Increased cycling requires more than good cycle paths

Haha Hamidi (photo by Nille Leander)

Increasing cycling is not just about building more and faster cycle lanes for those already on their bikes. In order to include more groups, city planners need to consider factors other than infrastructure, says researcher Zahra Hamidi. Accessibility and health are factors that play a role in the desire to cycle, the survey shows.

—For environmental reasons, among other things, we want more people to cycle. But urban planning often focuses on everyone who already cycles and is physically fit, for example through more super cycle routes so that those who already cycle can cycle even faster, says Zahra Hamidi, PhD student at the Department of Urban Studies, Malmö University.

Attitudes matter

It is in her dissertation Examining Inequalities in Cycling Motility that she investigates the attitude to cycling among a representative sample of residents in Sweden’s major cities Gothenburg and Malmö. A total of 1,145 people have answered questions about, for example, what access to different transport is available in the household, travel habits and what attitude they have towards cycling, for example regarding safety and comfort.

If you want more groups to cycle, you can’t just build more cycle paths, says Zahra Hamidi. She is interested in aspects related to individual experiences of and attitudes towards cycling. In her thesis, she uses three dimensions of accessibility:

      • If you have access to a bicycle.
      • If you have the ability and knowledge to cycle
      • If you consider that cycling fits your self-image, needs, and if there is a positive view of cycling in your social network.
(Shutterstock/Ground Picture)

More men than women

According to Zahra Hamidi, the potential to cycle is therefore determined by availability, knowledge and attitudes. Why do you choose to cycle or not – is it fear or other beliefs that make you choose other means of transport?

—The study shows, among other things, that higher income means increased accessibility. For example, you need a smartphone to be able to find Malmö by bike’s depots, says Zahra Hamidi.

Other factors that come into play are age linked to health and reduced mobility, and the survey shows that the elderly and people with disabilities do not feel that cycling suits their conditions. The study also shows that men generally report a higher ability to cycle than women.

Different needs to take into account

Cyclists are not a homogeneous group, and today there are many types of bicycles that can make cycling easier. Zahra Hamidi believes that urban planners can use new technology to also include cyclists who do not have the same physical ability as younger people. They also need to take into account that there are a range of needs and preferences among cyclists. Anyone who needs assistance to go out should perhaps be offered help, she reasons.

—You may be able to afford to buy an electric bicycle, but you also need to feel that it is safe to cycle among everyone else. There is a range of needs and preferences to take into account, says Zahra Hamidi.

Zahra Hamidi’s dissertation is available for download here, free of charge.

By Magnus Jando
(Transl. by

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