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

Changing Perceptions of Cycling in the African American Community to Encourage Participation in a Sport that Promotes Health in Adults

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: $61,900

Project Number: 600451-00084

Date Started: 1/1/13

Estimated Completion Date: 12/31/13

Project Summary

Project Abstract:
This study introduces two interventions designed to influence perceptions of cycling among African Americans. Cycling disparities are rarely addressed by race or ethnicity; however, anecdotal evidence suggests that cycling is less common among African Americans (McCray et al, 2010). Results from the 2001 National Household Transportation Survey reveal that African Americans cycle at two-thirds the rate of White and Hispanic Americans (Pucher and Renne, 2003). Moreover, African Americans are less likely to possess alternative transportation modes like a bicycle (Royal and Miller-Steiger, 2008). Researchers suggest that cycling disparities are linked to negative perceptions among inexperienced cyclists and non-cyclists –including African Americans (McCray et al, 2010).   An important consideration in analyzing why African Americans generally do not cycle is that of perception. The purpose of this study is to address negative perceptions of cycling that inhibit bicycle use, including a lack of experience, knowledge, and safety. Few studies exist that explore race or ethnic-specific reasons for low levels of physical activity and this information is needed to increase physical activity among minority groups (Rogers, et al. 2007). By examining perceptions of cycling among African Americans, this study builds on existing literature and fills a significant void in addressing the lack of bicycle ridership in the African-American community.

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.  Two interventions were developed.  These include 1. education through exposure to the City of Austin’s bicycle map, including a device to measure stress level while riding 2. 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:  Continue to recruit study participants for the safety training and the map only interventions enter and  clean data and do descriptive statistics of the collected surveys.

Task 2:  Read literature that makes use of the heart rate to analyze perceptions/stress while engaging in the map only intervention.

Task 3:  Explore ways to model heart rate data collected from map only study participants.

Task 4:  Develop models to interpret results of both interventions (training & map only)

Task 5:  Prepare to submit a proposal to NSF for the August deadline

Task 6:  Prepare SWUTC final report

Implementation of Research Outcomes:
This research produced two interventions designed to influence perceptions of cycling among African Americans.  The training program was implemented in two 3- hour workshops in May 2012 and March 2013.  It was found that the greatest motivation for riding a bicycle that participants reported was fitness, and the training they received which increased the level of confidence of participants to ride a bike for recreations purposes. Participants were least motivated to ride a bicycle for commuting, but the mean rating for this parameter increased significantly following training.

This research was focused on providing introductory bicycle training, however the training method would also be very effectively in a series of community rides led by an experienced cyclist.

The results of this research were presented in a keynote address at a Town Hall Meeting hosted by the Austin Police Department (APD) and attended by members of the Austin Region III neighborhoods. Impressed by the research results, the Austin Police Department invited Dr. McCray and her research team to reproduce their cycling program at a large biking event sponsored by APD.  The Austin Police Department is considering adoption of Dr. McCray’s cycling program at future local events to increase resources and activities in the historically underserved part of Austin.

Products developed by this research:

Presentation:  Developing a Research Agenda to Increase Cycling in the African-American Community, T. McCray, T. Durden, M. Waters and E. Schaubert, University of Texas at Austin, presented to the joint AESOP/ACSP Congress Dublin: Planning for Resilient Cities and Regions, Dublin, Ireland, July 15-19, 2013.

Impacts/Benefits of Implementation:
This research provides a method for increasing cycling in the African American community. As a result of this study, participants gained access to recreation bicycling, increased their cycling abilities, learned safe cycling habits, and changed their attitudes towards cycling. These have the potential for improving health, creating healthier habits, and increasing transportation access. Regarding economic impacts, cycling is a relatively inexpensive transportation mode suitable for low-income households with limited or no access to a private vehicle.

Web Links:
Final Technical Report