Toronto Cycling Data
photo credit: The Common Elite
In spite of our woeful lack of infrastructure, Toronto’s cycling population is growing: between 2001 and 2006, the percentage of Torontonians cycling grew by more than 30%. (Toronto Public Health, 2012, Road to Health: Improving Walking and Cycling in Toronto). A 2011 report by the City's planning department (Living in Downtown and the Centres) places cycling mode share in the downtown and centres at 7.5%. Anecdotal evidence suggests commuter cycling continues to increase. Our goal is to take this trend and and both understand it and magnify it through academically grounded, community based, social marketing interventions.
Our first task was to map the city – charting the intensity of cycling ward by ward, and associating detailed demographics of each ward to cycling data. We hope to understand why people in some wards cycle more than those in neighbouring wards, and identify the barriers that keep people off bikes, even where cycling is the quickest way to get around. This has been a challenging part of the project-the report will be out in late March.
At the same time we studied the variety of tools for encouraging cycling tested in other communities. Using the well-developed literature in social psychology, student researcher Emma Cohlmeyer created an evidence based, enhanced and sequenced, social marketing tool-kit suitable for delivery by both non-profit and for-profit organizations. These complementary interventions, proven to change behaviour in other fields, include tools such as pledges, route planning, free safety equipment, group rides, peer modelling and social support, as well as local hubs (both for-profit and non-profit) to catalyse change and provide advice.
Using the mapping and demographic research completed in the summer and fall of 2012 and winter of 2013 we identified suitable target populations for cycling promotion interventions. We then conducted interviews and focus groups to identify and categorize local barriers. Additionally we developed baseline measures of cycling participation and readiness to consider cycling (stages of behaviour change) to allow evaluation of programs.
Following this research, we applied the Tool Kit to Accelerate the Adoption of Cycling for Transportation, carefully adapting it to the differing needs of our chosen communities and the associated delivery hubs. For more information, visit our Projects tab to see where we have put our research into action.