, Volume 41, Issue 6, pp 1135–1152 | Cite as

The objective versus the perceived environment: what matters for bicycling?

  • Liang Ma
  • Jennifer Dill
  • Cynthia Mohr


This paper examines the relationship between the objectively measured and perceived built environment, and the relative strength of their association with bicycling behavior. By drawing on socio-cognitive theory, a conceptual model was proposed to explain the relationships between the objective environment, perceived environment, and bicycling behavior. Objective and perceived bike environments were measured using two latent constructs and structural equation modeling was employed to estimate the models based on data from three neighborhoods in Portland, Oregon. Results of this study showed that the perception of the environment had a direct and significant effect on bicycling behavior, while the direct effect of the objective environment on bicycling behavior became insignificant when controlling for perception. We therefore concluded that the objective environment may only indirectly affect bicycling behavior by influencing perceptions. An objectively good environment for bicycling was necessary but not sufficient for bicycling. Intervention programs to improve people’s perceptions of the environment may be necessary to reap the full potential of planning and design policies.


Bicycling Built environment Perception Cognitive theory 



Funding for collecting the data used in this research came from the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium (OTREC), a university transportation center funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the City of Portland.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies & PlanningPortland State UniversityPortlandUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyPortland State UniversityPortlandUSA

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