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Car crashes are still a leading cause of death in the United States, with vulnerable road users like bicyclists and pedestrians being injured or killed at rates that outpace their mode share.
Planners, engineers, and advocates are increasingly adopting Vision Zero and Tactical Urbanism approaches and trying to better understand the underlying causes of dangerous roadway interactions. However, existing research into crash causation has focused on instrumental factors (e.g. intersection type, vehicle speed) while little research has probed the role of attitudes or socio-cognitive mechanisms in interactions between roadway users.
Social psychology suggests that attitudes and social cognitions can play a role in conflict. Drivers’ attitudes toward bicyclists, and how those attitudes may affect drivers’ behavior, are a largely unexplored area of research, particularly in the United States.
This study is the first use of an implicit method to examine transportation biases between drivers and bicyclists. The research used an Implicit Association Test as well as an attitudinal survey to measure drivers' attitudes toward their own driving behavior, other drivers, and bicyclists.
The results yielded information about the dimensions of drivers’ attitudes toward bicyclists, including lack of legitimacy as a fellow roadway user, stereotypes about different sub-types of bicyclists, normative beliefs about roadway behavior, and sub-conscious preferences for drivers versus bicyclists.
Results demonstrated that the implicit method captured bias that was overlapping with, but distinct from, the explicit measures.
This research demonstrates the potential value of measuring implicit attitudes to complement traditional transportation survey self-report measures. Understanding these subconsciously-held attitudes and their relationship with self-reported safety-related behaviors can improve potential educational, legal, programmatic, and infrastructural interventions to improve road safety.
Tara Goddard is a PhD candidate in the Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University, where her dissertation research explores drivers’ attitudes and behaviors toward bicyclists. She holds a Masters in Civil Engineering from the University of California, Davis, and served from 2007 through 2011 as the Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator for the City of Davis, CA. Ms. Goddard's research interests include all things transportation safety-related, but in particular, the intersections of transportation and social psychology and their influence on differential experiences and safety outcomes for vulnerable road users.
Traffic safety, Cycling -- Safety measures, Urban transportation
Transportation Engineering | Urban Studies and Planning
Goddard, Tara, "Webinar: Integrating Explicit and Implicit Methods in Travel Behavior Research: A Study of Driver Attitudes and Bias" (2017). TREC Webinar Series. 17.