Large differences in bicycle use among Vinex neighbourhoods

  • Soort:Nieuws Fietsberaad
  • Datum:21-10-2008

In Houten-Vinex half of all inhabitants do their daily shopping by bike. In Leidsche Rijn-Veldhuizen near Utrecht, however, only three out of every ten inhabitants visit the shopping centre by bike every day. The conclusion seems obvious: the bicycle-friendly lay-out of Houten is effective. To scientists, however, this conclusion does not seem warranted as yet.

  • Bicycle use depends on a large number of factors. Various studies have shown that individual characteristics as for instance age and religion play a part. So do weather conditions, height differences in the terrain, the image of cycling, parking fees, fuel prices, presence of bicycle facilities, and a number of other issues. That makes it hard to determine the specific influence exerted by urban planning on bicycle use. Early this year students of the Geosciences Faculty of Utrecht University made an attempt. They studied cycling behaviour in both neighbourhoods by means of a survey of inhabitants. It became obvious that, as expected, bicycle use in Houten Vinex is indeed higher. In Houten 51% of inhabitants do their daily shopping by bicycle, in Veldhuizen 33%. In Houten Vinex cycling is also more of a leisure activity (77%) than it is in Veldhuizen (56%). And in Houten 24% cycle to work, compared to 13% in Veldhuizen. In addition, more people in Houten Vinex indicate their bicycle use has increased, compared to people in Veldhuizen (54 versus 27%). 'Bicycle-friendly urban planning and lay-out do indeed lead to more bicycle use in neighbourhoods', is the students’ conclusion. They substantiate this conclusion with some other data from the survey. Inhabitants of Houten Vinex assess the bicycle features (e.g. separate bike paths) more favourably than those of Veldhuizen. Inhabitants of Houten Vinex more often mentioned the bicycle-friendly nature of the neighbourhood as a motive for moving there. 'There appears to be a correlation between bicycle use and the appreciation of a neighbourhood', according to the scientists. The study has been elaborated by Brechtje Hilbers of Amsterdam Free University. Her conclusions are less far-reaching. She mainly focussed on the extent to which changes in bicycle use are the result of self-selection. In other words: do people who cycle much anyway move predominantly to bicycle-friendly Houten and do motorists settle in Veldhuizen? One of the questions referring to this issue was whether people had been influenced in their choice of location by a bicycle-friendly infrastructure. In Houten over 13% answered in the affirmative, in Veldhuizen 3%. Hilbers, too, draws the conclusion that the physical environment may entice people into choosing to use their bicycle more often. And this certainly does not involve cycling enthusiasts only. There does indeed appear to be some degree of self-selection, but not enough to account for the high bicycle use in Houten Vinex. In contrast to the students, however, Hilbers does not feel the conclusion is warranted that urban planning affects bicycle use. 'Other explanatory factors are for instance the number of young inhabitants, unemployment figures and the image of cycling.' A definitive answer requires more research and more extensive sampling, according to Brechtje Hilbers.

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Large differences in bicycle use among Vinex neighbourhoods

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