As of October 1, 2016, the SWUTC concluded its 28 years of operation and is no longer an active center of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. The archived SWUTC website remains available here.


SWUTC Research Project Description

Developing a Research Agenda to Increase Cycling in the African American Community: A Case Study of Austin, Texas

University:  University of Texas at Austin

Principal Investigator:
Talia McCray
Community and Regional Planning Department
(512) 471-2708

Project Monitor:
Nadia Barrera
Bicycle/Pedestrian Project Coordinator
Public Works Department
City of Austin
Austin, TX

Funding Source:  USDOT and State of Texas General Revenue Funds

Total Project Cost: $64,285

Project Number:  600451-00070

Date Started: 5/1/12

Estimated Completion Date:  6/30/13

Project Summary

Project Abstract:
There is a need to create a transportation system of choice that supports access to economic and social activities, while encouraging healthy lifestyles through active transportation. Compared to the costs of car ownership, cycling is a relatively inexpensive mode that has numerous mental and physical health benefits. However, several cycling studies of the U.S. general population have found perceptions of safety to negatively impact ridership. Even though no studies have focused on cycling in the African American community, general knowledge acknowledges the lack of racial diversity across the country, including cities with large African American populations. In addition, there are health benefits to be gained; African Americans have the highest rates of excess weight in the United States. In Austin, TX, there is overwhelming support for more bicycle infrastructure, including a future bike-share program; however, the African American community falls short of recording a significant bicycle ridership. This project is designed to advance a research agenda begun in the Transportation, Access, and Equity Course in the Community and Regional Planning Program at the University of Texas at Austin. The class project was to develop a pre/post survey to measure experience level, perceptions, and socio-demographic factors for changing attitudes that potentially could affect mode choice in the African American community. This project will be dedicated to unfolding three different bicycling training programs. A pilot study will be conducted to test the effectiveness of the innovative training programs.

Project Objectives:
The objectives of the study are to identify barriers to cycling in the African American Community and determine the degree to which negative perceptions can be changed. Three interventions were developed. These include 1. education through exposure to the City of Austin’s bicycle map, 2. education through a guided tour using the Austin map by an experienced cyclist, 3. and education through a group cycling training program that includes on-the-road safety cycling instruction. This project seeks to identify the best, most appropriate cycling training program, based on experience level, perceptions, and socio-demographic factors for changing attitudes that potentially could affect mode choice.

Task Descriptions:
Task 1:
Hire student, familiarize the student with the project by reading the final report of the TAE 2012 Class. Work with the student in placing the TAE report in a juried journal format. Conduct a literature review. Apply for IRB approval for the pilot study.

Task 2:
Work with Eileen Schaubert of Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop to recruit study participants.

Task 3: 
Work with Eileen to fine-tune the three interventions. Review the survey developed in the TAE course, make changes, and develop an on-line version

Task 4:
Conduct 150 interventions with the pre/post surveys between late June and December, 2012. Concurrently, place data in excel.

Task 5:
Clean the data and do descriptive statistics on the 150 pre/post surveys. Continue to do a literature review to determine new studies in the field.

Task 6:
Model data, interpret the results and write the final report.

Implementation of Research Outcomes:
This research effort developed an innovative cycling training program for Austin, Texas which is documented in the final report.  In addition, 79 pre/post surveys, focusing on perception change in our population, were collected.  Preliminary results show that the training was successful in changing perceptions which the research team believes is the first step in increasing the number of African Americans who cycle.  The training program can be transferred to other cities where there is a desire to diversify the cycling community.

Specifically, Dr. Talia McCray is in talks with NSF and NIH to develop a way of carrying out the study/intervention on a larger scale.  During the July 2013 meeting of the Joint Association of European Schools of Planning and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (AESOP/ACSP) Congress in Dublin, Ireland, she learned that there are others, especially in Virginia, who would like to collaborate on a multi-city grant.

Paper/Presentation Produced:  McCray, T., Durden, T., Waters, M. & Schaubert, E.  Developing a Research Agenda to Increase Cycling in the African-American Community.  Joint AESOP/ACSP Congress Dublin: Planning for Resilient Cities and Regions. Dublin, Ireland, July 15-19, 2013.

Future Invited Presentation:  To the Urban Affairs Conference, in San Antonio, Texas, March 19-22, 2014.

Impacts/Benefits of Implementation:
Cycling among adults has been shown to be positively correlated with recommended exercise levels and lower rates of obesity and diabetes.  The goal of the CAAC (Cycling in the African American Community) safety training intervention was to promote cycling as an alternative transportation mode, a way to achieve recommended exercise levels, and a way to build community.    Changing negative perceptions of cycling is the framework of the pre and post survey tools, which was used in conjunction with the cycling curriculum.  The authors desired to nudge beginning cyclists and non-cyclists to take part in beneficial behaviors that improve health outcomes.

The majority of participants among our target group responded positively to the “safety training” intervention. The preliminary data from the pre and post surveys suggests that, to some degree, perceptions of safety, comfort, and knowledge of cycling were positively influenced by increased education and encouragement in this activity. Overall, this suggests that the “safety training” intervention can provide prospective cyclists with enough information and confidence needed to navigate the road by bicycle.

Web Links:

Project Final Report

Video of presentation discussing results of this study.