Environmental determinants of cycling: Not seeing the forest for the trees?

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In recent years, the volume of studies in the fields of transport and urban planning seeking to identify environmental determinants or correlates of cycling has expanded dramatically. This viewpoint wishes to put forward a provocative argument: namely, that while further research in this area might refine our theoretical understanding of certain issues, it is unlikely to deliver any fundamentally new policy-relevant insights as to what measures need to be taken in order to increase urban cycling rates. At present, the difficulties faced by the vast majority of cities across the world in encouraging cycling are not derived from a lack of theoretical knowledge, but are fundamentally practical and political in nature. From a practical perspective, I argue that we already know enough about what needs to be done in order to encourage cycling in the vast majority of urban contexts. The problem with the seemingly endless proliferation of research on the relationship between cycling and environmental characteristics, I suggest, is that it risks giving the impression that there is some fundamental unresolved uncertainty about what is needed to make a city more cycling-friendly, when this is simply not the case. Instead of focusing on cycling itself, I suggest that exploring the phenomenon of traffic evaporation may be a more fruitful way for researchers to advance the cause of urban cycling.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102704
JournalJournal of Transport Geography
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Cycling planning
  • Environmental determinants
  • Policy relevance
  • Traffic evaporation
  • Urban cycling


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