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Why people use their cars while the built environment imposes cycling

Research into how perceptions of the built environment counteract the built environment's influences on travel behavior has been added to the Resource Center best practices database.

The article from the Journal of Transport and Land Use, "Why people use their cars while the built environment imposes cycling," explores the interaction between the built environment and travel behavior by evaluating the objective and subjective spatial influences of mode choices. Researchers compared the perceptions of residents to their neighborhood -- urban, suburban or rural -- in a lifestyle survey in Flanders, Belgium, to the objective classification of the neighborhood. Researchers found only 40 percent of survey respondents correctly categorized their neighborhood.

"Among all suburbanites, public transport, cycling and walking (car use) is highest among mismatched suburbanites who perceive their residence as urban (rural). Within the suburbs, residents are thus able to choose for those travel modes that fit within their perception of the residence," the researchers conclude.

However, spatial perceptions are not always the only determinants of mode choices, the researchers note. "In other cases, the residential neighborhood itself becomes more important. Especially in urban neighborhoods, it seems that high densities and high local accessibility almost automatically result in a lower car share, a higher public transport share, and more walking and cycling. Differences in how respondents perceive their urban residence seemed less important," the researchers conclude.

Read the introduction and download the full article