Perspectives on Seattle Women's Decisions to Bike for Transportation
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A tangle of health, quality-of-life, environmental, and economic concerns has prompted Seattle and other major US cities to pursue strategies that encourage more trips by foot, bike, and transit. Yet increasing bicycling rates remains a distinct challenge, as evidenced by the extremely low share of Americans---especially women---who choose the two-wheeled mode for their everyday journeys. Even in Seattle, which has earned accolades for bike-friendliness, men compose more than 70 percent of bike commuters. An understudied research area lies in determining why these gender differences exist, to what extent they can be overcome, and, in general, how best to attract cycling skeptics. A better understanding of motives for bicycling among both genders and their nuanced subgroups is essential if planners hope to shift more trips away from motorized modes and reap the array of benefits associated with active transportation. This master's thesis contributes to the limited body of research on gender-related bicycling behavior and preferences by examining four major questions: (1) What are the major barriers associated with Seattle women's decisions to bicycle for transportation? (2) What are the key motives that may cause Seattle women to start or increase their cycling? (3) How do these barriers and motives differ among Seattle women who do or do not consider themselves daily riders? and (4) Based on these factors, what strategies might planners and other interested stakeholders employ to encourage more cycling among Seattle women? This research centers on a quantitative analysis of responses from a non-representative sample of 365 Seattle women, including 106 women who reported not riding for any of their everyday trips and 259 women who reported riding daily, collected through a survey by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals' Women's Cycling Project in 2010. Through a quantitative comparison of these two ridership groups, I investigated how barriers and motives vary by self-reported experience levels. My analysis was informed by the ecological model, which suggests that individual, social-environment, and physical-environment factors all play roles in transportation behavior. Consistent with existing literature, safety in the presence of motorized traffic was the paramount concern for daily and non-daily riders alike. Weather, steep topography, distances between origins and destinations, route connectivity, and grooming and cargo issues also played important roles in the women's cycling decisions, especially for non-daily riders. By contrast, bike and equipment issues, presence of social supports in the community, and connectivity with transit appeared to be less relevant considerations. Based on these findings, I recommended that planners consider greater separation of bikes from motorized traffic, improve end-of-trip facilities, explore creative workarounds to steep topography, seek solutions to increase route connectivity, and enhance marketing activities that address cycling for transportation as a lifestyle.
- Urban planning