Date of Award

2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Communications and Arts

Faculty

Education and Arts

First Advisor

Associate Professor Rod Giblett

Second Advisor

Dr Stuart Medley

Abstract

Governments around Australia are in the process of promoting cycling as both a sustainable form of transport that can be a viable alternative to the motor vehicle, particularly for shorter trips, and as a healthy recreational pursuit that can play an important role in addressing the growing problem of obesity and illnesses associated with a sedentary lifestyle in the community. As part of this initiative, the development of effective and efficient infrastructure for bicycles is seen as a vital step for achieving higher participation rates.

A major component of the nation’s bicycle infrastructure is the growing networks of paved paths and natural surface trails located in both urban and regional areas. A well-designed path or trail must meet agreed standards related to safety and function and, in order to achieve maximum usage, it must also create a desirable riding experience. While requirements for safety and function are well understood by path and trail planners, little empirical information has been produced to enable these planning professionals to understand the elements that impact upon an individual’s riding experience and to then incorporate them into the design process.

Accordingly, the overall aim of this research was to investigate how the aesthetic, cultural and other experiential design aspects of bicycle paths and trails can enhance the perceived riding experience. A secondary objective of the project involved a determination of the procedural factors guiding the local path and trail design protocols and process. A third objective was to gain an insight into the most effective method of communicating the benefits of these riding environments to important target groups.

Following the establishment of a theoretical framework incorporating the psychophysical nature of cycling, the effect of landscape and current design practices, the research progressed through several stages beginning with an autoethnography examining the researcher’s extensive experience in the promotion of cycling in Western Australia, augmented by in-depth discussions with leading key informants. This was followed by a mix of quantitative and qualitative methodology to gauge perception of various elements of in-situ and photo-surrogate path-riding environments among the general population in Perth, Western Australia.

The findings indicate that there are specific experiential design aspects related to the riding environment, surrounding landscape or associated features that can directly influence a person’s decision to use a particular path, trail or route. The research also identified preferred communication strategies and found deficiencies in the current design process that if addressed, could lead to the development of better received and patronised riding environments.

It is intended that the outcome of this research will be to provide a design framework to guide path and trail planners in the development of facilities that enhance the overall riding experience. A number of agencies responsible for developing bicycle infrastructure, or design standards, have indicated a desire to access parts of this research project for use in the decision-making process, thus achieving a better balance between safety, functional and experiential aspects.

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