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Psychology, Sport, Sustainability

Will you cycle more post-pandemic?

I was an avid bike commuter. Then I broke my wrist on a bike commute so I switched to transit. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020 I switched back to my bike. This year, I made the switch for winter as well. So, what are the factors that influence someone to ride their bike more post pandemic?

In a survey of more than 7000 Americans in 2020, Barbour and Mannering (2023) found that almost 14% said they were planning on cycling more post pandemic. Four percent said they would cycle less and the remaining 82% intended no change This was early stages so there definitely needs to be follow up to see if this has happened or if the numbers have changed, but the factors tied to increased cycling are still worth considering.

First off, women, who are less likely to cycle, had a higher likelihood of saying they planned on cycling more. Men were more likely than women to say they planned on cycling less than pre-pandemic. Individuals who identified as Black or Asian also indicated that they would cycle less. Although this wasn’t explored in the current study it is an important topic. Finding out why could have implications for how cycling infrastructure is planned and may reflect other systemic inequities or increases in overt racism. I’m pretty comfortable biking all year, but I kind of enjoy the anonymity of biking at minus 30 when it would be difficult to identify my gender and I am therefore saved the patronizing comments some people feel the need to make as I ride by in other weather. This makes me wonder how overt attacks may have motivated the use of more isolating means of transportation.

Being older and having more people in your house both contributed to intentions to cycle less. And people who rent were less likely to plan on increasing their cycling compared to homeowners. This didn’t mean that they would bike less, just that they wouldn’t bike more. On the other hand, with a pretty minimal impact having a full or part time job both contributed to wanting to bike more. Students were also slightly more likely to say they would bike more.

Both environmental friendliness and desire to minimize pollution encouraged people to bike, but a desire to minimize pollution had a stronger impact. I wonder if this relates to the specificity of the action. Being environmentally friendly is vague, so yes biking applies but it’s hard to know how much. Whereas, biking and reducing pollution seem directly related to each other. This could be important for encouraging people to bike.

One last finding was that a lot of people reported discovering that they liked biking. I think this can’t be overlooked. From my own experience of getting people started with bike commuting I find a lot of people are afraid to start. They don’t know how to plan their route. They don’t know what equipment they need. They’re worried about how they’ll look and smell on the other end. But giving someone a chance to try can help them discover they enjoy it and that makes it easier to tackle their questions and concerns.

About Tai Munro

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities.


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