January 20, 2012

"Safe and Normal: Social Influences on Formation of Attitudes toward Bicycling"; "Autopia: A Serious Game about Long-range Alternative Fuel and Vehicle Transitions"


Elizabeth Gordon; Joel Bremson, Graduate Student, Transportation Technology and Policy; Graduate Student, Transportation Technology and Policy


“Safe and Normal: Social Influences on Formation of Attitudes toward Bicycling”
Many daily trips in the U.S. are less than two miles, but even in communities with extensive bike infrastructure, most of these short-distance trips are accomplished by automobile. Previous research has shown that cognitive and attitudinal factors affect transportation mode choice, even when infrastructure enables bicycling as a feasible transportation option. This study uses qualitative methods to explore the connection between social influences over the life-course and current attitudes and behaviors toward bicycling as a step toward understanding how attitudes towards bicycling are formed. Fifty-four residents of Davis, California, between the ages of 25 and 65 responded to a self-administered questionnaire and open-ended interview questions about their experiences with bicycling throughout their life. Frequent mentions were made of both positive and negative bicycling-related experiences that involved interactions with peers, family and the wider community. We analyzed the relationship between the quality and quantity of these experience types and the respondents’ reported attitudes and behaviors in relation to bicycling. The participants were sorted into groups based on liking of biking, frequency of biking, and identification as a bicyclist. The mentions of positive and negative peer, family and community influences from the participants’ interviews were compared across groups and quotes from interview transcripts were used to provide depth and explanation. Results suggest that respondents’ perceptions of whether bicycling is safe and normal are particularly correlated with their bicycling-related attitudes and behaviors.

“Autopia: A Serious Game about Long-range Alternative Fuel and Vehicle Transitions”
Autopia is a serious game/agent based model hybrid used to examine long range alternative fuel and vehicle transition scenarios. Several patterns have emerged from the use of the system. A “feature gap” problem exists when comparing alternative vehicles (e.g. hybrids, PHEV, BEV) to conventional gas powered vehicles at the same price point because alternative drivetrains are more expensive than conventional ones. High fuel prices can create significant problem for alternative vehicle adoption as the added expense reduces vehicle budgets, putting more expensive alt. vehicles out of reach. Oil dependence can be easily exploited. Reaching a fleet average of 54.5 mpg in 2025, as called for by the new CAFE standard will be difficult. Battery drivetrain technologies are much more popular than hydrogen pathways.

Biographical Sketch

Elizabeth Gordon is a second year master’s  student in the Transportation Technology and Policy program. She entered the  program after completing her undergraduate degree at The George Washington University and working for a few years in the  field of environmental conservation in Washington, DC. Her work with TTP faculty advisor Susan Handy includes  investigations of the attitudinal and land use factors influencing the choice  to utilize non-automobile transportation modes, and she assisted principal  investigator Yunshi Wang with a project about early adopters of e-bike  technology in the region. She’s  a bike enthusiast, and her research interests include the equity implications  of spatial mobility and promoting the most effective methods for encouraging  non-automobile mode choice.

Joel Bremson is a PhD candidate in Transportation Technology  and Policy with an undergraduate degree in History. Prior to attending graduate  school he worked as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. His long distance  commute to work kindled his fascination with the challenges of transportation.  His dissertation research, a serious game about long-range vehicle and fuel  transitions called Autopia, combines his interests in transportation, social  science, and computer modeling, seeking to better understand the processes that  determine this complex system.   Joel  lives in Davis, CA with his wife, Bessie, and daughter, Ila.