Environmental determinants of cycling: Not seeing the forest for the trees?

Published: 22 April 2020

Is cycling research a distraction from action? Building on my own experience during my PhD, I just published an academic opinion article in which I have sought to express some of my frustrations about the large number of studies on cycling being published without much consideration as to their added value in terms of practical policy relevance. Here is my attempt to summarise my argument in a nutshell:

  1. Studies seeking to identify what makes a “good” cycling environment largely keep on coming up with the same conclusions.
  2. The huge growth of cycling research in recent years is mainly attributable to the increasing trendiness of cycling as a research topic, rather than any fundamental scientific disagreement or uncertainty.  
  3. From a practical perspective, in the vast majority of cases we know enough about what needs to be done to encourage cycling: provide more road space for cyclists at the cost of motorized traffic.
  4. Ongoing calls for more cycling research risk becoming a distraction from this basic fact.
  5. Rather than focusing on cycling itself, exploring the phenomenon of traffic evaporation may be a more fruitful way for researchers to advance the cause of urban cycling.

Admittedly, this argument is a somewhat simplistic and crude one – purposefully so. My intention in writing this opinion article was to provide a constructive provocation to encourage debate among cycling researchers, planners and advocates. Even if you find yourself disagreeing  with it, I hope it will prompt you to reflect on the subject!

The full opinion article can be freely accessed at:


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