Cycling in the City: An In-Depth Examination of Bicycle Lane Use in a Low-Income Urban Neighborhood

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background:

Regular physical activity such as biking can help prevent obesity and chronic disease. Improvements in cycling infrastructure are associated with higher overall cycling rates, but less is known about bike lane utilization in low-income urban neighborhoods.

Methods:

During the summer of 2009, 4 Central Brooklyn streets with bicycle lanes were studied using camcorders to record for a total of 40 hours. Video recordings were coded for behaviors and characteristics of cyclists and motorists. An intercept survey (N = 324, 42% participation rate) captured information on cyclist demographics, behaviors, and attitudes.

Results:

1282 cyclists were observed on study streets. Cyclists were primarily male (80.0%) and non-White (54.5%). 9.9% of motorists drove in the bike lane and parked vehicles blocked the bike lane for 9.6% of the observational period. Of cyclists surveyed, 69.4% lived locally, 61.3% were normal weight or underweight, and 64.8% met recommended levels of physical activity by cycling 30+ minutes/day on 5+ days of the past week.

Conclusions:

Bicycle lanes were used by local residents of a low-income urban neighborhood. Compared with neighborhood residents overall, cyclists reported better health and health behaviors. Enhancing infrastructure that supports active transportation may be effective in reducing health inequities in low-income urban communities.

Noyes is with the Brooklyn District Public Health Office, New York City Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene, Brooklyn, NY. Fung and DiGrande are with the Dept of Injury Surveillance and Prevention, New York City Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York, NY. Lee is with the Dept of Built Environment, New York City Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York, NY. Grimshaw is with the Dept of Tobacco Control, New York City Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York, NY. Karpati is with the Dept of Mental Hygiene, New York City Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York, NY.