A STUDY of people moving into new Perth suburbs has concluded that changes in the built environment may encourage adults who don’t cycle to take up the activity.
The research Taking Up Cycling After Residential Relocation, Built Environment Factors is part of the Residential Environment Project (RESIDE), a five-year UWA research project that aims to evaluate the impact of urban design on health through walking, cycling, use of public transport and sense of community.
The report, published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, aimed to determine how changes in objective and perceived environment determined the uptake of cycling among formerly non-cycling adults.
It describes Australia and the US as lacking a strong cycling culture despite its health benefits.
Lead author Dr Mariëlle Beenackers from Erasmus University Medical Centre, in the Netherlands says the results are valuable to help guide urban planners to make neighbourhoods more cycling friendly.
“A higher residential density, better connected roads, good access to services and destinations, and an attractive neighbourhood with parks and cycling paths might stimulate the population to use their bicycle more often,” she says.
The research tested 1427 participants, surveying them before moving to new suburbs in 2003 and 2004 and again after moving in 2005 to 2006.
The objective environment was determined as connectivity – or how well streets linked – and residential density, while perceived characteristics included traffic hazards, access to parks and neighbourhood aesthetics.
It found before moving, or at baseline, 90 per cent of participants did not cycle for transport and 86 per cent did not cycle for recreation. After relocation, 5 per cent of the non-cyclists took up transport related cycling, and 7 per cent took up recreational cycling.
But the study advised future research needed to target recreational and transport cycling separately, as the motives for each varied and may require different types of interventions.
Dr Beenackers says street connectivity was the most important factor in people taking up recreational cycling, while people were more likely to take up transportation cycling after they moved to a neighbourhood with a higher residential density.
The study says in the past decade, much research has related environmental factors to physical activity in general and to walking specifıcally but studies on the association between environments and cycling behaviour were less common.