bike rider faster than car
Drivers think bikes are slower

As many bike commuters have discovered, the quickest way to get to work, university or footy training is to jump on your bike. But drivers think the opposite.

New research has revealed that a major reason drivers jump in their car for a trip rather than on a bike is that they believe the trip would take longer on a bike.

They make the same mistake about walking times.

Researchers at Penn State University enrolled in the study some 500 people, 250 of whom were students, and asked them about travel times from their home to the University.

About 43 per cent of the students over-estimated bike travel times, and 93 per cent of the non-students got it wrong.

Women were more likely to be wrong than men, and curiously, people who thought there was plenty of car parking available were more likely to be wrong about the speed of bike travel.

In contrast, people who rode a bike or walked more often were more likely to accurately predict travel times.

The research set out to look into why people indicated that the reason they chose to drive was that it was quicker than riding, when in reality the opposite was the case.

Associate professor Melissa Bopp said the results help researchers better understand the barriers to active travel and why people instead use their car.

“People in general aren’t very good at estimating how long it’s going to take to get somewhere,” Bopp said. “That’s problematic when you're trying to get someone to walk or bike somewhere.

"Traveling by foot or bike has a lot of benefits, but not a lot of people do it. They may think they can't do it because it's too far and it'll take too long, when it turns out it's really not.”

“We wanted to look at people’s knowledge, attitudes and beliefs, because those are things we can try to change. I can’t change your age, but I can change your knowledge,” Bopp said.

“For example, people who aren’t familiar with walking or bike travel tend to assume you use the same route you would drive, which might be along a busy road.

"Meanwhile, in actuality, there's a perfectly lovely bike path that only crosses that busy road once. That’s a knowledge gap we can fix.”

Bopp said another predictor of accurately predicting travel time was self-efficacy, or self-confidence.

“Luckily, self-confidence is a targetable thing. Providing education, encouragement and resources can help with that”.

The study was published in Transportmetrica A: Transport Science.


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