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Open Access Research article

Bikeability and methodological issues using the active commuting route environment scale (ACRES) in a metropolitan setting

Lina Wahlgren12 and Peter Schantz13*

Author Affiliations

1 The Research Unit for Movement, Health and Environment, The Åstrand Laboratory, GIH - The Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, SE-114 86 Stockholm, Sweden

2 School of Health and Medical Sciences, Örebro University, SE-701 82 Örebro, Sweden

3 Department of Health Sciences, Mid Sweden University, SE-831 25 Östersund, Sweden

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BMC Medical Research Methodology 2011, 11:6  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-11-6

Published: 17 January 2011

Abstract

Background

Route environments can positively influence people's active commuting and thereby contribute to public health. The Active Commuting Route Environment Scale (ACRES) was developed to study active commuters' perceptions of their route environments. However, bicycle commuters represent a small portion of the population in many cities and thus are difficult to study using population-based material. Therefore, the aim of this study is to expand the state of knowledge concerning the criterion-related validity of the ACRES and the representativity using an advertisement-recruited sample. Furthermore, by comparing commuting route environment profiles of inner urban and suburban areas, we provide a novel basis for understanding the relationship between environment and bikeability.

Methods

Bicycle commuters from Greater Stockholm, Sweden, advertisement- (n = 1379) and street-recruited (n = 93), responded to the ACRES. Traffic planning and environmental experts from the Municipality of Stockholm (n = 24) responded to a modified version of the ACRES. The criterion-related validity assessments were based on whether or not differences between the inner urban and the suburban route environments, as indicated by the experts and by four existing objective measurements, were reflected by differences in perceptions of these environments. Comparisons of ratings between advertisement- and street-recruited participants were used for the assessments of representativity. Finally, ratings of inner urban and suburban route environments were used to evaluate commuting route environment profiles.

Results

Differences in ratings of the inner urban and suburban route environments by the advertisement-recruited participants were in accord with the existing objective measurements and corresponded reasonably well with those of the experts. Overall, there was a reasonably good correspondence between the advertisement- and street-recruited participants' ratings. Distinct differences in commuting route environment profiles were noted between the inner urban and suburban areas. Suburban route environments were rated as safer and more stimulating for bicycle-commuting than the inner urban ones. In general, the findings applied to both men and women.

Conclusions

The overall results show: considerable criterion-related validity of the ACRES; ratings of advertisement-recruited participants mirroring those of street-recruited participants; and a higher degree of bikeability in the suburban commuting route environments than in the inner urban ones.