Understanding Types of Cyclists Nationally

Jennifer Dill, Portland State University



Transportation professionals who are developing plans and projects that aim to change people’s travel behavior – such as getting more people to bicycle – need to understand the people they are targeting. To do so, planners and researchers have developed typologies of cyclists; however, many of these typologies are based upon surveys of current cyclists and, therefore, are of limited use in planning to attract new people to bicycling for transportation. One exception is the “Four Types of Cyclists” typology developed by Roger Geller, the Bicycle Coordinator for the city of Portland, OR. Portland, which places Portland residents into one of four groups: Strong and the Fearless; Enthused and the Confident; Interested but Concerned; and No Way No How. The typology is now being used throughout the U.S. by cities in their bicycle planning. However, there are no data that confirm the applicability of the typology beyond Portland. Previous OTREC-funded research examined this typology using a random survey of adults from the Portland region. The findings validated the use of the Four Types and provided insights on what might get the “interested but concerned” group to bicycle more for transportation. This research project will collect data nationally to answer the following questions:
Does the Four Types of Cyclists typology apply nationally? Or is there another, more appropriate typology?

• What are the demographic characteristics and attitudes of each type of cyclist?
• How does the existing environment, including bicycle infrastructure, affect the share of people in each category/type?
• What programs or infrastructure might increase bicycling for transportation amongst the different types of cyclists in different environments?

One outcome of meeting this objective is a better understanding of the market for increasing bicycling for transportation nationally. We plan to carry out this objective by partnering with the National Association of Realtors (NAR) on a national survey. Because the NAR survey is aimed at exploring broader issues related to bicycling and walking, we have the opportunity to examine a second objective: understanding the role of bicycle infrastructure in housing decisions. Specifically, what role does bicycle infrastructure play in people’s housing decisions? And what is the demand for more bikeable neighborhoods?


The Four Types of Cyclists typology has quickly gained traction among practitioners and advocates nationally as a guiding principle for planning and designing for bicycling. However, until our 2011 Portland survey, the typology had not been validated. This project builds upon that effort to demonstrate whether the typology (or an alternative) is useful nationally and in a wider range of urban environments. Whether the Four Types typology is validated with the national survey or a more useful alternative is developed, the findings will aid practitioners in better understanding the market for cycling – not just existing cyclists. 
	With respect to the secondary objective, to the best of our knowledge, this would be the first national study that assesses the importance of bicycling in housing location choice. We do not expect that bicycling will rise to the level of importance of factors such as high quality public schools, privacy and commute time (the top three factors in the 2011 survey). However, there are several indications that bicycling is increasing in popularity (positive references in advertising and popular culture, the expansion of public bikesharing programs, actual bike mode share, etc.). Understanding whether this translates into one of the most important decisions people make – where to live – will be interesting and can serve as a benchmark for future surveys. 

Project Details

Project Type:
Project Status:
In Progress
End Date:
January 30,2016
UTC Grant Cycle:
Tier 1 Round 2
UTC Funding: