Effects of Building a Stock of Bicycling Experience in Youth

Travel is difficult without the supportive attitudes, norms, and skills that make up “motility,” the capacity for travel. Travel experiences are critical to developing motility. This study identifies factors that influence the development of bicycling motility through analysis of a prospective panel of 19 children, interviewed at ages 9, 12, and 15. This study is set in Davis, California, USA, where bicycling infrastructure is comprehensive, allowing a focus on the role of bicycle experiences. We analyze the interviews using structural and longitudinal coding techniques and find that bicycling experiences are associated with the types of attitudes held by the participants, especially at age 15, when the children come to value the independence and convenience of bicycling. Parental behavior and rules had important associations with the children’s bicycling behavior, particularly at younger ages. Friends reinforced bicycling behavior directly through the logistical challenges of traveling as a group at age 15. Gender was not associated with bicycling behavior in this setting. This study provides confirmatory evidence for the importance of motility and its behavioral determinants.