Perceived barriers to commuter and exercise bicycling in U.S. adults: The 2017 National Household Travel Survey

Anna K. Porter, Eleftheria Kontou, Noreen C. McDonald, Kelly R. Evenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Bicycling is a type of physical activity associated with positive health outcomes, but many barriers exist to regular bicycling for recreation and transportation. The objective of this study was to describe self-reported barriers to bicycling overall, and by bicycling domain, among a national sample of persons aged 16 and above that reported bicycling outside in the past week. Methods: This analysis, conducted in 2019, utilized data from the United States (US) Department of Transportation's 2017 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS). Weighted point estimates and 95% confidence intervals were calculated for reported barriers to bicycling by category of bicyclist: exercise-exclusive, multi-use, and commuter. Results: The final analytic sample was 18,189, representing approximately 7% of the US population (N = 20,911,680). Barriers that prevented bicycling more was reported by 37.9% of the US population of adult bicyclists (95% CI 37.2, 38.6). Barriers related to safety were more commonly reported (31.9% of total bicyclists), compared to barriers related to infrastructure (22.1% of total bicyclists). Safety-related barriers were more commonly reported among multi-use bicyclist (33.7% vs. 30.9% of exercise-exclusive). Commuter bicyclists reported infrastructure barriers the least (13.9% vs. 22.7% of exercise-exclusive). The most commonly reported single barrier to bicycling more, regardless of bicycling category, was heavy traffic (10.3% of total bicyclists), followed by no nearby paths or trails (7.6% of total bicyclists). Overall, distribution of individual barriers was similar across categories of bicyclists: exercise-exclusive, multi-use, and commuter. Conclusions: Heavy traffic and lack of separated paths or trails were the most frequently identified barriers to bicycling more. Communities wishing to promote bicycling for transportation, recreation, or both should consider how traffic reduction strategies and changes in the built environment could make bicycling safer and more accessible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100820
JournalJournal of Transport and Health
StatePublished - Mar 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Transportation
  • Pollution
  • Safety Research
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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