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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Exploring bikeability in a metropolitan setting: stimulating and hindering factors in commuting route environments

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 Public Health 2012, 12:168  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-168

Published: 8 March 2012

Abstract

Background

Route environments may influence people's active commuting positively and thereby contribute to public health. Assessments of route environments are, however, needed in order to better understand the possible relationship between active commuting and the route environment. The aim of this study was, therefore, to assess the potential associations between perceptions of whether the route environment on the whole hinders or stimulates bicycle commuting and perceptions of environmental factors.

Methods

The Active Commuting Route Environment Scale (ACRES) was used for the assessment of bicycle commuters' perceptions of their route environments in the inner urban parts of Greater Stockholm, Sweden. Bicycle commuters (n = 827) were recruited by advertisements in newspapers. Simultaneous multiple regression analyses were used to assess the relation between predictor variables (such as levels of exhaust fumes, noise, traffic speed, traffic congestion and greenery) and the outcome variable (hindering - stimulating route environments). Two models were run, (Model 1) without and (Model 2) with the item traffic: unsafe or safe included as a predictor.

Results

Overall, about 40% of the variance of hindering - stimulating route environments was explained by the environmental predictors in our models (Model 1, R2 = 0.415, and Model 2, R2= 0.435). The regression equation for Model 1 was: y = 8.53 + 0.33 ugly or beautiful + 0.14 greenery + (-0.14) course of the route + (-0.13) exhaust fumes + (-0.09) congestion: all types of vehicles (p ≤ 0.019). The regression equation for Model 2 was y = 6.55 + 0.31 ugly or beautiful + 0.16 traffic: unsafe or safe + (-0.13) exhaust fumes + 0.12 greenery + (-0.12) course of the route (p ≤ 0.001).

Conclusions

The main results indicate that beautiful, green and safe route environments seem to be, independently of each other, stimulating factors for bicycle commuting in inner urban areas. On the other hand, exhaust fumes, traffic congestion and low 'directness' of the route seem to be hindering factors. Furthermore, the overall results illustrate the complexity of a research area at the beginning of exploration.