User preferences of bicycle infrastructure
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Cycling for transportation is experiencing a resurgence in much of the U.S. Consequently, this is becoming a hot topic of research, particularly when it comes to how we can make cycling safe. Still, most research studies bicyclists’ travel behaviors and preferences in areas with strong bicycling cultures. This thesis discusses the findings of focus groups and a survey (N=1221) deployed in six communities in Alabama and Tennessee, where cycling is not (yet) popular and/or widely adopted, a setting that is much more representative of the nation at large. Three of these communities, considered treatment sites, were in the process of adding major cycling facilities to their transportation systems. The other three communities, which were paired up with a treatment site with similar land use and demographic characteristics, were considered control sites, as no such plans were on the immediate horizon, thus creating a setting for a quasi-experimental design. Focus groups were conducted in each of the treatment sites, highlighting a number of issues related to perceived safety and personal comfort in using the new proposed infrastructure. Not surprisingly, the types of infrastructure that limited interaction with automobile through, turning, and parking traffic were found to be perceived as more desirable among cyclists in areas where drivers (and potential cyclists) are not used to heavy cycling adoption. The quantitative analysis includes linear regression models built on respondents’ reactions to images of bicycling infrastructure in terms of comfort, safety, and willingness to try, which confirmed preferences for more separated facilities and the deterrents introduced with adjacent parking. Results from this study provide useful insights into ways to maximize the return on investments, and design bike infrastructure that can attract patronage and be most successful in areas lacking a substantial bicycling population.