Understanding Sustainable Transportation Choices

Shifting Routine Automobile Travel to Walking and Bicycling

University of California Transportation Center

In order to identify effective strategies to change travel behavior, practitioners need a greater understanding of why people choose certain modes for routine travel. Choosing to walk or bicycle rather than travel by automobile may help individuals get exercise, save money, interact with neighbors, and reduce tailpipe emissions. Yet, in some communities, non-motorized modes may also require more time and physical effort to run a series of errands, be less convenient for carrying packages and traveling in bad weather, and be perceived as having a higher risk of traffic crashes or street crime than driving.

A mixed-methods approach was used to develop a more complete understanding of factors that are associated with walking or bicycling rather than driving for routine travel. An intercept survey was implemented to gather travel data from 1,003 customers at retail pharmacy stores in 20 San Francisco Bay Area neighborhoods in fall 2009. Follow-upinterviews were conducted with 26 survey participants in spring and summer 2010 to gain a deeper understanding of factors that influenced their transportation decisions.

The study results contribute to the body of knowledge about factors that may encourage people to shift routine travel from automobile to pedestrian or bicycle modes. In addition, the study proposes a five-step theory about how people choose between walking, bicycling, public transit, and automobile modes for routine travel. The first step, 1) Awareness and Availability, determines which modes are viewed as possible choices for routine travel. The next three steps, 2) Basic Safety and Security, 3) Convenience and Cost, and 4) Enjoyment, assess tradeoffs between alternative modes for travel to specific activities. The final step, 5) Habit, reinforces previous choices and closes the decision process loop. Socioeconomic characteristics explain differences in how individuals view each step in the process. The theory can help practitioners identify a comprehensive set of strategies to increase routine walking and bicycling in their communities.

Filed in: Why Walk or Bike

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