Cycling to school among youth: distance matters more than beauty
Amsterdam. Even if you have never been there, you surely have seen images of bicycles flooding the city. In fact, there are more bicycles than humans in this town (!) and this is partly due to a “cycling culture” present in the Netherlands (where 80% of people cycle at least once per week). Children are no exception to that and the average that children start cycling independently to school is about 8 years. As the percentage of kids who cycle to school has decreased in the past years globally (from 82% to 14% within 30 years) and as c0untries become more and more multicultural, an interesting question is what happens with children who live in a country with a strong “bicycle culture”, like the Netherlands but come from a country where cycling is not traditional?And how could we promote cycling to children from non-cycling cultures?
In a study we have just published, the authors aimed to study the effect of physical environment on cycling to and from school among boys and girls of Turkish and Moroccan origin living in Amsterdam. Would a nicer physical environment make children who do not come from cultures that are traditionally exposed to cycling make them cycle more to school? The authors use data from 697 students aged 10-18 years that took part in the LASER study. The mean age of participants was 14 years old and about 20% reported cycling to school.
The study found that a bicycle friendly infrastructure is of importance to girls; however, no association was found between the variables of bicycle-friendly infrastructure and enjoyable environment and cycling to and from school after controlling for distance to the school. Distance to schools seems to be currently the most relevant factor in adopting cycling behaviours among children and adolescents from cultures where cycling is not traditional. Enjoyable physical environment is not a sufficient enough factor to promote commuting by bike to youth from non-cyclist cultures.
How is it in your country? Is there a cycling culture? Do you notice any differences between natives and people with different cultural backgrounds?
** This study was authored by Tomi E Mäki-Opas, Jeroen de Munter, Jolanda Maas, Frank den Hertog and Anton E Kunst