2016 - Research

Traffic Stress and Bicycling to Elementary and Junior High School

Evidence from Davis, California

Study results indicate a possible positive relationship between lower levels of stress when cycling and greater average numbers of cyclists riding to both elementary and junior high schools. 

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Study results indicate a possible positive relationship between lower levels of stress when cycling and greater average numbers of cyclists riding to both elementary and junior high schools.
  • Policies to reduce traffic stress on routes to elementary and junior high schools may increase the number of students riding to school, and consequently increase physical activity and improve health.

RESULTS:

  • In Davis, California, more junior high school students rode their bikes to school than elementary school students.
  • Study results indicate that distance from home to school and comfort (level of stress) when cycling to school are both associated with levels of cycling, but have a greater impact on rates of cycling when combined.
  • Results show that when more students have access to lower levels of stress routes to school within the distance thresholds of 2.5 miles from home to school, there is an increase in average bicycling rates for students.
  • This increase in cycling rates is most evident in schools that have low bicycling mode shares, which may indicate that policy should target schools with lower levels of cycling mode shares.

METHODS:

  • This article analyzed data from 11 to 30 morning observations of bike rack counts in 11 neighborhood schools in Davis, California from 2012-2015. Bike rack counts were used as a proxy for bike mode share. The independent variables in the study were distance and bicycle level of traffic stress (BLTS), measured by bike-friendly road characteristics and subdivided into four categories - 1 for low stress to 4 for high stress. Multilevel binomial regression models were applied to examine the relationship between bike rack counts and the independent variables.

Fitch, Dillon, Thigpen, C., and Susan Handy (2016). Traffic stress and bicycling to elementary and junior high school: Evidence from Davis, California (2016). Journal of Transport & Health (2016), 457-466.