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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Do bicycling experiences and exposure influence bicycling skills and attitudes? Evidence from a bicycle-friendly university

  • Author(s): Thigpen, Calvin
  • et al.

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The data associated with this publication are not available for this reason: human subjects restrictions

Life changes are often associated with changes in travel behavior, due to a break in habitual travel cues and the introduction of a novel travel context. Universities provide a particularly appropriate setting to examine how these life changes can bring about changes in travel attitudes, 27 norms, and skills – which together form a psychological construct called “motility” that describes the capability for travel. In this study, I pool data from seven years of the University of California, Davis’ annual campus travel survey to create a longitudinal panel, and use a retrospective survey to collect the bicycling behaviors, attitudes, and skills of undergraduates every year since they graduated from high school. I find that, on average, UCD undergraduates’ pro-bicycling attitudes decrease slightly over time while bicycling skills increase substantially throughout college. I then use the retrospective panel data to estimate a statistical model to analyze the influence of bicycling exposure and experiences on skills and attitudes. I find that riding a bicycle at any point during college increases both pro-bicycling attitudes and bicycling skills, while exposure to high levels of bicycling appears not to influence attitudes or skills. This study provides confirmatory evidence for the motility approach and suggests possible policy avenues, such as incentivizing short-term bicycle use in order to shift perceptions and attitudes about bicycling, with the intent of fostering a positive feedback cycle between greater bicycling attitudes and skills and increased bicycle use.

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