Understanding and encouraging cycle commuting in workplace setting: a psychological perspective
Van Bekkum, Jennifer Elizabeth
This thesis considers the roles that social cognitions play in cycle commuting behaviour. Currently in the field of active travel there is a strong drive towards ecological theories, which often focus on the wider environmental factors that influence cycling. However, research into utilitarian cycling and related physical activities suggests that psychological factors also have an important role to play. In light of the current political climate within the UK and the numerous benefits that cycling for transport can incur, it was deemed important to further explore the role that social cognitions play in the decision to cycle commute. To date, there has been limited psychological research carried out into cycle commuting. Therefore, this thesis initially considers and critiques a number of relevant behavioural theories and psychological variables. The first study used semi-structured interviews along with interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) to explore the perception and attitudes of a group of cycle commuters (n = 8) and potential cycle commuters (n = 7) based in a workplace that supports cycling. The interest of this study was to identify if any differences and/or commonalities in social cognitions existed between the two groups. The findings indicated that potential cyclists are less aware of the range of benefits associated with cycling to work, and discussed more challenges and fewer coping strategies than regular and experienced cycle commuters. Whilst the study was inductive in nature, the findings to emerge suggest that cognitive variables involved in cycle commuting behaviour (motivations, barriers and coping strategies) could be aligned with a number of social cognition/ behaviour change theories. The second and third studies were similar in design and used cross-sectional questionnaires to investigate perceptions of barriers (Study 2 & 3), perceptions of benefits (Study 3), self-efficacy (Study 3) and decisional balance scores (Study 3) related to cycle commuting behaviour. These social cognitions were measured in relation to stage of change, gender and job role. Both investigations were carried out in workplaces that support cycling. Study 2 (n = 831) highlighted the important role that perceptions of barriers play in cycle commuting behaviour. Study 3 (n = 337) built on the previous two studies findings and demonstrated that perceived barriers and benefits and self-efficacy associated with cycle commuting were all significant predictors of cycle commuting behaviour, with barriers being the most powerful. The forth and final study used a pre- and post-test control trial design to evaluate a psychologically-orientated intervention that was theoretically based on the Transtheoretical Model of Behaviour. The intervention was designed for people who were contemplating cycling to work. The small-scale intervention evaluation included one pre-test and two post-test measures that were collected over a four month period. The before and after results revealed that the intervention group (n = 17) significantly decreased their perceptions of barriers and progressed closer to action. This may be explained by increases in some of the processes of change that were reported. The control group (n = 16) reported no significant changes in their social cognitions, actions or in their use of the processes of change. These results suggest that the intervention designed, developed and trailed in this thesis is successful at encouraging people to cycle to work. Together, these four studies demonstrate that social cognitions do play an important role in cycle commuting behaviour. Throughout this thesis, perceptions of barriers associated with cycle commuting have shown to play a powerful role in explaining and predicting behaviour. Whilst barriers can be both perceived (subjective) and actual (objective), the small-scale intervention study has demonstrated that by psychological intervention alone perceptions of barriers can be significantly reduced.