Do people’s perceptions of neighborhood bikeability match “Reality”?

Liang Ma, Jennifer Dill


Do people perceive the built environment the same as we objectively measure it? If not, what are the relative roles of the objective versus the perceived environment on bicycling behavior? This study, based on data from Portland Oregon, explored the match or mismatch between the objective and perceived bicycling environment, and how it affects people’s bicycling behavior. The descriptive analysis indicated a fair agreement between perceived and objective measures. Older adults, women having children, less-educated and lower-income persons, and those who bicycle less tended to perceive their high-bikeable environment (measured objectively) as low-bikeable. In addition to the socio-demographics, this study also found social environment can play a role in the relationship between objective and perceived environment. Finally, results of this study indicated that actual and perceived built-environment both are associated with the bicycling behavior, particularly for utilitarian bicycling. For recreational bicycling, the objective environment attributes measured in this study are not significant factors, while the perceptions do matter.


bicycling, built environment, perceived measure, objective measure

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