Perceived Bicycle Safety in Minnesota


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This project determined perceived bicycle safety among Minnesotans and compared differences in perceived safety by regional residence and cycling participation.

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Perceived Bicycle Safety in Minnesota

  1. 1. Leading, preparing & supportingthe tourism industryfor success & sustainabilityA collaboration of the University of Minnesota Extension &College of Food, Agricultural & Natural Resource SciencesPerceived Bicycle Safety in MinnesotaRebecca Brown, MURP, Tian Guo, MS, & Ingrid Schneider, PhDIntroduction & PurposeA bike renaissance may be occurring1. Increased biking is of interest for anumber of reasons. Biking has physical health benefits, mental health benefits& is a major promotion for Minnesota tourism in 2012. Between 2000 and2009, participation in bicycle commuting in Minnesota increased 88%2.Perceived safety can be a major factor on the decision to bicycle, whether forfunction or fun3. Constraints to leisure and transportation, like perceived safety,are important to understand and manage to ensure the potential benefits aremaximized. Perceived safety can have an impact on physical activity as peopleare more likely to walk or bike if they perceive safety from traffic4. Finally, highperceived safety is important for communities interested in promoting theirarea as a biking tourism destination.However, the majority of biking research is urban in focus with few regionalcomparisons available. As such, the purpose of this project was to determineperceived bicycle safety among Minnesotans and compare differences inperceived safety by regional residence and cycling participation.MethodsSample: A representative sample of 7,488 MN residentsInstrument: 12 page mail questionnaire, included questions onperceived biking safety, residenceAnalysis: Descriptive, correlation, & comparative with aperceived bicycle safety scale ( = 0.76)Results: Perceived SafetyOverall Perceived Bicycle Safety:Respondents throughout Minnesota considered their community somewhatsafe to bicycle. Average perceived bicycle safety was 4.77 on a 7 point scale(Table 1).Regional DifferencesRespondents in the South perceived higher bicycling safety than Metro, Central,and Northeast regional residents. Southern respondents perceived greatersafety on 4 of the 5 safety items:•• Community bike safety: South > Metro & Northeast•• Traffic & speed: South > Metro & Central•• Roadway design: South > Central & Northeast•• Amount of traffic: South > Central & NortheastDiscussionOverall Safety & Regional Differences: While Minnesotans rate theircommunities as somewhat safe for cycling, there is room to improve andincrease perceived safety. Given the lower scores for traffic & design, greaterattention to these areas in public campaigns for biking and actualdevelopment may be warranted. The concern with traffic mirrors some otherresearch, although traffic’’s impact on biking participation is inconsistent,Overall and among non-cyclists, Southern MN residents rated theircommunities as safer for biking than did other Minnesotans. Further researchregarding the reasons for this greater perceived safety are of interest. Despitethe bicycle infrastructure and bicycling opportunities in the Metro region, theregion was not perceived as significantly more safe for bicycling than the otherregions. In a related vein, findings from a Center of Transportation Studiesreport indicated no difference in participation in non-motorized transportationafter investments in bicycle infrastructure in the Twin Cities Metro Region5.Cyclists vs. Non-Cyclists: Perceived safety between cyclists and non-cyclists differed only in the Metro region. Given the higher traffic densities inthe Metro, this may not be surprising. Campaigns to encourage biking shouldconsider these safety concerns. Perceived safety increases with increasedbiking6, so as biking participation increases in the Metro, these perceptionsmay change. Future research should consider the type and intensity of bikingto further differentiate these perceptions.Figure 1: Perceived bicycle safety between cyclists and non-cyclists in Minnesota regions.*Significant at p<.05Safety items Mean SDHow safe is your community for bicyclists? 5.11 1.59It is safe to ride a bike, considering traffic and speeds 4.71 1.78Buses drive too fast in my area & make it unsafe for bikers &pedestrians*4.67 1.59It is safe to ride a bike considering the design of the roadway (e.g.shoulder width, edge lines, rumble strips)4.63 1.79There is so much traffic along nearby streets that it makes it difficultor unpleasant to bike*4.62 1.9Scale ( = 0.76) 4.77 1.23Differences by participation: Cyclists vs. Non-CyclistsTwo regional differences emerged when examining perceived safety by bikingparticipation: 1) cyclists in the Metro region perceived significantly greatersafety than non-cyclists (Figure 1), and 2) non-cyclists from the South regionrated bicycle safety higher than non-cyclists from Metro, Central, andNortheast regions.Table 1: Mean response scores and standard deviations for perceived safety itemsReferences1Pucher, J., Buehler, R., & Seinen, M. (2011). Bicycling renaissance in North America? an update and re-appraisal of cycling trends and policies. Transportation Research Part A, 45, 451-475.2Swanson, K. (2012). Bicycling and Walking in the United States 2012 Benchmarking Report. Washington, DC:Alliance for Biking & Walking.3Heinen, E., Maat, K., & Wee, B. (2010). Commuting by bicycle: an overview of the literature. Transport Reviews,30(1), 59-96.4Jacobsen, P. L., Racioppi, F., & Rutter, H. (2009). Who owns the roads? How motorised traffic discourageswalking and bicycling. Injury Prevention, 15(6), 369-373.5Gotschi, T., Krizek, K. J., McGinnis, L., Lucke, J., & Barbeau, J. (2011). Nonmotorized Transportation PilotProgram Evaluation Study, Phase 2. Minneapolis: Center for Transportation Studies, University of Minnesota.6Xing, Y., Handy, S. L., & Mokhtarian, P. L. (2010). Factors associated with proportions and miles of bicycling fortransportation and recreation in six small US cities. Transportation Research Part D, 15(2), 73-81.Results: DemographicsResponse Rate: 45% response rate (3,308); 53.2% from Twin CitesAge range: 18-98 yearsCycling participation: 45% report bicycling outside in last 12 monthsLimitations: The Twin Cities Metro area is treated as a homogenous studyregion yet it represents a spectrum of environments, from highly urbanizedareas to suburban neighborhoods and rural communities. Future research canexamine differences within the metro region and perhaps among differinglevels of urbanization. The number of responses received from the survey didnot allow comparisons between bicycle commuters and recreation bicyclists.Differentiating by cycling frequency & tourist status may be of interest as well.EMT EMTEMT EMT4.* Central NE NW SouthMean PerceivedSafety ScaleRegionCyclistsNon-cyclistsMetro cyclists perceived significantly greater safety than non-cyclists on3 of the 5 safety items:•• Bus speed: metro cyclist > non cyclist•• Roadway design: metro cyclist > non cyclist•• Amount of traffic: metro cyclist > non cyclistNote: 7 = greater safety; * = items reverse codedThanks to MnDOT for project support!