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Bike commuting more likely when speed limits are low, study finds

Photo: tdub303/iStockphoto

Guildford, England — Commuters are more likely to bike to work when the average speed of vehicle traffic along their route is below 20 mph, results of a recent study out of England suggest.

To understand what traffic conditions most influence commuters’ decision to bike to work, researchers at the University of Surrey looked at nearly 35,000 routes for 172,000 workers in Surrey County, all of whom who lived within 3.1 miles of their workplace. Along the routes, the team calculated average vehicle traffic speed, volume of traffic and the number of larger vehicles potentially encountered, such as commercial motor vehicles. The researchers also looked at the effects of distance, elevation and “traffic crossing the route at junctions.”

Findings show that vehicle speed is the most important factor, as the commuters more often chose biking to work when the average traffic speed along their route is less than 20 mph. The commuters are less likely to ride their bikes when their routes cross busy roads, those with high volume and faster traffic.


“Cutting speeds may be unpopular with drivers, but our research shows it does encourage people onto their bikes,” study co-author Susan Hughes said in a press release. “It’s a change which, if implemented strategically, may encourage more people to cycle, with the added benefit on people’s health from reduced carbon emissions.”

The study was published online in the International Journal of Sustainable Transportation.

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