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Building cycling infrastructure results in more commutes by bicycle, McGill study

Evidence could sway local governments into investing more in cycling infrastructure and making it a safer mode of transportation

A study at McGill University has confirmed what might already seem obvious, building cycling infrastructure encourages more people to commute by bicycle and in the process reduces the emission of greenhouse gasses. Though the studies conclusion may seem obvious, the accumulation of robust scientific evidence could help sway local governments into making larger investments in more effective bike infrastructure. Furthermore, understanding the consequences of building cycling infrastructure that makes it easier for people to commute by bike can help city planners in building routes that will most effectively get people to change their habits.

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The researchers looked at Montreal using origin-destination surveys from 1998, 2003 and 2008 to compare car and bike trip information. The researchers also looked at the increase in bike lanes and bike-friendly changes to the urban landscape of Montreal. The researchers were able to conclude that building bike infrastructure resulted in an increase of commutes made by bicycle and a reduce in car commuting.

The results however were not overwhelming. The statistically significant association between bike infrastructure accessibility and cycling as a mode of transportation was only a 3.7 per cent increase in ridership for a 10 per cent increase in the accessibility index the researchers used. The study also found a reduction of close to two per cent in greenhouse gas emissions for a seven per cent increase in the length of the cities bicycle network. A 2 per cent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions is a reduction equivalent of converting transit buses to hybrid and electrifying commuter trains

Undertaken to understand the evolution of urban cycling in the city, the researchers conclusions can be valuable in proving that increasing accessibility to biking through infrastructure projects and by making it safer, can lead to decreases in car usage and as a result cleaner air in cities. The research also found that living downtown results in a decreased likelihood of commuting by bicycle compared to living in other neighbourhoods.