Adding to this: When I managed the OttoCYCLE GPS bicycle study here in Winnipeg, we had over 700 people participate and found similar results.

Some perspective is required in looking at the results too - most people volunteered for the Winnipeg study which would depend on who heard of it, and might have limited participation from lower income groups, etc.


Cycling study in region busts myths

VANCOUVER — Some myths about cyclists were busted by a study done by the University of Waterloo and the Region of Waterloo, presented Tuesday among the opening sessions of Velo-city Global 2012 in Vancouver.

Velo-city Global, the international conference sponsored by the European Cycling Federation, is being held outside of Europe for only the third time, drawing 800 delegates from 41 countries to Vancouver, to discuss cycling infrastructure, planning, technology and advocacy. Among the reps from Australia, Uganda, the U.K., Germany and Korea are dozens of presenters and participants from Ontario universities and municipal governments.

Kyrylo Cyril Rewa, a master’s student at UW, presented the joint UW-Region of Waterloo GPS study of cyclists, done between March 2010 and January 2011. Some 400 cyclists kept diaries, filled out surveys and carried GPS devices, tracking the best and worst that the area’s roads have to offer cyclists.

Rewa told the audience that the research group was surprised to find that the study seemed to undermine the preconception that cyclists choose bicycles because they may not have the money for a car. In fact, the participants tended to have higher average incomes than the regional norm, and may have in fact have owned a car in their household, but chose to ride a bicycle.

Another preconception, said Rewa, is that cyclists ride for leisure, recreation or exercise, but the GPS survey showed that the highest bicycle use occurred during the peak travel times for commuters. Essentially, the participants were riding to and from work. Rewa said this demonstrated the potential for reducing rush-hour congestion by encouraging more cycling among commuters.

To reach that potential will require overcoming some obstacles, Rewa said. Among them: the feeling of many non-cyclists that cycling is unsafe. That the concern about high traffic on area roads and the perception that many motorists demonstrate poor behaviour to cyclists, were the main barriers to increased cycling.

During the GPS study, cyclists identified several areas of concern in Waterloo Region, and Rewa drew laughter from the audience of 60 delegates when he showed an image of the intersection of Erb and Caroline streets in Waterloo, with red lines indicating the dangerous routes that cyclists have to take to proceed through the intersection.

The database developed by the survey is being used to develop a “generalized cost” for cycling, to give regional planners a baseline for budgeting for future cycling infrastructure.

Rewa told the group that the methodology developed by the Region and UW has attracted attention from outside the area, and a revised version of the project is being launched in Peel Region, tracking cycle use in Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon.