preferred route types


We used an Opinion Survey to determine which route types and what other factors motivate or deter cycling. The survey used a web or mailed questionnaire to ask 1,402 adults in Metro Vancouver (Canada) about 16 routes types and 73 other factors that might influence their likelihood of cycling. The survey was a sub-study of a larger telephone survey of 2,149 adults. It included demographic information and was used for the Mapping Cycling analysis.

Unique features of the Opinion Survey were that three photos of each of the 16 route types were presented on the questionnaire, and that the 73 features that might affect cycling were derived from an extensive review of the scientific and grey literatures on cycling motivators and deterrents.

Survey participants

The survey was targetted at adults in Metro Vancouver who were regular, frequent, occasional, or potential cyclists. They comprise the “near market” for cycling, that is those most likely to increase the number of trips they take by bicycle. They represent about 31% of adults in the region, or about 500,000 people.

Preferred route types

Of 16 different types, the 5 route types pictured below were the most preferred. Average scores for all 16 route types ranged from -0.5 to +0.6 (with a minimum possible score of -1=”very unlikely to choose” to a maximum possible of +1=”very likely to choose”).

Route use vs. route preference

The following figure shows all 16 route types in order of preference from highest to lowest “likelihood of choosing.” It also shows the order of current use. The fact that the lines cross so much indicates that the routes that people would prefer to cycle are less available. For example “major streets with parked cars,” but without any bike infrastructure, are the least preferred, but are used quite often because they are available. In contrast, “cycle paths next to a major street, separated by a barrier” were rarely used because they are uncommon in this region, but tie as third most preferred route type.

16 Routes Types, Current Use vs. Likelihood of Choosing

Preferred route types, by type of cyclist

The figure below shows the likelihood of choosing the route types in a slightly different way – the average score for each route type, for each of three types of cyclist: regular (including frequent), occasional and potential. It shows that the order of route preference varied little across types of cyclists, except that those who cycle regularly ranked unpaved off-street paths and residential streets without bicycle features lower than other cyclist groups. The opinions of this group may reflect the future opinions of others as they cycle more often, so these two route types might be considered less important in route development.

Overall scores of all route types were highest for regular cyclists, then occasional cyclists, and finally potential cyclists. Women and people with children scored routes similarly to occasional and potential cyclists, that is, only routes separated from traffic or on quiet streets received positive average scores. This evidence suggests that to motivate people who cycle least often, the most desirable routes – those separated from traffic – should be the focus of development.

16 Route Types, Average Likelihood of Choosing by Cyclist Type

Collectively, this evidence suggests that the top route types to encourage cycling in each of three different transportation zones are:

  • off-street: paved path for bikes only
  • alongside major streets: “cycle track”, lane next to major street but separated by a physical barrier
  • on residential streets: street designated as bike route, with traffic calming

Other factors influencing cycling

Of the 73 features that might influence likelihood of cycling, the following were the top 10 motivatorswith average scores from +0.5 to +0.8 (with a maximum possible of +1=”much more likely to cycle”):

  • the route is away from traffic noise and air pollution
  • the route has beautiful scenery
  • the route has bicycle paths separated from traffic for the entire distance
  • the route is flat
  • cycling to the destination takes less time than travelling by other modes
  • the distance to my destination is less than 5 km
  • I can make the trip in daylight hours
  • I can take my bike on the Skytrain at any time
  • a 2-way off-street bike path has a reflective centre line for night and poor weather cycling
  • secure indoor bike storage is available at my destination

The following were the top 10 deterrents with average scores from -0.9 to -0.6 (with a minimum possible of -1=”much less likely to cycle”):

  • the route is snowy or icy
  • the street has a lot of car, bus, or truck traffic
  • the route has glass or debris
  • vehicles drive faster than 50 km/h
  • the risk from motorists who don’t know how to drive safely near bicycles
  • the risk of injury from car-bike collisions
  • it is raining
  • the route has surfaces that can be slick when wet or icy when cold
  • the route is not well lit after dark
  • I need to carry bulky or heavy items

Focus groups

Focus groups sought additional detail about the reasoning behind people’s preferences in the survey. The focus groups results are available as a report and a poster: “What Makes a Neighbourhood Bikeable“.


brochure summarizes results of the opinion survey. This leaflet was prepared for a meeting in February 2009 between Vancouver City Councillors and the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee to highlight preferred bicycle facilities. This poster was presented by Meghan Winters at the ProWalk ProBike Conference in Seattle, September 2-5, 2008.

The results of this survey have been published in two scientific articles, one on cycling motivators and deterrents, and one on route preferences. 


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School of Population and Public Health
University of British Columbia
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