To get more bums on saddles we need more heads in books, argues academic

The Science and Technology Studies Unit (SATSU) at the University of York has published a research report on cycle policy and on-the-ground facilities. The report's author urges the Department for Transport to both fund further research programmes so gaps in knowledge can be filled, and distribute the pro-cycling conclusions of the 167 research projects to date so that truly useful cycle policies are adopted, and effective engineering works are carried out.
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'How Can Research into Cycling Help Implement the National Cycling Strategy?' was written by Dr Paul Rosen of SATSU.

He said: "Cycling research provides excellent value for money by generating crucial background knowledge to inform those making and implementing decisions about cycling policy and facilities. However, there are some gaps in the knowledge base that need to be filled, and the university sector in particular should be investing more in cycling research."

The review examined the research priorities of stakeholders in cycling such as the National Cycling Strategy Board for England (chaired by Steven Norris), campaigning organisations such as the CTC and the London Cycling Campaign, Sustrans, the AA and local highway authorities, including Transport for London.

Rosen believes the research priorities are to better understand the cycling market; to identify how to promote and market cycling; to ensure the integrity of data on cycle usage; and to learn from best practice examples in engineering and infrastructure design.

Rosen said it was essential that there was improved understanding of the cultural dynamics that affect people's willingness to cycle, exploring the links between utility cycling and leisure cycling.

"Importantly, how can more new people be brought to cycling, both adults and children?" asked Rosen.

"Research on the health dimensions of cycling is currently focused too heavily on safety issues - more work is needed on the health benefits of cycling. And cycling research findings need to be disseminated more widely and more effectively."

There have been many cycle research projects in the past, but their findings are rarely known outside a small clique of academics and cycle advocates.

Rosen's review identified 167 research projects conducted in the last eight years, half of them funded by the Department for Transport, at a cost of £5m. Other projects have been funded by university research councils, charitable trusts, cycling organisations and voluntary sector bodies. The average cost of cycling research projects is £125 000, which, says Rosen, compares very favourably with the £181 000 average cost for DfT research projects.

Rosen's review was funded by HM Treasury under its competitive Summer Placements in Whitehall Scheme. This scheme provides support for academic researchers conducting two-month policy-relevant projects within government departments. Six of these were awarded in 2002.

Dr Rosen is a member of the English Regions Cycling Development Team managed by AEA Technology Environment for the DfT, and the author of Framing Production: Technology, Culture and Change in the British Bicycle Industry (MIT Press, 2002).

pjr8@york.ac.uk

The final report and the database of cycling research projects can be accessed at http://www.york.ac.uk/.../whitehall

There are some potentially fascinating reports on the database.

How about this one from 1999?:

'New cycle owners: expectations and experiences', DG Davies & E Hartley (TRL Report 369)

Interviewed 76 new cycle owners immediately after buying a bike, a month later and then again after another month Found that leisure was the main purpose for buying a bike, but 1/4 buying it mainly for commuting to work or ed. Main personal benefits anticipated were keeping fit and healthy, speed/convenience and family involvement. On follow up, commuters cycled more frequently but leisure most common main use. 1/2 cycled less frequently than anticipated, 1/4 more frequently. Difficulties - physical effort, practical difficulties, weather, danger/unpleasantness of motor traffic. "Leisure cycling is evidently a major motive in purchasing a bicycle but it does not necessarily lead to utility cycling. Cycling to work or college is more likely to help establish a regular cycling habit than occasional shopping or leisure journeys by bicycle."

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