“People’s perceived risk and their worry about hazards are of particular interest because they influence behaviour”, says Kummeneje. The results show that there is a link between how we perceive the various risk factors linked to traffic accidents, theft, harassment and terrorism, and our travel habits. Vulnerable road users’ risk perception and worries clearly influence their travel habits”, she says.
Time of year and time of day are very influential
Risk perception and level of worry are shown to be the most important factors that determine how often we choose whether or not to cycle in winter or venture outdoors at night.
Pedestrians were the most worried about becoming the victims of traffic accidents, theft, harassment and terrorism at night. Those who were the most worried did not go out at all after dark. In other words, fewer people chose to venture outdoors at night than during the day.
When it came to cyclists, the majority were worried about cycling in winter, while only a minority worried about cycling in summer. Their worries influenced whether or not they cycled on a daily basis. Those who were the most worried chose not to cycle at all. In other words, more people chose not to cycle in winter than in summer because of their worries about being involved in traffic accidents.
Less risk behaviour in rural areas
According to the study, cyclists’ attitudes to traffic safety and risk taking are also influenced by where they live. Those living in rural areas are more safety conscious in traffic and are less likely to be involved in risky behaviours than those living in the towns and cities.
“Comparisons between pedestrians’ and cyclists’ perceived risk, worries and behaviours have received very little attention in the past, and this makes it essential to carry out more research”, says Kummeneje.
Her thesis comprises a total of three studies. The first involves the results of an online questionnaire conducted among regular cyclists in the city of Trondheim in Mid-Norway. The data were gathered in collaboration with the Trondheim branch of the Norwegian Cyclists’ Association. Trondheim is an interesting place to study because of all the larger cities in Norway, it has the highest proportion of cyclists.
Data for the second study were gathered by means of telephone interviews with a representative sample of the Norwegian population, and focused on pedestrians’ behaviour. Data gathering was funded by the R&D programmes BEST and Better city (Better City), run by the Norwegian Public Roads Administration. The third study was aimed at regular Norwegian cyclists and the data were gathered in collaboration with the Norwegian Cyclists’ Association.