Increasing Cycling for Transportation in Canadian Communities: Understanding what works

Increasing Cycling for Transportation in Canadian Communities: Understanding what works is a multi-year, multi-site cycling research endeavour funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Launched in the spring of 2014 and lasting 5 years the project is hosted at the University of Toronto and has research partners at Simon Fraser University and McGill University. Our goal is to understand how to enable communities to efficiently increase the number of people cycling for transportation.

Cycling for transportation has been identified as an effective solution to traffic congestion and has multiple economic, health and environmental benefits, but how to best facilitate increases is not well understood. The project will create new knowledge about how to increase cycling for transportation through the most effective combinations of policy, physical infrastructure and social interventions.

The project has three key research areas:

  1. A number of Canadian neighbourhoods experienced dramatic growth in cycling participation between 1996 and 2011. We are identifying factors contributing to significant growth in cycling mode share in 10 Canadian centres. These could include: coincident changes in traffic congestion; cost and attractiveness of driving and transit; demographic changes; changes in residential and destination density including land use and related policy changes; and cultural, social and policy factors; as well as infrastructure contributions such as bike lanes.
  2. Socially mediated behaviour change programs are designed to change collective and individual behaviours over time. They use tools developed by social psychologists, like prompts, pledges, peer support, modeling, reciprocity and positive feedback as well as identification and removal of barriers. These tools have commonly been used to change behaviour in health related areas such as smoking cessation and environmental areas such as reduction of energy use in buildings. Our study will focus on interventions in towns and suburban sites to target our findings to areas that have received the least attention, as most active transportation research has concentrated on large metropolitan downtowns. Interventions will take place in Ontario and BC.
  3. Cost is an important factor for communities. Our intent is to help them maximize the rate of cycling adoption per dollar invested by creating prioritized and sequenced suites of cycling infrastructure, policies, and interventions that will be suitable and adaptable for application in communities across the country. This will allow communities to identify the most appropriate and relevant best practices for their situation and manage expenses over time.

Principal Investigator
Beth Savan, University of Toronto

Co- Investigators
Ray Tomalty, McGill University
Meghan Winters, Simon Fraser University

Paul Hess, University of Toronto
Kevin Manaugh, McGill University
Nancy Smith Lea, Toronto Centre for Active Transportation

For further information contact: