, and second-hand components are used wherever possible in preference to buying new
- Mobile repairs service and home visits
- On-site bicycle mechanic sessions for organisations, companies and festivals
- The exclusive use of a bicycle trailer for collections and deliveries - no car or van A frank assessment of the successes and failures of the business will include an exploration of why it is almost impossible to make money out of second-hand bicycle sales and how customers are surprisingly willing to buy into the low-carbon, recycled, environmental ethos. One of the major successes is that at least some customers who were previously not cyclists are now cycling regularly; a major failing is that the operation is not, or not yet, a profitable business. Future ambitions, opportunities and challenges will then be addressed: how to turn the operation into a business which can pay a wage without compromising its original goals; possibilities for further outreach and expansion of cycling advocacy and promotion to new customer groups; and the possible effects of a failing economy and rising cost of fuel and materials.

Bicycle commuting and work-related aspects
Eva Heinen, Bert van Wee and Kees Maat (Delft University of Technology)

Cycling is environmentally friendly, cheap, non-polluting, beneficial to health and requires relatively little space for infrastructure and parking. Because of all these advantages, many governments are attempting to encourage cycling in general and bicycle commuting in particular. Although for many factors have been found to influence bicycle commuting, little attention has been paid to the effect of the specifically work-related factors. This paper aims to investigate which work-related factors – such as working hours, the type of clothing worn and the opinions of colleagues – affect whether a worker is a non-cyclist, a part-time cyclist or a full-time cyclist. An internet survey was conducted in two medium-sized towns in the Netherlands: Delft and Zwolle. By estimating a multinomial logit model, several factors were found to increase the probability of being a full-time or part-time cyclist. The likelihood of being a full-time cyclist is greater if a bicycle is needed during working hours, if colleagues expect one to commute by bicycle rather than by car, and if a worker has a permanent or temporary contract rather than being temporary personnel from another company. The likelihood of being a full-time cyclist is smaller if the worker needs to transport heavy or bulky objects and if a car is available for commuting. The probability of being a part-time cyclist is greater if the worker needs a bicycle while at work, does not (always) have a car available for commuting and has colleagues who expect him or her to travel by bicycle rather than by car. The probability is smaller if they always need to transport objects to work and if a private or leased car is needed during working hours.

Do cyclists have an exaggerated view of the risks of cycling and the efficacy of cycle helmets?

Richard Burton (University of the West of England)

The paper examines whether cyclists have a realistic appreciation of the effectiveness of cycle helmets, and whether they have a realistic appreciation of the risks of cycling, and whether the two are related. Because cycle helmets and fear of cycling are deter cycling, and it is government policy to increase cycling for health and other reasons, exaggerated views may prevent policy being carried into practice. A survey of over 300 cyclists was undertaken to discover the views of cyclists in those two areas. Interviews were also conducted with ten cyclists to explore the subject in more depth. An extensive literature search was also done, including publicity and research about risks of cycling and helmet effectiveness. This included academic research and also the popular media, to examine if that could be a formative factor in cyclists’ perceptions. The surveys were analysed using a spreadsheet programme, whilst the interviews were examined for common themes and explicit reasons for attitudes. The results were discussed and interpreted and conclusions drawn. The main conclusion is that the majority of the people surveyed do have an exaggerated opinion of the effectiveness of cycle helmets, and an exaggerated opinion of the risks of cycling, and that the two are associated. These perceptions are likely to be caused by exaggerations in the promotional material for helmets, which exaggerates both the risks of cycling and the effectiveness of helmets. Following on from this, the exaggerations in the promotional material are likely to both prevent some people from cycling because of the fear of the risk, and to induce risk compensatory behaviour in those who chose to cycle and wear a helmet. Given the overwhelming benefits of cycling, helmet promotion is found to be counterproductive in both economic and public health terms.

Class and competition: the gentrification of sport cycling
Peter Cox (University of Chester)

Cycling as a popular and populist activity has had a complex relationship with class distinction. From the earliest years as a bourgeois leisure pursuit, through the gentlemen/player divisions of 19th century competition, the association with working class toil and labour dominating professional cycle sport, to its recent reappearance as an aspirational activity used as a means of conspicuous consumption, a complex narrative of representations and realities of both class (and gender) have been present. Contemporary advocacy of cycling as a fitness and leisure pursuit contends with the legacy of this history whilst simultaneously appearing to promote imagery of the cycle as a carrier of middle class values of freedom and choice. (Note that whilst gender issues cannot be separated from representations of class, these will not form the principal area of study for this paper being a fruitful area of further study.) External to these narratives within the representational history of cycling, class identity itself has been the subject of broader social transformation and has undergone considerable repositioning. The broad literature on this phenomenon provides a background against which the internal transformations of cycling and class can be examined. Deriving from a longitudinal study of sporting cycle literature, this paper takes an historical overview of the representation of class in relation to a number of sporting cycling activities and examines the messages implicit in particular growth areas of participant and professional sport cycling to understand how these relate to wider changes in class identity.

Cycling cultures: some initial findings from a narrative research project
Rachel Aldred (University of East London)

This paper reports on emerging findings from a research programme that I have recently started, entitled “Cycling Cultures”. The programme will include in-depth narrative interviews with people who cycle, seeking to understand and analyse diverse and changing meanings and experiences associated with cycling. How, for instance, does cycling fit in with other identities throughout the life course, in a country where cycling levels are low? What kinds of emotional attachment to cycling do people develop? What kinds of things do they perceive as encouraging and discouraging them from cycling? Findings are relevant to the sociologies of transport, identity, and social movements, but also to broader debates in policy and cycling circles about encouraging cycle use. For example, some attempts to encourage cycling are based around a “health promotion” model, but it is possible that in-depth interviews with people who currently cycle might suggest that other perceived benefits, such as convenience or freedom,are more important to them. Initial research is focusing upon Cambridge, UK, which has the highest modal share for cycling in the UK. Thus cycling is “normalised” in Cambridge to an extent generally not found elsewhere in this country, and this is embodied in (for example) styles of dress that can be observed among Cambridge commuter cyclists. Participants have been recruited through leafleting cyclists and parked cycles in the town, and at a cycling conference held in May.

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